Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is celebrating its return from a long, three-month closure with an exhibition that is sure to stop visitors in their tracks. From July 1, 2020 to January 6, 2021 and in celebration of the 125th year of the historic John F. Wolfe Palm House, the Paul Busse’s model train displays will take over the outdoor gardens of the Grand Mallway on a scale never before seen at the Conservatory.
Paul Busse Garden Railway features 1,122 feet of miniature train tracks that weave through gardens, over visitors’ heads, and alongside waterfalls as they travel from one whimsical scene to the next. The artistic aesthetic will be recognized by Conservatory Aglow visitors who have been enchanted by the popular holiday train display, which is an early Busse creation. This time, Busse and his team of artists at Applied Imagination, Ltd. have used the same botanical architecture to create not just one, but four vignettes that span across the Grand Mallway.
Now a nationally recognized artist, Busse began his career here in Ohio. A graduate of Ohio State University, Busse created his first public garden railroad for the 1982 Ohio State Fair at the request of Ohio Governor Jim Rhodes. He founded Applied Imagination in 1991, and that company had a big break at AmeriFlora ’92, an international horticultural exposition where a Busse creation was featured in a German-themed garden. Since then, Busse has become a household name in the botanical garden world. He is perhaps most widely renowned for the New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show, which has been named one of New York City’s most popular holiday attractions. (The Conservatory is proud to have a Busse holiday train display as part of its own permanent collection.)
This summer, the Conservatory is about to debut a Busse display unlike anything Applied Imagination has ever done before. Unique to other displays, this exhibition features a giant enchanted tree inspired by California redwoods, where guests can explore inside to discover a hidden magical scene within. This experience is accompanied by fantastical villages and thematically designed horticultural landscaping that bring fairytale magic to life.
This particular display has another special tie to Ohio: It incorporates pieces from the private collection of John F. Wolfe. Fittingly displayed during the 125th-anniversary year of the John F. Wolfe Palm House, his collection of trains and Busse structures was donated by the Wolfe family in his memory.
“We saw more people than ever connecting with nature during the pandemic, and the Paul Busse Garden Railway is a great way for the community to continue this appreciation,” said Conservatory President and CEO Bruce Harkey. “This exhibition invites visitors to look at plant life in a different way, right down to every sculptural detail. We are so excited to welcome the community back to the Conservatory with an exhibition that celebrates nature through an Ohio artist’s eyes.”
The Paul Busse Garden Railway is sponsored by the Cardinal Health Foundation and Giant Eagle, with support from the Greater Columbus Arts Council and the Ohio Arts Council.
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