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25 Years of Botanical Art; A Brief History of BAGSC

I am fairly new to BAGSC, having joined in 2019. I was interested in how The Botanical Artists Guild of Southern California became the organization it is today. I thought some of you may also be interested in this history. Here is a brief overview of the history of BAGSC.

In 1997 Olga Eysymontt taught a botanical art class at The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens. Her students were as enthusiastic about botanical art as Olga was. The idea to form a group for botanical art students and artists began to grow for Olga and her students. Olga and her students decided to meet and discuss how they could form this group and what their goals would be.

The first meeting was in August 1997, and they unofficially named the group “Olga and Friends.” Present at this meeting were, Carol Telesky, Sharon Linnea Johnson, Olga Eysymontt, Corey Hooper, Mary Zemel-Kane, Janet Gorman, Teri Umhauer, David Berge and Gilly Shaeffer. The first order of business for this enthusiastic group was to set goals. They decided a group show as well as the promotion of botanical art to be the goals they would work towards. In subsequent meetings an official name was decided “The Botanical Artists Guild of Southern California” (BAGSC). Officers were established. The first President was Janet Gorman; Vice President, Gilly Shaeffer; Secretary, Olga Eysymontt; Treasurer; Mary Zemel-Kane; Membership Chairperson, Corey Hooper; and, Exhibit Chairperson was Carol Telesky.

BAGSC Members at one of the first BAGSC Exhibitions at Hortus
BAGSC members at one of the first BAGSC Exhibitions at Hortus

BAGSC has gone above and beyond that early goal of a group show that Olga and Friends strived for. There have been numerous BAGSC exhibitions around Southern California. A few of the venues have included: The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino; 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.

An early goal was to become an official chapter of the national organization, the American Society of Botanical Artists (ASBA). That goal came to fruition in 2001 when BAGSC became the third group in the United States to become an official chapter of ASBA.

In 2008, the Botanical Artists Guild of Southern California hosted the international annual conference of the American Society of Botanical Artists at the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens. This conference was a huge success which led to the ongoing collaboration between BAGSC, international botanical artists and The Huntington. In 2018, BAGSC was generously given permanent display space for botanical art exhibitions on one wall at The Huntington’s Brody Botanical Center.

Olga and Friends wanted their new group to promote botanical art. BAGSC has expanded on that goal, by making our central mission and vision dedicated to encouraging the development of botanical art and the promotion of public awareness of that artistic tradition. This is accomplished in several ways, such as public exhibitions of botanical art and educational outreach to the public. BAGSC started a new tradition in 2019 with the annual “Day of Botanical Art”, which was held at the Los Angeles Arboretum. This was open to BAGSC members as well as anyone in the public who had an interest in learning more about botanical art techniques. Due to the pandemic, this event has transitioned to a successful online event. We continue to develop new outreach programs for members and the public, with speakers and artists presenting their knowledge of botanical art.

In September, the Botanical Artists Guild of Southern California will celebrate its 25th Anniversary. From a small group of nine members, Olga and Friends has become the dynamic organization we know today. We now have 162 members, which include members from throughout the United States as well as international members.

To celebrate the 25th Anniversary, BAGSC will be mounting a new exhibition, The Iris, at the The Huntington Brody Botanical Center. All members are welcome to submit artwork to this non-juried exhibition. For more information please follow this link after logging in:

To read a more detailed account on the history of BAGSC written by Gilly Shaeffer, please follow this link to the BAGSC website:

On Friday September 30, 2022, at The Huntington Library, Brody Botanical Center, BAGSC will host a special event for members and their guests:

BAGSC’s 25th Anniversary—A Celebration of Friendship, Art, Good Food, and Fun

Celebrate our 25th Anniversary at The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in the Brody Botanical Center, with a complete Italian Buffet Dinner set up for casual dining indoors and outdoors, and a private viewing of the "Iris" and "Gifts from Japan" exhibition.

BAGSC members can get more information on this event and RSVP, by following the link below after logging in:

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