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Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens Kicks Off Guest Artist Program

National Capital Parks-East

National Park News

This year’s summer season at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens welcomed some new faces and old friends.

Some of the new faces included accomplished artists Patricia Rottino Cummins and Pearl Lau, painting out in the site’s lush landscape and interacting with visitors during the Lotus and Lily Festival. Rain or shine, the artists continued to paint or draw alfresco for another two weeks after the festival, culminating in a captivating closing show, “Lotus, Lilies and Longevity,” on August 3rd. The artists also were instrumental in establishing a new series of monthly “Arts Afire” workshops with both children and adults.

While Lau is a newcomer to creating in national parks, Cummins actually is not. She has been a featured artist at nine national parks, including Biscayne, Hot Springs, Mesa Verde and Voyagers National Parks.

This was the park’s first trail run at establishing a guest artist program. Because of the lack of housing, the program is not quite a traditional residence program. However, participation is encouraged from both the local Washington, DC, community and across the nation. To encourage artists for future programs, the park is working with partners to provide financial assistance to selected artists. The park also hopes to expand the venues where the program’s art will be shown at galleries in the community.

Other new aspects to the 2012 Annual Water Lily and Lotus Festival included bringing more diversity and partners to the table in showcasing the annual theme of “African Roots: A Celebration of Natural Beauty and Heritage.” National Capital Parks-East invites the public to the Lotus and Water Lily Festival at Kenilworth every summer to enjoy the beauty and cultural significance of the plants living at the park, as well as the richness of human and living diversity on our planet. In the past, many Asian influences were showcased exclusively at the event.

However, this year, in partnership with the Embassy of South Africa, the Embassy of the Ivory Coast, Infinite Possibilities International, longtime sponsor-Modern Buddhism of America, and a host of other exhibitors, the park incorporated the new theme for 2012 that put special emphasis on African aquatic plants and traditional culture. There was also special programming in the afternoon to recognize Nelson Mandela’s 94th birthday and his contributions to global humanity and unity. Park visitors of all ages crafted handmade birthday cards that were sent to him via the embassy.

Over 1700 visitors joined us that day us to relax and enjoy gorgeous flowering plants, beautiful costumed dance, poetry, and pageantry of different cultures. Throughout the event, music, kids’ activities, and food ways from various parts of both the African and Asian cultures were presented. In years to come, the festival themes will change to include historic time periods in the Gardens or other cultures that relate to the origins of lilies and lotus plants, such as peoples in South America, again building on the aspiration to bring more friends, visitors and partners into the celebration.

Despite the rain, we had a record turnout! However, as my new African friends reminded me, “...rain is good; it means blessings are falling down on your event.” Yes, they were.


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