Open Studio Continues Despite Pandemic

A pinecone illustration by Judy Lutter.

by Angelica Edwards, NCBG Communications Intern
Illustration by Judy Lutter

Despite the pandemic circumstances, the Botanical Art and Illustration Open Studio Coffee Hour has remained a way for local artists to critique and improve their artwork. Twice a month, artists meet over Zoom to critique their art and hold group discussions about techniques, materials, and resources.

The North Carolina Circle of the American Society of Botanical Artists hosts the meetings. Prior to the pandemic, BAI Open Studio was held in person at the Garden.

Open Studio was able to move virtually because of the efforts of Lisa Holmsen, who developed the agenda for each meeting, and Joanna Lelekacs, who worked to ensure the program worked over Zoom successfully.

Artists who attended Open Studio appreciated the friendship and learning opportunities the meetings offered.  “This group brings camaraderie, inspiration, support and just plain good friends. Meeting via Zoom has made it possible to connect in a different way than in person.,” said Susan Shirley.

Open Studio is affiliated with the NCBG however being a member of the program is not a requirement of attending Open Studio. Founded in 2001, the certificate program provides participants with a well-balanced curriculum in both botanical art and illustration that includes scientific background, visual arts theory, and practical experience in different media.

The virtual Open Studio has given participants “a way to take the stress of the pandemic off your shoulders for a short period of time with friends with the same passion for art,” said Diane Rainey. Dale Pittard agreed and said the Garden has made the lockdown much better.

“I was not sure what to expect with [the virtual Open Studio], but I am totally enjoying the time together to see everyone. So many new ideas and suggestions regarding art and supplies, and classes, I find so helpful and inspiring,” said Roberta Vandalen.

To learn more about Open Studio, the North Carolina Circle of the American Society of Botanical Artists, and to see some of the Circle’s recent trading cards from a recent project, visit their blog at