Brookgreen Gardens, the first public sculpture garden in America, has in its collection more than 1,400 works by over 350 sculptors. Exhibited within the gardens is the largest and most comprehensive collection of American figurative sculpture in the country, by sculptors who worked from the early nineteenth century to the present. Brookgreen Gardens is a National Historical Landmark, and is accredited by the American Association of Museums. Brookgreen offers workshops in sculpture by nationally known sculptors throughout the year.
From the outset, Brookgreen has been committed to the collection of American figurative sculpture, particularly those pieces that could be displayed outdoors in garden settings. Its founders built this collection around Anna Hyatt Huntington's own work and that of her contemporaries. Eventually, the collection was extended back to the early nineteenth century and forward into the twenty-first century. Today this collection contains over 1,200 works by 350 artists. In the words of Wayne Craven, author of the book, Sculpture in America, it is "unequaled in its size, focus on figurative works, visibility of the sculpture to the visitor, and integration within a garden setting."
Brookgreen Gardens is responsible for the creation of one of the longest running series of medals in this country. Since 1973, annual medals have been created that memorialize either the natural or the cultural history of the Lowcountry, or the artistic process of the sculptor. Brookgreen's series is in the collections of The British Museum, Smithsonian American History Museum, National Sculpture Society, and the American Numismatic Society.
OFFNER SCULPTURE LEARNING AND RESEARCH
The catalyst for the Elliot and Rosemary Offner Sculpture Learning and Research Center was the bequest of sculptor Richard McDermott Miller (1922-2004), who left the contents of his studio in New York City to Brookgreen Gardens. Encompassing more than 400 works in bronze, plaster, wax, and terra cotta, this body of work was the largest single gift to Brookgreen since the era of its founders, Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington. In order to utilize the vast collection, a visible storage facility was created that would allow Brookgreen to display not only the work of Richard McDermott Miller, but other work from the collection that was currently in storage.
In early 2006, George Dean Johnson and his wife, Susan Phifer Johnson, a Brookgreen trustee, provided the funds to make the project a reality and requested the new center be named in honor of another Brookgreen trustee, Elliot Offner, and his wife, Rosemary. Elliot Offner holds BFA and MFA degrees from Yale University and is a Life Fellow of Clare Hall, Cambridge University. His artwork - both sculpture and graphic arts - is found in many museum, public, and private collections in this country and abroad. By opening the Offner Center in 2007, Brookgreen Gardens has made its hidden treasures available to the American public. The Offner Center also provides the means to allow visitors to research these works and others in the collection via the on site computer database.