Lakewold Garden’s Susan Warner

Bringing art, music, and nature together, Susan Warner, executive director of Lakewold Gardens, is continuing a lifelong journey creating programs and building experiences based on collections that create conversations about important social and environmental issues. She has pioneered and presented many new programs and initiatives which have transformed the cultural landscape of South Puget Sound while also providing spaces for diverse voices and perspectives.

Warner, who is a founding staff member of the Museum of Glass, also continues to advise the Museum on a variety of education initiatives including the recently launched Junior Curator Academy. In-person or virtually, middle school students from the local area learn from subject matter experts as they explore the creative process, influences, and materials used in individual works of art.

This program, like Warner’s many other exhibitions and programs, builds on the art history philosophy called deconstruction. First used by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida in the 1970s, deconstruction is a form of criticism that asserts that there is not one single intrinsic meaning to be found in an artwork, but rather many, and often these can be conflicting. She sees this as an essential part of the power that collections have to stimulate conversations.

While not a collection of artwork, Lakewold Gardens has an extensive collection of plants which includes over 800 species of rhododendrons and 30 Japanese maples. Warner’s leadership at Lakewold Gardens combines her wealth of professional education and curatorial experience with her personal passion for gardening. She wants South Sound residents to consider Lakewold Gardens as “a garden for all” because many people in our community do not have access to a private garden as well as the healing power that can be found through a connection with nature.

The Gardens took on even more significance over the past year during the pandemic. “Having a place where you can go and be safe while enjoying nature has been scientifically proven to help people,” noted Warner. “We’ve been intentional in reaching out to invite the community to the gardens through virtual events like Black Splendor, which showcased local Black musical artists, and partnerships with local organizations like MusicWorks4Veterans and Write 253.”

One upcoming event that she is excited about is the installation celebrating the winter solstice. Multimedia artist Sam Stubblefield will fill the garden with sound and light in a preview of Winter Solstice Lights from November 19-28. Visitors will have the opportunity to experience the Gardens in a whole new way as art, music and nature intertwine in this unique and creative event.

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