2015 was a year of Welcoming the World at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. In addition to celebrating our 20th anniversary with a calendar full of spectacular events and exhibitions, we also opened the long-anticipated Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden. As we look ahead to all of the exciting things that we have planned in 2016, we reflect on just a few of the highlights from 2015:
We kicked off a year of Welcoming the World with a unique partnership with Shiga, our sister state in Japan. Splendors of Shiga: Treasures from Japan displayed more than 60 Japanese works of art from the 8th century to the present day. Four seasons were represented in this exhibition.
Guests began to experience the Tranquility Zone: A Japanese Garden Environment for Families in the Snell Education Center. This area teaches Japanese garden concepts to our young guests and includes a stepping stone path, an arched bridge, a tea house, rocks, lily pads and a Zen-style garden.
In March we introduced Fred & Dorothy Fichter as the new permanent title sponsors of our popular Butterflies Are Blooming exhibition. Dorothy loved coming here to see the butterflies, and Fred wanted to honor her in a meaningful way after she passed. We are so very thankful for their support!
Award-winning producer, director and cinematographer Louie Schwartzberg spoke at our Wege Environmental Lecture and we
also welcomed our nine-millionth guest!
In April we celebrated our 20th anniversary on a rainy evening with the dedication of Iron Tree by Ai Weiwei. Iron Tree is Ai Weiwei’s largest and most complex outdoor sculpture to date.
May brought with it the Great Gardens Party, our signature spring fundraising event. Hundreds of guests enjoyed hors d’oeuvres, beverages, a delicious sit-down dinner, and a silent and live auction of rare and unique items. We also hosted two of our more popular plant shows – The Iris Show and The Michigan All-State Bonsai Show.
June was one of our busiest months of all time, punctuated by the opening of The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden. Over 80,000 guests visited Meijer Gardens in June, 25 percent higher than any other June on record, including 2010 figures during the blockbuster Dale Chihuly exhibition and the 2004 opening of the popular Lena Meijer Children’s Garden. Our members enjoyed early access to this breathtaking 8-acre addition before it was opened to the public on June 13. We were also honored to host the King & Queen of The Netherlands as they visited Grand Rapids on an economic tour led by Governor Snyder.
The Fifth Third Bank Summer Concerts at Meijer Gardens continued in July with 7 sold-out concerts, and we enjoyed another month of record-breaking attendance as we were joined by over 101,000 guests.
In August, we dedicated Relatum: Forest Path, a sculpture by Lee Ufan. This piece is the first permanent work in the Gwen Frostic Woodland Shade Garden. The ever-popular West Michigan Dahlia Society Dahlia Show was also held in August.
ArtPrize kicked off in September, and we hosted the first ever all-national venue with our Tradition and Innovation: Japanese Ceramics Now exhibition. This highly unique collection of twenty five works from artists working in Japan today was on display through January 3, 2016 before touring venues in Japan.
Chrysanthemums & More!, our annual celebration of autumn, also opened in September and is the largest of its kind in Michigan, featuring expansive chrysanthemum displays, fall foliage and family-friendly activities.
October brought two wonderful lectures to Meijer Gardens, on October 13 we heard from author Geoff Dyer as a part of our Master Lecture Series and artist Jenny Holzer joined us on October 27 for the C. Schoenknecht & W. Paul Sculpture Lecture.
Continuing our theme of Welcoming the World, this past November we welcomed five new buildings to the Railway Garden, representing our five Sister Cities. Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World kicked off in November, featuring nearly 400,000 lights, strolling carolers, rooftop reindeer and more than 40 international trees and displays.
This December we introduced a new theme to our holiday fundraiser as the annual Holiday Gala became Christmas Cabaret. Guests were treated to fantastic entertainment from Sister Act and enjoyed drinks, a sit down dinner, as well as time to talk with friends old and new.
As we look back at a busy and successful 2015, we are extremely thankful for each of our nearly 800,000 visitors and for the generosity of the Meijer family.
What were some highlights from your time at Meijer Gardens this past year?