At UBC Botanical Garden, the Artist in Residence provides an important bridge between the social and scientific worlds of plants. The Garden’s mission is to understand, value, celebrate and secure plants for a healthy, biodiverse world. The Artist in Residence helps enhance an understanding and appreciation that comes not only from scientific research and education, but through the cultivation of wonder and through artistic ways of knowing.
Beginning this fall, Dr. Erin Despard will be joining UBC Botanical Garden as Artist in Residence. Erin is a writer, researcher and creative practitioner specializing in gardens, landscape and visual media and has taught as a lecturer at UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. Her research makes use of innovative, site-specific methods, drawing from practices in media arts, performance studies and creative writing. Past artistic projects include other gardens, an on- and offline multimedia installation (with Oliver Kellhammer), a contribution to Soil & City (with Open Jar Collective), and, most recently, a playful neighbourhood intervention called Jardin Adoptif. Her writing about plants and gardens has been published in literary as well as journalistic and academic venues. Prior to graduate school, she worked for many years as a gardener.
At UBC Botanical Garden, Erin will explore processes of plant reproduction as a means of drawing attention to the multitude of natural, social and cultural relationships in which garden plants participate. Erin is particularly interested in the intentional propagation of plants and how this makes it easier to see, and potentially experiment with, the relationships between plants and humans.
Erin aims to explore these relations in traditional and experimental ways and to share her findings with the UBC Botanical Garden community. Through this Artist in Residence position, Erin will mediate and share botanical knowledge to a wider audience and encourage keener perceptions and appreciation for plants-in-relationship and the overall social and individual care for plants.
During a global pandemic, taking time to slow down and appreciate our surrounding plants as social agents in our homes, gardens, and environment feels like an appropriate practice to engender care and inspiration.
“Erin brings a rich practical and academic background to the role of Artist in Residence,” says UBC Botanical Garden Director, Patrick Lewis. “Given her wide ranging interests and comfort in a variety of media—her essay “A Bereft Gardener Turns to Music to Soothe” just appeared in the Culture section of The Tyee—I’m looking forward with anticipation to Erin’s tenure with the Garden.”
Please look forward to Erin’s work at the Garden, which will be featured in blog posts, creative writing pieces, and other exciting artistic avenues. Stay tuned for Erin’s first blog post on her thoughts about propagation coming soon.
Welcome to UBC Botanical Garden, Erin!