SARASOTA — An evening of readings, anecdotes and music Thursday night at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens brought an exciting announcement: Patti Smith is the garden’s inaugural artist in residence.
The iconic poet, singer-songwriter, author and visual artist’s relationship with the gardens is rooted in the current exhibition, “Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith: Flowers, Poetry and Light,” on display at Selby Gardens’ downtown Sarasota campus through June 26.
It features Mapplethorpe’s black-and-white photography of flowers and Smith’s lyrics and poetry about flowers and nature, told through horticultural installations throughout the gardens and in displays in the Museum of Botany and the Arts.
Jennifer Rominiecki, president and CEO of Selby Gardens, conceived the exhibition after reading Just Kids, Smith’s award-winning memoir about her lifelong relationship with Mapplethorpe. She was inspired to connect the artists to “the living museum.”
Smith toured the exhibition in February and performed songs and readings at an event.
The encore performance on April 28 was held under a large white tent lit with fairy lights and decorated with plants on the Great Lawn. The evening started with a theme of gratitude from Smith, who was accompanied by her “right hand,” musician and singer Tony Shanahan, as she sang Grateful.
Dressed in all black, Smith read excerpts from Just Kids, talked about her fascination with poet and artist William Blake before performing My Blakean Year, and warned about conserving the planet before launching into Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush.
Rominiecki made the announcement about the residency, which drew a round of applause and cheers from the audience. It came before Smith and Shanahan concluded the performance with Because the Night, with help from the audience on the chorus.
Smith’s residency will include return visits to Sarasota in 2023 and 2024. She’ll take inspiration from the gardens’ two campuses — downtown and Historic Spanish Point — and its collections, and will hold public readings and performances.