In just three years, Selby Gardens’ high-energy executive director Jennifer Rominiecki has turned the placid botanical gardens into a flower powerhouse.
Rominiecki has orchestrated wildly popular orchid shows, exhibits of botanical-themed masterworks by Marc Chagall and Andy Warhol (and, to come in 2019, Paul Gauguin); and a partnership with Michael’s On East to transform the dowdy activity center into an elegant, much used banquet hall.
Since her appointment in 2015, visitorship has jumped 36 percent, annual revenues have risen 26 percent and memberships have grown 29 percent to more than 13,000 member-households, the largest member base of any area cultural institution. This season, 200 cars each day were turned away for lack of parking.
Rominiecki’s most lasting accomplishment will take root sometime next year, when shovels should start turning on an ambitious $67 million reorganization of the gardens. Phase 1 consists of a five-story solar-powered parking garage and rooftop restaurant; a welcome center with sorely needed administrative offices; and relocation of the greenhouses—filled with the world’s best scientifically documented collection of orchids and bromeliads—away from their vulnerable spot right on Sarasota Bay. Six months after the project was announced in October, $15 million has been raised.
“I’m thrilled,” says Rominiecki. “It shows a lot of confidence in the project and our ability to execute it; and it shows how important the project is to our community.”
A New York native, Rominiecki studied art history in college, then worked at the Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Opera and for 15 years the New York Botanical Gardens, where she led a mammoth $479 million fund-raising campaign, before coming to Selby Gardens. “I tell people I started in the visual arts, moved to the performing arts, and ended up in the living arts,” she says