A BAGSC History
by Gilly Shaeffer
Gilly Shaeffer was our second second president of the Guild, from 1999-2005. In 2017, BAGSC celebrated the 20th Anniversary of its founding and Gilly wrote out the history of the organization, as follows:
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 became the location for our spring exhibitions.
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 celebrated its tenth anniversary. It has grown from a group of nine members to a group of more than 80 members and it is still growing strong.
In 2008 the Botanical Artists Guild hosted the international annual conference of the American Society of Botanical Artists (ASBA) at the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens. Internationally known instructors of botanical art gave many classes and workshops. An exhibition of botanical art called “Small Works” was held in the Brody Botanical Education Center at the Huntington. This ASBA conference was a huge success and led the way to a natural collaboration between the BAGSC, international botanical artists and The Huntington that continues to flourish to this day.
In 2015 The Huntington was the site for the ASBA international triennial exhibition “Weird, Wild and Wonderful” also held at The Huntington Brody Botanical Center. This was held in conjunction with an international symposium which included an exhibition on the same theme by local BAGSC members, classes and lectures.
BAGSC has held numerous exhibitions around Southern California. A few of the venues have included: Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Arcadia; Descanso Gardens, La Cañada Flintridge; San Diego Botanic Garden, Encinitas; Roger's Gardens nursery, Corona del Mar; Chapman University, Leatherby Libraries, Orange. In 2019, BAGSC held an exhibition at the Madrona Marsh Preserve & Nature Center in Torrance.
In late August of 2017, BAGSC celebrated its 20th Anniversary with an exhibition at the Los Angeles County Arboretum library and a patio dinner at sunset at the gardens.
In 2018 The Huntington was the venue for the second ASBA triennial exhibition “Out of the Woods”. It was around this time that BAGSC was generously given permanent display space for botanical art exhibitions on one wall at The Huntington's Brody Botanical Center. This designated display area has had continuing exhibitions up until the pandemic shutdown in 2020.
In 2019 BAGSC began a new tradition: an annual “Day of Botanical Art”. This series of workshops were offered to BAGSC members and to the public—to anyone who wanted to learn more about botanical art techniques. One hour basic classes were conducted by BAGSC members in a "round robin" format at the Los Angeles Arboretum.
It is incredible how we have been such an active group. Every year since our group began, we have held many events that promote awareness of botanical art in our southern California communities.
As we prepare to celebrate our 25th Anniversary in early September, 2022, we are also looking forward to mounting a new exhibition at The Huntington Brody Center featuring the Iris family, the flower of 25th anniversaries.
Members of the Botanical Artists Guild of Southern California come from a variety of backgrounds. Each person brings a wide range of knowledge, creativity and technical skills. We warmly welcome people who share our interests and goals.
Membership to the Botanical Artists Guild of Southern California is provided through membership in our parent organization, American Society of Botanical Artists (ASBA). Annual dues to ASBA is $95 for US residents; $120 for international residents. An additional $15 (for both US and international residents) is the annual dues to join our local chapter, the Botanical Artists Guild of Southern California. Memberships are for a calendar year, January through December. Membership to both ASBA and the Botanical Artists Guild of Southern California, can be accomplished online; members who prefer to send in their dues by mail may download a PDF membership form.
Membership benefits for BAGSC and ASBA include:
Online galleries on both BAGSC and ASBA websites
Quarterly ASBA Journal, The Botanical Artist, plus information through blogs, email newsletters, websites and social media
Exhibition opportunities for juried and non-juried exhibitions, local, US and international
Great workshops, classes, field trips and lectures by local, US and international experts
An inspiring group of artists
Membership in the Guild is open to all who are interested in learning more about botanical art. Artists, collectors, and nature lovers are welcome to become part of our efforts to stimulate awareness and appreciation of the art of botanical illustration. Members are eligible to exhibit their work in our online galleries and in public exhibitions sponsored by the Guild each year. Since 1998, our Guild exhibits our members' work in or around the Los Angeles area. Throughout the year, the Guild sponsors and organizes workshops in various media for our members. The Guild meets several times a year to conduct business, hold educational activities, and plan upcoming events. Periodic mailings and e-mails keep members up-to-date on local activities, technical tips, and available resources.
Questions about Membership in BAGSC and ASBA? Contact Us