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An “Electric Bloom” of Light Installations Just Opened at This Botanical Garden

By Sarah Buder

May 15, 2020

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Bruce Munro’s wildly popular light installations are now on view at Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina with enhanced COVID-19 safety protocols.

Photo by Serena Munro. © 2019 Bruce Munro Ltd.

Bruce Munro’s wildly popular light installations are now on view at Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina with enhanced COVID-19 safety protocols.

The latest site-specific exhibition from British artist Bruce Munro decorates a historic South Carolina landscape with thousands of illuminated, flower-like bulbs. The impressive display is now welcoming visitors as the state begins to reopen after coronavirus lockdowns.

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Last spring, British artist Bruce Munro unveiled his largest field installation and first solar-powered exhibit in the United States, consisting of 58,000 illuminated fiber-optic “blooms” spread across 15 acres in Paso Robles, California. The outdoor light installation was such a success that organizers extended its run by six months due to “overwhelming public demand.” 

This spring, Bruce Munro’s immersive light installations were slated to decorate another natural landscape on the country’s opposite coast: the Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina, a 9,127-acre National Historic Landmark located less than two hours north of Charleston and 30 minutes south of Myrtle Beach by car. However, nationwide coronavirus shutdowns beginning in mid-March put a stall on plans to open the exhibit on the anticipated April 8 date. But as South Carolina moves to slowly reopen businesses throughout May after lockdown, the Brookgreen Gardens exhibit, titled Bruce Munro at Brookgreen: Southern Light, began welcoming visitors starting Friday, May 15—albeit, of course, with enhanced COVID-19 safety protocols.

All guests to the Bruce Munro at Brookgreen: Southern Light exhibit will be asked to wear face masks and keep six feet away from those not in their party, according to Brookgreen’s website. Brookgreen Gardens will stagger guest entry to the exhibit, and several parts of the outdoor landscape will also be marked with directional signs indicating one-way only traffic on walkways to maintain proper social distancing in accordance with CDC guidelines. Bruce Munro at Brookgreen: Southern Light is open to guests on Wednesday through Saturday evenings from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. The outdoor light installation exhibit marks the only opportunity to see Munro’s work in the eastern United States this year.

Munro’s “Fireflies” installation blends in with the natural flora in Brookgreen’s central Oak Allée.

Across the botanical gardens (which are also home to the largest collection of American figurative sculpture in the country), the exhibit showcases seven site-specific works by the acclaimed British artist, who has previously installed similar light-based projects in California, London, and South Korea, as well as in Uluru, Australia. For Brookgreen: Southern Light, each of the seven artworks by Munro has been modified specifically for the garden spaces where they’re installed.

In a grassy area near the entrance and visitor center (close to a prominent sculpture called The Visionaries), visitors will find 10 tall cylinders illuminated by fiber optics that change in color and emit corresponding sounds as part of an installation called Water-Towers. Nearby in Oak Allée, a central pathway of 250-year-old live oak trees that traverses a significant portion of the grounds, the Fireflies installation features leaf-like creations that blend in with the surrounding natural flora. Deeper within the gardens at Brookgreen’s Arboretum, Munro’s hugely popular Field of Light installation consists of 11,700 illuminated stems reminiscent of flower bulbs, each softly fluctuating in color. 

In Brookgreen’s Arboretum, the “Field of Light” installation consists of 11,700 illuminated stems that fluctuate in color.

Brookgreen Gardens asks that visitors purchase online tickets for Bruce Munro at Brookgreen: Southern Light in advance to limit contact with exhibition staff. Admission costs $25 for adults and $15 for children for nonmembers. (For members, admission is $20 for adults and $12 for children.) 

This article originally appeared online in February 2020; it was updated on May 15, 2020, to include current information.

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