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Selby Gardens adopts organization-wide goals for diversity and inclusion

SARASOTA, Fla., October 13, 2020 – Marie Selby Botanical Gardens today announced new organization-wide goals to increase diversity and inclusion in all areas of its work.

A statement developed by Selby Gardens’ Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce will guide the effort to ensure that all in the community – regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, or financial status – feel welcome. As part of the initiative, Selby Gardens commits to increasing racial and ethnic diversity in employee, volunteer, and board representation; continuing to provide opportunities for those in underserved populations to access the Gardens; and expanding its diverse cultural offerings through exhibits and programming.

The following statement is effective immediately:

The Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce was created in 2019 to ensure that diversity and inclusive thinking is front-and-center at Selby Gardens. The ultimate goal is to ensure that all in our community – regardless of their race, age, ability, sex, sexual orientation, religion, or financial status – see Selby Gardens as a place where they are welcome. From employment and volunteer opportunities to exhibits and memberships, Selby Gardens will prioritize creating opportunities to be inclusive and open to all who wish to be here.

Taskforce members include Jennifer O. Rominiecki, President & CEO; Wendy Deming, COO; Walter Gilbert, who serves as Selby Gardens’ Community Engagement Manager and is the former President of the Sarasota County NAACP; Vickie Oldham, Founder – Newtown Alive and President, Sarasota African American Cultural Coalition; John McCarthy, Vice President for Historic Spanish Point Campus; and Jeannie Perales, Vice President for Museum Exhibits, Learning, and Engagement.

With input from the community, Selby Gardens’ Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce is committed to the following:

With regard to race and ethnicity, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens seeks to be reflective of the community and will increase the diversity and inclusionary thinking of Trustees, employees, and volunteers throughout the organization as follows:

• By the end of 2022, Selby Gardens aims for 15% of its Trustees, employees, and volunteers to be racially and ethnically diverse.
• By the end of 2025, Selby Gardens aims for 20% of its Trustees, employees, and volunteers to be racially and ethnically diverse.

Moving forward, Selby Gardens will incorporate diversity and  inclusionary thinking in all aspects of our operations –        ultimately connecting every segment of our community with bayfront sanctuaries, air plants of the world, native nature, and our regional history. We will accomplish this by making diversity and inclusion one of Selby Gardens’ primary goals in our upcoming 2021 strategic plan. The plan will include actionable initiatives with timelines to achieve the desired goals.

In the meantime, Selby Gardens will continue to seek opportunities to promote culturally diverse exhibits and programs for the benefit of our community. The summer 2021 “Florida Highwaymen” landscape artists exhibit, featuring African American artists and curated by an African American museum professional, is an example of how Selby Gardens will highlight the important work of underrepresented audiences.

Additionally, Selby Gardens will continue to grow and foster initiatives like the Family Togetherness program and My Garden membership program that make Selby Gardens, its exhibits, and educational resources available to hundreds of underserved families in our community.

“These goals will ensure that diversity and inclusion are part of our strategic decision-making and are woven into all aspects of our organization,” said Jennifer O. Rominiecki, President & CEO of Selby Gardens.

Since prioritizing this work, the following progress has been made:

  • The Family Togetherness program (funded by Community Foundation of Sarasota County), begun in 2017, has welcomed thousands of underserved children and their families to special events at Selby Gardens.
  • The My Garden membership program (funded by Gulf Coast Community Foundation), which provides free household memberships for underserved families through youth service organizations, allowed 266 families to make 1,195 visits to Selby Gardens between August 2019 and August 2020.
  • In partnership with Newtown Alive, Selby Gardens has documented and shared the oral histories of the descendants of the African American household staff of William and Marie Selby. Programs were open to the public and took place in October 2019 and 2020, with additional programs planned.
  • In 2019, the Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce was established to ensure that diversity and inclusivity are key priorities for Selby Gardens.
  • The 45th Anniversary Orchid Show: Women Breaking the Glasshouse Ceiling builds on Marie Selby’s legacy and highlights the women who contributed to Selby Gardens’ amassing the world’s best scientifically-documented collection of orchids.
  • In the spring of 2021 and in partnership with the Sarasota African American Cultural Coalition, Selby Gardens’ Downtown Sarasota campus will host an exhibit of the Florida Highwaymen landscape artists highlighting the work of African American painters in the mid-20th century. Selby Gardens’ exhibition is curated by an African American museum professional.

“Selby Gardens made a commitment to the community and we are following through,” said Walter Gilbert, Community Engagement Coordinator for Selby Gardens. “I think this program sets an example for other organizations to follow.”

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