Stepping into the light
This article was updated to include the new opening date.
Brookgreen Gardens has delayed the opening of its new exhibit, but its outdoor facilities remain open.
“Southern Light,” an exhibit by light sculpture artist Bruce Munro was due to open April 8. It will now open May 1. The exhibit features seven installations of varying shapes and sizes.
The change follows Gov. Henry McMaster’s executive order this week closing “close contact” businesses, including tourist attractions. Brookgreen got a ruling from the state that it’s gardens could remain open. Work on the new exhibit wrapped up just as restrictions on business and travel came into effect.
“We’ve created something very special once again at Brookgreen,” said Jon McGann, Brookgreen’s manager of public exhibition production and logistics. “It’s amazing. We’ve been excited and looking forward to this for the last two years.”
Munro sent two designers from England to Pawleys Island last summer to plan the exhibit. A four-man crew arrived at the end of February to set it up.
“They’re a great group of people,” McGann said.
Five Brookgreen employees and numerous volunteers also helped install the exhibit. Munro’s crew departed for England on Sunday.
Florrie Munro, the artist’s daughter, supervised the completion of the installations.
“It’s going amazingly because of all of the volunteers,” Munro said. “We’ve actually been able to work to the deadline we’ve been given.”
Munro has become a fan of Brookgreen.
“The landscape is obviously beautiful, the flowers [and] the wildlife,” Munro said. “It’s really special.”
The exhibit features two installations that Bruce Munro created specifically for Brookgreen.
“Okonjima’s Choral Society” features 2,000 frogs and is situated behind the back wall of the gardens.
The frogs are actually European road markers with lights that fade and flicker.
Accompanying the exhibit will be the songs of frogs recorded in Okonjima National Park in Namibia.
Florrie Munro said installation was a challenge.
“Working in a bog, getting stuck in the mud and worrying that alligators might eat you any second,” she said. “But it was great fun.”
“The Hive” features 1,458 lights placed inside the open brickwork of a bell tower. They are accompanied by the sound of buzzing bees.
“Bruce saw this and was inspired,” Redd How of Bath, England, said of the tower. He installed “The Hive.”
There is also an installation of steel lilies that is making its American debut.
“Fields of Light” will fill the entire Arboretum from near the Christmas tree from Nights of a Thousand Candles to the road. More than 13,000 lights will sway with the wind and change colors, as will the fiber optic strings along the ground.
An installation of 10 water towers surrounds a pond near “The Visionaries” sculpture of Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington.
Each tower is constructed of dozens of plastic bottles similar to those you would find filled with soda at a supermarket.
When lit, the reflection in the pond makes it look like there are 20 towers.
“It’s really sharp,” McGann said.
The Live Oak Alleé will be filled with 600 fireflies, each made up of 25 fiber optic strings, emerging from the ground under the trees.
The fiber optic cables that connect the fireflies also light up.
“It kind of gives life to the piece,” McGann said.
A half-moon shaped installation called “Time and Again” sits between the “Fountain of the Muses” and “Pegasus.”
“It has a real reflective quality,” McGann said.
McGann and his crew are installing some special lighting in the gardens to go along with the exhibit.
“This is not Nights of a Thousand Candles, but the trees will be illuminated and most of the sidewalks with be lit,” McGann said. “The whole place will be open to explore.”
“Southern Light” is the only Bruce Munro exhibit on the East Coast of the United States in 2020. It will be on display Wednesdays through Saturdays through Sept. 12, from 7 to 10 p.m.
It is a ticketed event, like Nights of a Thousand Candles.
Tickets are for $25 for adults and $15 children 4-12. Members pay $20 for adults and $12 for children.
For members who want to visit more than once, Brookgreen is selling season passes for the exhibit for $50 for adults and $30 children. Season passes to the exhibit are not available for non-members.
For tickets go to brookgreen.org.