Yesterday I had a lovely tour at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens led by Matt Edwards, who is the Gardens’ animal caretaker. I got to see and hear about several very cool things and, of course, look at all of the orchids they have for their Orchid Mania show.
In fact, there was so much information (and pictures), that I am going to split up the whole thing into a few manageable posts.
I thought that a good place to start would be to talk about why I think the CBG rocks. And why I think we should have to pay for things like the CGB.
In my last post, Melanie from Shaker Heights said:
Do you really think the Cleveland Botanical Gardens are EXCELLENT? I have a very negative attitude towards it since the remodel. I can remember going down there on a weeknight and taking a stroll thru the herb gardens….FOR FREE!!!!
Melanie is a wonderful gardener ( and she leaves many wonderful and thought provoking comments) and this is a very valid question. Why should we pay for a Botanical Garden that was free just a few years ago? What do we get out of it? Don’t we have better things to spend our money on? Do we?
The people of Cleveland may not realize how they have, for a very long time, benefited from an legacy of wealth, elegance and opulence that had its heyday back over a century ago. A long time ago, wealthy men (and their wives and children) built in Cleveland, through a small portion of the ginormus pile of money they had made off oil, steel and railroads, what they felt a sophisticated society should have. And so, we have Wade Oval plus many other amazing features in Cleveland. The CBG is ultimately a remnant of that era.
Unfortunately, greedy men (ok, inept city council members – I guess history sometimes doesn’t change all that much) chased away those wealthy men and their lovely remnants of sophistication were left to fend for themselves.
And they did fend for awhile. They brought in donations and they pounded on the doors of companies in Cleveland, demanding, begging that they keep these legacies alive. They kept up the buildings and grounds so we the public could enjoy them for free, but they did not have the funds to improve and ultimately amaze.
The fact of the matter is, no matter how many volunteers you have, no matter how enjoyable something is, no matter how much the public loves and adores it, these places cost money to operate. Love is just not enough to pay an electric bill or bring in a new, fascinating, highly unusual exhibit. And in case we have forgotten (not that I think anyone here has forgotten, but some people reading are not from Cleveland), the number of companies and wealthy donors in Cleveland has gotten significantly smaller over the years and the number of organizations with their hands out imploring has only gotten larger.
I have no doubt that the CBG had to recreate itself or it was facing a slow but inevitable crawl into oblivion. They faced a difficult choice, remain the same (free) and eventually perish -Â or – Â evolve (charge money) and thrive. And it has recreated itself beautifully.
We have no problem with paying $8 to see the latest action packed drivel to come out of Hollywood. And after two hours there, we are politely but firmly herded out of the theater. We will pay $20 – $200 for a single ticket to enjoy the excitement of a sports game, a Broadway musical or a rock concert, and after a few hours, again, we are asked to leave. Many of us will spend literally $1,000s of dollars to follow that magical dream of “We’re going to Disney Worldâ€ which is really no more than a well run and glorified amusement park. And yet we balk at the cost of a ticket to share the wonder of nature, science, beauty and amazement.
And what an investment those things are! I can honestly say that I have had more “amazingâ€ moments with my children at museums, zoos and gardens than I ever did at a movie. Just ask the grandma who was following her 7-year-old child off the elevator yesterday at the CBG. That little girl’s exclamation of “Grandma, it’s all so BEAUTIFUL!â€ when suddenly facing a room full of orchids, is something that never would have happened had it not been for the fact that the cost of their tickets helped make that show possible in the first place.
For the low, low price of $7.50 ($3 for children), you can wander the grounds for an entire day. The show starts and ends when you say (as long as you say it between the hours of 10AM and 5PM) and the show is limited only by nature. As gardeners, we know that means that there are no limits.
If you live here in Cleveland, be glad that the cost of the CBG is less than the cost of a movie. If you still live in a place where your local Conservatory or Botanical Gardens are free, remember that it costs money to operate and without your donation, it might not be there tomorrow. Drop a fiver or a ten spot into that donation box. Our gardens deserve our money more than any of those snobby actors out in Hollywood do.