ASBA James White Service Award For Dedication to Botanical Art
By Deborah Shaw
The 2014 James J. White Service Award for Dedication to Botanical Art was presented at the ASBA Annual Meeting in Denver to Tania Marien, Founder of ArtPlantae. This annual award goes to a person or institution who has served botanical art for some length of time, or has shown considerable dedication to the ASBA.
Tania’s website, ArtPlantae.com and her blog, ArtPlantaeToday.com encourage an appreciation and interest in plants and in our environment. They are examples of the Internet working at its best: rich resources bringing together an international, interactive community of artists, naturalists, educators, scientists and students. At no charge, these communities and the public have an online space in which they can access information on a wide range of topics, learn from each other, and encourage an interest in plants.
ArtPlantae is the brainchild of an energetic and talented educator and artist. Tania has an Interdisciplinary Studies Master’s degree in Biology and Student Learning. Her articles combine her love of research with her interest in interpretive educational techniques and drawing as a learning tool.
Tania’s ArtPlantae Today blog column “Featured Guests” is a collection of insightful interviews with botanical artists and educators, combined with webinars and articles about the occasional historical figure. Each is a warm portrait that reveals the philosophy and passion behind the person. In addition to her interviews, Tania frequently creates “Office Hours” with her featured guests, giving her viewers the opportunity to ask questions and comment during the course of a month.
Tania tracks and describes “Classes Near You,” “Exhibitions Near You,” and “Teaching & Learning,” where she highlights the latest research, curriculums, and teaching methodologies. She knows all the books we want on our shelves. Her latest endeavor is “InterpretPlants”—workshops to expand her mission to a broader audience and help cure the rampant “plant blindness” that surrounds us.
In addition to interviews and articles for her web postings, Tania teaches in schools and outdoor education classes, at environmental education events, botanical gardens, museums, and at conferences. She teaches all age groups with all levels of expertise. If you haven’t had the pleasure of listening to one of her lectures about botany, botanical art, botanical history, or attended one of her botanical art workshops, you owe it to yourself check her website or blog for the next opportunity.
ArtPlantae also is our resource for purchasing exhibition catalogs, with a portion of each sale donated to the ASBA.
The following is from an interview with Tania:
Why did you start ArtPlantae?
Before starting ArtPlantae, I taught college biology. My background is in organismal biology (botany, zoology, ecology) and teaching at a community college was my initial career objective. Then I became a grumpy Adjunct Professor (or as it is called in Southern California, a “freeway flyer”) so I stopped working this way.
One day my mom asked if I wanted to take a botanical illustration class she saw advertised at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden. I took the class with her and things clicked. I began to notice the items I already had around me that were related to botanical illustration. For example, prints on the wall, a book abut women illustrators—things I gravitated to naturally during school breaks when I wasn’t preparing lectures, writing labs, grading papers and driving between schools. I enjoyed that first class with Olga Eysymontt very much and continued to learn a lot from Olga.
I eventually began to take classes I saw advertised at other local venues. At this moment in time, my objective was to embroider my illustrations (unfortunately my embroidery stand has been folded and in the corner for much too long; my big daydream back then was to take a class at the Royal School of Needlework).
While taking classes, I began to observe that artists were unfamiliar with botanical terminology. I didn’t think much of it because botanists themselves look up terms all the time. Then one day I heard stamen called “these thingys” one too many times. I thought I could fix this and I began to create an Artists’ Herbarium. This is how ArtPlantae began more than 12 years ago.
How has ArtPlantae evolved?
The idea for ArtPlantae actually began in 2001 and lived in my head for a long time. I took a class about making websites to build on the idea, but it continued to be trapped on my computer. I showed my initial attempt at website building to Deborah Shaw and she was very kind and encouraging when looking at my horrible attempt at creating frames. Deborah helped get ArtPlantae out of my head and for this I will forever be grateful.
ArtPlantae eventually transitioned from being an informational tool for botanical illustrators to being a resource serving a larger audience. Now its objective is to encourage an interest in plants and to connect artists, naturalists and educators with interests in botany education and natural history art so they can learn from each other and apply what they learn in their own classrooms and programs.
I am excited to have finally launched ArtPlantae’s next phase of development. The InterpretPlants program was developed to reach out to an even wider audience. The foundation of this program is rooted in my experiences at the many outreach events I have participated in over the years. My professional academic studies in interpretive planning and the design of learning environments in informal settings have helped to make the InterpretPlants program possible. I am very excited to have set this program in motion.”