Selby Gardens Aims For Repeat Visitors

Todays News

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY MONDAY BUSINESS EDITION MONDAY JUL 22, 2019

When Jennifer Rominiecki first came on as executive director for Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, she heard too often from those who visited the institution just once.

“We never want people to say ‘We’ve been to Selby, it’s beautiful,’ as if they don’t have a reason to come back,” she said.

It’s why, as part of the institution’s new master plan, the concept of Selby as “The Living Museum” plays a central role. That includes exhibition series better connecting nature and the arts, such as an ongoing glass show done in partnership with the Duncan McClellan Gallery in St. Petersburg. Works are on display in Selby structures and segments of the gardens themselves showcasing work of DMG artists.

And there will also be orchid shows each fall spotlighting the Gardens’ living, preserved and bibliographic collections. Plans for the garden in the future include a library of research and scientific literature. In February, the Gardens plan interdisciplinary cultural shows connecting nature to the arts.

“So the experience is always changing, and it’s always new and different,” Rominiecki said.

Already, the approach helped usher better financial security for the institution. Total earned revenue growth from 2015 to 2018 went up 59 percent thanks to growth in a number of arenas. Admissions revenue jumped 47 percent, memberships 60 percent and rental and catering commissions a whopping 162 percent.

The gardens have gone from a net loss of $1.8 million in 2008 to pulling in a net $3 million-plus in 2018. 

It’s generated fresh publicity in national media for the Gardens as well. On average, there have been two out-of-market articles each week printed about Selby Gardens in publications from The Ritz-Carlton Magazine to The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Now, Selby leaders have started the process of trademarking “The Living Museum” and started conceptualizing exhibits that could travel, always with denotations of being presented by Selby Gardens, but shown at venues across the country.

“We can really cross collaborate,” Rominiecki said. “They can promote us and send people to us. We can promote them and send people to them.”

Photo courtesy Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.

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