Hang It Up

Exhibit For Hire 

By Carol Woodin  
Guest Authors Esther Klahne and Lori Waresmith 

Originally appeared in The Botanical Artist – Volume 17, Issue 2


The Boston Flower and Garden Show renewed a tradition for the New England Society of Botanical Artists this year and invited us to design an exhibit. This is the sixth year with our artwork at the annual spring event! 

In 2005 the Massachusetts Horticultural Society invited NESBA to exhibit. We created an interesting exhibition and were stunned afterwards to receive a stipend to cover expenses! Now that Paragon Group has taken over, they continue to appreciate and pay for the value we add to their show. As well they should! We spend nine months getting ready and the work is immense. Our stipend this year was approximately $2000. 

Paperwork. Plans begin  mid-summer when NESBA is invited to participate and sign a contract. We divide the work between a Flower Show Coordinator (think paperwork) and a Flower Show Designer (think color, props, hanging the art). The Coordinator (Lori Waresmith this year) works solo, filling out many forms to meet tight deadlines (lighting needs, electricity, statement of intent, plant labels, signage, etc.) and works with the Designer to determine many of them, including what color to have the exhibit walls painted. NESBA members receive the call for entry, this year on the theme of “A Burst of Color: Celebrating the Container Garden.” 

Design: Throughout the fall and winter, the designer gathers committee members and ideas to decorate the 260 sf. space. Designer Esther Klahne (her first time) decided against the traditional gallery creamy white. Esther felt a lush, mid-tone green showcased the art beautifully. She says, “Thematically it was important to include some colorful live plants in our design. We used several cast iron urns that were on hand. Member Judith Baker, a floral designer, set to work ordering an amazing assortment of colorful potted plants for the urns, which she generously donated.” 

Demos: For each four-hour shift, two artists demonstrate and answer questions. Nancy Savage signs up 30 members to cover the five-day event. Some do not have a piece in the show, other artists cannot attend but ship their pieces. 

Botanical information: Member Linda Oliver kept track of the wall labels, keeping plant information accurate. Kay Kopper created the labels on transparent self-stick labels with NESBA’s logo, a postcard to invite patrons, plus educational posters depicting our mission. We always provide educational handouts. 

Set-up: Plants are purchased; props are assembled; art is delivered to five ‘drop-off ’ coordinators around the greater Boston area (NESBA covers all six New England states). The Seaport World Trade Center in downtown Boston hosts boat shows, auto shows, fairs and exhibitions throughout the year. This year the sun was out! The traffic police were sympathetic, the meter maids were busy.  

Driving in seems perilous, but intrepid exhibit hangers are also good drivers and Lori knows the guard staff.  

Hanging: Forty-five pieces are unwrapped. We position the paintings, leaning them against the walls. Starting with the center of the main wall and working out, we begin pairing works that complement each other, focusing on balance, symmetry, and color flow. Simultaneously, props such as small shelves, garden furniture, accessories, and of course plants are placed, with the goal of enhancing the art.  To this end, clear wall labels are used beside the art rather than white ones.  

Framing: We do not require Lshaped frames, but request simple natural light or medium wood or goldpainted wood, plus white or off-white mats. Simple is a vague term but the artists are grateful to have some latitude in choosing frames they believe enhance the art. 

Sales: Artists may post a price for their work but as exhibitors, not vendors (a very serious distinction) we cannot allow anything to be sold on the spot. Instead interested buyers get information to contact the artist. If a sale results, NESBA collects a 10

 commission. About 45 pieces are hung. Artists are allowed to submit more than one piece, for a $10/painting hanging fee. With these fees, the exhibit stipend and commissions, the Flower Show is an important source of NESBA’s annual budget.  

Opening Day: Then the magic happens! A mere 12 hours in, there is a magnificent exhibition ready to stay open for six days, including a private day for judges and other special folks. A formal preview party is held with the Mayor of Boston and other celebrities in attendance and our own glittering Exhibit Designer was there too, looking like she had never touched a pot of garden soil or hammered a nail into a green wall.  

The public: Visitors are initially drawn to our booth by large NESBA signs and posters outside. Once inside, they are transported into a fresh spring setting filled with color and fragrance. What they experience is the culmination of a design concept brought to life by a dedicated team of artists, fueled by the desire to draw the public into the lovely world of botanical art. Many take home info about classes throughout the region, and we never fail to get new members. Nine months of teamwork plus thousands of artists’ hours equals funds for NESBA and unparalleled exposure for botanical art. 

  • There is work piling up, as artworks are unloaded
  • Designer Esther at work
  • Central portion of finished display