Endowment will support art and music at Madison’s Olbrich Botanical Gardens | Music

Visitors to Madison’s Olbrich Botanical Gardens were able to attend more musical performances and art events thanks to a new endowment aimed at expanding those offerings.

Two anonymous donors have pledged $1.3 million to help fund free art opportunities, said Joe Vande Slunt, director of development at Olbrich. These include the Olbrich Summer Concert Series, 10 weekly outdoor concerts at the Olbrich Botanical Garden.

The series began last week with a performance by the Madison Chamber Choir. About 200 people brought picnic baskets and lawn chairs to the gardens despite the nearly 100-degree heat to listen to a collection of songs about spring.

The series will continue Tuesday with performances from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. as part of “Make Music Madison Day,” an annual international celebration of music that takes place in more than 1,000 cities.

The endowment will allow Olbrich to better compensate performers, who have historically been paid with suggested donations. The endowment will allow the gardens to increase artists’ salaries by about 50%, said Olbrich spokeswoman Katy Nodolf.

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The Madison Chamber Choir serenades concertgoers during Olbrich Gardens’ first round of summer concerts on Tuesday.


While the endowment will support the artists of the summer concert series for years to come, Vande Slunt said he would like to see the funding also expand other artistic opportunities in the popular Madison destination.

“As this endowment grows, we may be able to talk about temporary art installations or poetry readings, or perhaps work with various community organizations that we haven’t always had the resources to support,” said he declared. “It will be exciting, as it builds over the next few years, to think about what might be possible.”

Vande Slunt said he’s been working with donors on creating the endowment, dubbed “Bridging Nature and Art: Performance and Visual Art in the Gardens Endowment,” since winter 2020. He said donors have started to volunteering at the garden in 2016. .

Hmong students bring the rhythms of the rainforest to life in the Olbrich Botanical Gardens program

“They saw the wide variety of people the garden serves and how the concert series continues to grow and deliver diverse performers,” he said. “It attracts a variety of audiences. They were therefore delighted to be part of it. They wanted to help this grow in a very impactful way and allow us to better serve the community.


The Madison Chamber Choir performs a series of songs about spring, including “This Sweet and Merry Month of May…” by William Byrd.


Adding art and music can attract people who wouldn’t otherwise visit the gardens, Nodolf said.

“Not everyone is a gardener or thinks coming to a botanical garden for an afternoon will be how they want to spend their time,” she said. “Programming like concerts helps people see who we are and see that this is really a place for them. Nature is a place where they want to be and they feel they can belong.

Leticia Malavazi is one of those people. She left Brazil two months ago and has visited the gardens twice in the past two weeks with her parents, who are agriculture teachers.

Malavazi attended the first concert of the series with a friend.

“It’s beautiful, it’s summer,” she said. “I heard that (the gardens) have amazing free concerts and amazing free spaces, and I want to take advantage of them before winter comes because I heard you had quite a harsh winter. “


Spectators bring umbrellas to Tuesday’s performance to protect themselves from abnormally high temperatures.


This year’s summer concert series will feature 10 performances by bands including hip-hop group Supa Friends, Celtic music artists The Kissers and soul group Don’t Mess with Cupid.

The lineup of performers should attract a diverse cross-section of the community, Vande Slunt said.

“You see kids, and sometimes grandma and grandpa come dancing too, which is pretty cool,” he said. “It’s a great Madison summer tradition. It’s not uncommon to see the Great Lawn filled with several hundred people…and we cover all genders to hopefully attract all different types of people to the community.

Nodolf estimated that the summer concert series usually draws around 500 visitors to the garden for each concert. She added that the concert series has been going on for over 20 years and is a community tradition.

Madison native Lucy Jenkins attended the summer concert series on and off for nearly 30 years, she said.

“It’s a beautiful setting, with the view over the gardens,” she said. (This endowment) is great, any chance of extending the arts to more people, I think, is fantastic.

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