Two Great Locations, One Organization

Art at Matthaei-Nichols

A view through Robert C. Anderson’s kaleidoscope.

As part of a major university, Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum gives local and national artists as well as University of Michigan student and faculty artists a place to display their work and the public to enjoy and comment on. Some of the works are specially commissioned for precise locations. Several are permanent installations both indoors and out, while others are temporary displays created for faculty or classroom projects that explore the relationship between nature and the arts. A select few are on permanent display. We wholeheartedly support this artistic creativity. All faculty and student works on display have been vetted through a formal review process. If you are a faculty member or student, click here for information on installing a project or conducting a performance.

Scroll down to see images of the permanent art at Matthaei-Nichols.

This sundial is a memorial to collections botanist Jane LaRue (1971-early 1980s). It was a commission done by Professor Jon Rush of the U-M School of Art. He studied bronze working at foundries in Italy and taught at Columbus College of Art before coming to the University. At the time of the sundial’s installation on October 5, 1986 in the old Medicinal Garden, one of his sculptures was on display in Briarwood’s concourse near Lord & Taylor. The sundial was moved to its current location when the display gardens area’s redesign began in the 1990s.

Matthaei-Nichols Director Bob Grese envisioned a mosaic project to celebrate the unique habitats and flora of the state. Artist Yulia Hanansen designed the murals, and 47 volunteers from the community, completed the eight panels that now glow with gem-like colors from a previously bare brick wall at the entrance to the Botanical Gardens. The mosaics won the 2009 Golden Paint Brush Award from the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission (AAPAC). PIctured is the “Forest” mosaic panel depicting our native lady-slipper orchids.

Pictured is one of two striking bluestone fountains that were installed as a memorial to past Matthaei Botanical Gardens Director Erich Steiner (1971-77 and 1989-91). They were designed by John Stevens of K. C. Runciman Landscapes, Saline, MI. The fountains are located in the Gateway Garden at Matthaei.

The Ann Arbor Garden Club commissioned these entry gates to the Gateway Garden at Matthaei in honor of their 75th anniversary. They were created by David Torgoff, an East Lansing artist, and were installed in the fall of 2005. It was the garden club’s way of saying thanks to Matthaei-Nichols, where they have met for many of those 75 years.

This kinetic wind sculpture by Seattle artist Andrew Carson was purchased in 2015. It’s located at Matthaei Botanical Gardens near the Alexandra Hicks Herb Knot Garden and the perennial garden.

University of Michigan art professor Susan Crowell created these ceramic sculptures of agave pollen as part of the Hidden Worlds exhibition in 2016. The exhibition featured more than a dozen ceramic sculptures of plant pollen. The agave pollen sculptures are made of formed, painted, and fired clay. They reproduce the actual pollen grains collected from the 80-year-old Agave americana in the Arid House of the conservatory at Matthaei. The agave, which bloomed in 2014 and died the next year, became a botanical international celebrity when it blossomed. These pollen grains are 3000 times actual size.

This kaleidoscope was created by Robert C. Anderson of Sturgeon Bay, Wisc. The garden kaleidoscope design is an original concept that Robert developed after being introduced to kaleidoscopes by his wife. Robert decided to design a kaleidoscope using flowering plants that could be used outdoors in a garden. Robert has created the interactive living sculptures since 1997.

The bronze sculpture “Guardian Angel” by artist Morris Brose is a gift from Robert and Marjorie Alpern. It is located at Matthaei Botanical Gardens near the Gateway Garden.

The bronze sculpture “Face of Infinity” by artist Ted Bell is a gift from donors Robert and Marjorie Alpern. It is located at Matthaei Botanical Gardens near the Gaffield Children’s Garden.

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