Discover why bees see patterns we can’t, taste honey produced in one of London’s eight Royal Parks and walk through a room full of flowers in The National Gallery.
Between February 17 and 20, ‘A Right Royal Buzz’ exhibition will take place across three venues in London – Duck Island Cottage in St James’s Park and two nearby art institutions, The National Gallery and Mall Galleries.
The community arts project, led by The Royal Parks, aims to teach the public about the importance of pollination through the medium of art.
Appointed artist in residence, Alex Hirtzel, has undertaken workshops with the general public and local organisations including a nursery and a sixth form to create art for the exhibition.
Peep into a large blacked-out box in the Mall Galleries to experience how bees see. Discover how ultraviolet light - invisible to humans - uncovers patterns on plants which draw bees to the source of pollen and nectar. These distinct patterns act as landing strips or arrows guiding them to the right spot.
At The National Gallery, walk through a room full of 3D flowers inspired by two famous paintings in the Gallery’s collection, ‘Sunflowers’ by Vincent Van Gogh and ‘Flowers in a Terracotta Vase’ by Jan Van Huysum. Learn what plants you can grow to attract bees and other pollinators into your garden, balcony or window box.
Finally, meander through St James’s Park, the oldest of London’s Royal Parks, and stop by Duck Island Cottage to see a seven foot beehive made from ceramic tiles, with a bug hotel on the reverse. The tiles have been designed by an intergenerational collaboration between students from Harris Westminster Sixth Form and members of locally based ETAT (Encouragement Through the Arts and Talking).
Inside the cottage, normally closed off to the public, you can taste honey produced in the Royal Parks and see art produced by Alex Hirtzel.
Claudia Watts, GiGL* Royal Parks’ officer said: “The decline of pollinators is well documented and can be attributed to many causes, including loss of flower-rich habitats, pests and diseases and the use of pesticides. It is often quoted that pollinators are involved in one out of every three bites we eat, so encouraging these insects is not just good for the environment but also key to our quality of life.”
The Royal Parks has recently produced a pollinator strategy to complement the work that is already taking place across London’s eight parks. This includes habitat improvements, reducing the use of pesticides and monitoring bee health.
Mark Wasilewski, Park Manager at St James’s Park, said: “Combining London’s most visited park with two iconic art institutions has provided an exciting opportunity to create meaningful art with a powerful message.
“Across London’s eight Royal Parks we have adopted many pollinator friendly practices, including keeping beehives in all our parks, the creation of meadow areas and reviewing what pollinator-friendly plants we use. However, we should all play a part in helping reverse the decline of pollinators.
“Hopefully this exhibition will inspire many, including businesses, to plant pollinator-friendly plants in whatever outside space is available to them.”
Sophie Martin, Family and Children’s Programmer at the National Gallery, said: “Being involved in this project has enabled the National Gallery to work with local families to create important works of art that highlight the importance of sustaining London’s wildlife.
“We have also been able to use two of our most famous floral paintings to help teach community members about how flowers attract and support different forms of pollination which are vital to maintaining delicate eco systems”.
Lewis McNaught, Director of Mall Galleries said: “This exciting partnership is proof that art helps us discover more about the world around us. Bringing together organisations and audiences from different fields is inspiring for both the wider public as well as everyone working in our institutions.”
For more information on the project visit www.royalparks.org.uk/arightroyalbuzz
* Greenspace Information for Greater London (GiGL) is the capital’s environmental records centre – they collate, manage and make available detailed information on London’s wildlife, parks, nature reserves, gardens and other open spaces.