“How the Guild Began”
Second President of the Guild (1999-2005)
Shortly after Tania Norris started her term as President of the Botanical Artists Guild of Southern California, she asked me to write an article for the newsletter telling how the Guild began and describing the early activities of the group. I was able to refer to the first meeting agenda and minutes for an accurate account of how the events unfolded. Here is the story based on those records.
In 1997, at a Botanical Art Class taught by Olga Eysymontt at the Huntington Library the idea of forming a group for botanical art students and artists began growing in the minds of some very enthusiastic students and in Olga’s mind, as well. There was great interest in getting together to form a group to further promote botanical art. At this point, no one had any idea how this would take shape. All that was known is that we wanted to get together to see what we might do.
The first “Get Together ” was held in August 1997 at Janet Gorman’s home in Pasadena. All who were interested in being part of this group and helping to start it were invited. Here is a list of those whose names appeared on the first roster—Carol Telesky, Sharon Linnea Johnson, Olga Eysymontt-Krogh, Corey Hooper, Mary Zemel-Kane, Janet Gorman, Teri Umhauer, David Berge and Gilly Shaeffer. The unofficial name for the group was “Olga and Friends”. Everyone was quite excited about what the group might do together. We almost immediately identified what one of the goals of our group would be – to do a show together.
The group met again in September at my home. From reviewing the agenda for that meeting, it seems like we had begun looking for locations for our show. Each member reported back to the group what he or she learned about the possible location they had been assigned to investigate. I can remember all the enthusiasm that we shared at the thought of putting on our first botanical art exhibition. It took this kind of enthusiasm and passion to make our first show a reality and a success.
Also, on our second “meeting/get together” agenda was the job of choosing an official name for our little group. At that point, we were not ready to settle on one name so we decided to wait until a future meeting to decide on the new official group name.
At the third meeting which was held around Olga’s dining room table, we brainstormed about what to call ourselves. I remember that it was a very harmonious process with everyone being pleased and proud of the name we had agreed upon. We were now the Botanical Artists Guild of Southern California. At that time, we agreed that the abbreviated name we would use for the group would be the “Guild” in an effort to avoid the sometimes undesirable images conjured up by the acronym “Bags”. Now, we had an official name and a goal to do an exhibition in the near future.
It was right around that time that we established who the officers would be. The first President was Janet Gorman, the Vice President was Gilly Shaeffer, the Secretary was Olga Eysymontt, the Treasurer was Mary Zemel-Kane, the Membership Chairperson was Corey Hooper. A few months later, Carol Telesky became the first Exhibit Chairperson. In the early days Sharon Johnson was our Botanical Consultant, always providing a wealth of botanical information for all of us.
Within a few months of the meeting held at Olga’s home, we had our first exhibition site nailed down, thanks to Carol Telesky’s great idea to contact Gary Jones, the owner of Hortus, a specialty nursery in Pasadena. This was the beginning of our annual spring show. For the next four years every spring the Hortus was the site of our Botanical Artists Guild Exhibition until 2001. At this time, the Hortus closed its doors for business. Shortly after this, some new doors opened to welcome our show to a new location. The Los Angeles County Arboretum staff expressed interest in having us do our spring show at their facility. So the Arboretum has been the location for our spring exhibitions ever since then (about five years).
Another major event in the growth and establishment of our local botanical art group occurred when we became an official chapter of the national organization called the American Society of Botanical Artists. In reading the first minutes of our 1997 meeting, our interest in establishing an official relationship with the national organization began when the group was first formed and this goal came to fruition in 2001. We were the third group in the United States to become an official chapter.
In August 2007, the Botanical Artists Guild of Southern California will celebrate its tenth anniversary. It has grown from a group of nine members to a group of over 80 members and it is still growing strong. In 2008, our chapter will host the Annual International Meeting of the American Society of Botanical Artists to be held at the Huntington Library and Gardens. There couldn’t be a more appropriate place to host this international gathering of botanical artists and enthusiasts. Not only is the Huntington a quintessential environment for every kind of plant life, but it is also the place where the seed idea was planted in 1997, that sprouted into the Botanical Artists Guild of Southern California, a force instrumental in promoting awareness and appreciation for botanical art in Southern California.