ABOVE: Garden Glow at the Missouri Botanical Garden transforms the grounds for a nontraditional holiday experience. Photos courtesy of Anna Musun-Miller.
Considering the global awareness and impact of the Garden’s research, we thought about this experience on a global stage.”
Light and sound have the power to transport you – to a specific place and time or even an emotional state. Garden Glow at the Missouri Botanical Garden (MOBOT) in the city of St Louis transformed the grounds into a journey through invigoration, mystery, joy and nostalgia.
Running through Jan 2016, this was Garden Glow’s third year and with it MOBOT has continued to push beyond traditional expectations of a holiday light event to create a guest experience more akin to installation art. Timed ticketing and a one-way pathway allowed for a high level of control over how guests would encounter each installation. This control resulted in an enviable level of consistency in the delivery of each emotional note – there was nothing haphazard about a guest’s experience of Garden Glow.
David and Linda Smith of Smithink were the executive producers on the Garden Glow project. “The Missouri Botanical Garden asked us to help create a nontraditional holiday experience, unlike anything in or near St Louis,” Linda Smith said. “Considering the global awareness and impact of the Garden’s research, we thought about this experience on a global stage.”
The result: Guests traveled through an explosion of color – hot pinks, lime greens, vibrant blues – that are commonly expressed in holiday celebrations throughout the world, not just the US. Paired with unexpected audio design, each color-centric vignette enveloped guests, creating a series of immersive moods.
This innovative approach seems to have paid off – the event is clearly tied to the Garden’s core brand, yet it appears that the audience for this event was broader than the usual garden enthusiasts. Families were out in force, enjoying photo opportunities and activities interspersed along the pathway.
Highlights of this million-light experience included an enchanting lighted hedge maze, an incredible cascading solarpowered LED light corridor, a fireside view of the otherworldly glow of MOBOT’s iconic Climatron with a drink in hand at Café Flora, and roasting marshmallows with one’s family alongside the reflecting pools. • • •
Anna Musun-Miller puts her lifelong obsession with good stories to work by developing exhibits in cultural institutions. As exhibit developer and evaluator at the Indianapolis Zoo, she develops content for exhibits, conducts audience research, and coaches staff on the implementation of Zoo brand. Anna is passionate about creating transformative guest experiences.
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