Art Gaze Madison: Botanical displays take over State Street

Jay Rath, Contributing writer

There’s plenty of outdoor art to enjoy in Madison during the summer — for example, the botanical displays on State Street.

“Many of the same principles of creating artwork go into creating a composition with plants,” says Jeff Epping, director of horticulture at Olbrich Botanical Gardens, which provides the labor as well as many of the decorative streetscape plants. Olbrich staff designs the displays, which include colorful assortments of such seasonal favorites as zinnias, petunias, canna, sweet potato vines and lantana. Interns help maintain them.

As with any visual art, “Color, texture and form are all important when planning a container,” Epping says. But botanical artists have an additional consideration: They have to see into the future.

“It’s essential to visualize how the plants will evolve and how the finished piece will look,” Epping explains. “Since we are working with living plants, their needs must be met in order for the composition to reach its full potential and beauty.”

Art Cart

If you can’t come to art, art will come to you. The Art Cart presents opportunities to make and appreciate art through Aug. 14.

This is the 39th season for Art Cart, which travels to Madison area parks, beaches and playgrounds. The free program offers activities for children ages 3 and above. It’s co-sponsored by the Madison School-Community Recreation Department and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

“Connecting people to contemporary art and giving them the opportunity to explore their responses to it — this is what MMoCA is about, in our exhibitions, events and education programs,” says Sheri Castelnuovo, the museum’s curator of education. 

“Through Art Cart, children can experiment with art materials and use their creativity in hands-on projects that often take their inspiration from works of art on view at the museum,” she says. “It’s rewarding to know that we’re providing children with an enriching summertime art experience that’s also a lot of fun.”

For schedule information, visit, select events and look under children’s programs.

MMOCA’s Docent Training

The museum also is looking for volunteers who might be interested in taking part in docent training from 1 to 3:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Sept. 23-Dec. 16.

During the 12-week course, trainees learn about modern and contemporary art, media, museum operations, tour techniques and more. A background in art or art history is not required. 

For more information, visit or contact Castelnuovo at 608-257-0158 or at Applications will be immediately accepted, but must be received no later than Sept. 5.

Are you missing out on our ticket giveaways and free discount coupons? Simply like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.