Friday, August 27, 2021

Boogying at the botanic garden

In July, South Coast Botanic Garden partnered with Constellation Immersive to open The DiscOasis on the garden's grounds.  Frankly, rollerskating to disco music during a surge in COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant didn't much appeal to me but, after reading a recent article about it in the Los Angeles Times, I decided to pop by to take a look at the set-up.  If you're interested, I'm sorry to report that this is the event's last week and, according to the official website, it's sold out through the weekend.

For some reason, I'd assumed the skating rink would be set up near the front entrance.

Unlike much of the garden, this area is flat but I suppose it's a little small for a rollerskating track

It wasn't anywhere to be seen in the front garden so I started walking.  I'd checked off most of the sculptures on display as part of the garden's Hide & Seek - Art Meets Nature exhibit by the time I ran into the entrance to The DiscOasis.  I was almost surprised I found it at all.  SCBG is 87 acres in size and the event was set up in the "back 40."

I saw what looked from a distance like a smaller version of the garden's Living Wall and headed in that direction to find this.  (Unlike the Living Wall, the greenery here wasn't real.)

The neon signs near the entrance weren't lit.  Everything was blocked off by safety cones as the event doesn't open until 5pm each day.  I'm unsure what the wheelbarrow filled with sand, skates and disco ball was all about.

This disclosure stood at the entrance to the path leading to the event's midway

As this entry tunnel was blocked, I walked to the right (where I found the last sculpture on the Hide & Seek circuit)

As the entrance to the tunnel was blocked I wasn't sure I was going to see anything more but then I ran into what were clearly set-ups for taking pictures, part of the "immersive experience" if you check out videos of the event online.  (Here's one.)


After the last of these I reached the entrance to the midway.

This sign indicated that the main even was ahead


I couldn't get very close and hadn't brought my camera with the telephoto lens

I realized only belatedly that the stage and surrounding equipment had been set up on the site of the garden's lake.  That artificial lake has been dry for many years now.  Its liner had degraded and the lake had been drained, although the last time I had a good look at it there was still a lot of foliage growing in the area, as well as rocks and weeds.

Plans to restore the area, including the creation of a new lake that could accommodate natural rainstorm water flow, have been under discussion for years

Unable to get any closer, I decided to make my way back to the front of the garden.

I walked through a long tunnel of trees and tall shrubs

I saw few people.  This squirrel wasn't happy to see me and moved higher and higher into the stone pine tree, carrying his precious pine cone.

I followed the creek bed, as dry as I've ever seen it, in the general direction of the tram road that leads back to the garden's front entrance

I veered back up toward the other side of the lake site when I saw a large, shiny metal object ahead

This area also offered a glimpse of the main stage and rollerskating space

From there I had a good walk back to the garden's front entrance and headed home.  The tropical butterfly exhibit (SOAR) closed last month and, with the closure of The DiscOasis this week, the garden's next event will celebrate monarch butterflies, which is more up my alley.  That event opens in October.  Given that SCBG felt comfortable enough to open to the public on this scale for The DiscOasis, I'm hoping this will make them more amenable to supporting plant sales and other events appealing to gardeners and naturalists in the near future.  


All material © 2012-2021 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

16 comments:

  1. For a time, I thought I'd be seeing photos of you rollerskating...
    I checked out the youTube video of the event and, as someone who prefers both feet steady on the ground, I'm convinced I would have enjoyed a walk "through a long tunnel of trees" best :-D

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    1. As I recall, I had a skateboard as a kid but never roller skates. When disco was king my focus was mostly on school and work so its popularity skipped right by me. I'm glad that some people enjoyed the DiscOasis experience and I hope SCBG got a chunk of money out of the deal but this felt like a significant departure from the garden's mission to me. If the money went straight to a fund to recreate a lake on that spot I might feel differently but the lake always seems to be at the very bottom of the list of future projects.

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  2. It is early and I'm not fully awake yet. Halfway through your post, I thought I was on the wrong blog. Very interesting!

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    1. "Interesting" is the key word, isn't it?! I admit that I was shocked when I heard about the DiscOasis event, Phillip. The original lake was a very important piece of garden that's sadly missed to this day by both the community and wildlife. I hate to think that the space it occupied could become a staging ground for future events so loosely connected to the garden's mission.

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  3. Those "instagram ready" or "selfie opportunity" set ups of plastic foliage and gaudy, unnaturally colored flowers are simply awful.

    Dreadful pustules of ugly amidst living, growing trees and shrubs.

    Yet with a lack of public funds, this is what public botanical gardens do for budget.


    An excellent, informative post, Kris. Thank you!

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    1. Darkness and disco lights probably obscured the disconnect between the selfie set-ups and the natural areas surrounding them to a degree but "garish" and "disco" seem to go hand in hand. Alice on mushrooms might have felt right at home ;) At present, I'm concerned that the garden is leaning heavily in the theme/amusement park direction.

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  4. I must agree with Hoov's assesment of the Instagram backdrops. I'm sorry the event was sold out and you didn't get a chance to disco skate!

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    1. Even without the COVID risk, I don't imagine I'd be disco dancing on roller skates, Loree. The one time I went ice skating with my husband (way before we were married), he spent the majority of his time picking me up off the ice. I can only imagine how I'd do now with one bad knee! They'd probably eject me from the track as a hazard to other visitors ;)

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  5. Haven't roller skated in years to disco music (bad flashbacks). An odd event for a botanic garden. At least it's not like Florida where they have included amusement parks full of rides.

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    1. I feel as though SCBG is leaning in that direction, Elaine. How far it could take that turn while remaining a non-profit is an interesting question (especially as the land itself is owned by Los Angeles County). Years ago, I had a discussion with a friend who proclaimed that he thought the garden should introduce a zip-line feature. I laughed at the time but now I'm thinking that would at least have a closer relationship to the garden's mission of creating a "unique horticultural and wildlife habitat experience" than events like this one.

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  6. It may have been a lake once, but clearly a different kind of oasis now! I guess they are trying to attract a different crowd than their usual. ;)

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    1. It may be that Constellation Immersive was looking for a venue and offered the right price to get SCBG to host the event. It's not clear to me how active a role SCBG had in the logistics. In the past, the garden has hosted TV, movie and commercial shoots. As HB said, financial circumstances drive some bargains.

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  7. Well, it's a bit jarring to walk along with you and suddenly see all that glitz in the middle of the clearing.I had many disco experiences but it was sans roller skates-Cabaret Club on La Cienega being the venue of choice. I hope they made enough money to pivot back to plants.

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    1. I hope so too, Kathy, although I'm wondering what the "lake area" is going to look like after all that staging and equipment is moved out.

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  8. Thank you for the post. The link to the video was helpful. I’ll be interested to see how this area appears after DiscOasis leaves. Perhaps it clears the area for the next garden project.

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    1. The area was sad before. I hope it's not left to look sadder still when the exhibit clears out, presumably this week. Given how long they've already taken deliberating on next steps and the amount of time required to raise money for each major project, I hope they have an interim strategy.

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