Offshoots touring exhibition is a selection of works, taken from a series of five solo exhibitions presented at the Tanks Arts Centre between 2009 and 2013. Apart from being a series of drawings, paintings and etchings, Offshoots is the story of a five year relationship between an artist, her local botanic gardens and her local arts centre. It is a story about how artists can contribute to the interpretation of a collection; how civic facilities, such as botanic gardens, zoos and museums can retain artists over an extended period of time and how regional arts centres can assist artists through transitions in their career.

Julie McEnerny began the Offshoots Series during an artist’s residency at Tanks Arts Centre and Cairns Botanic Gardens in 2009, with the long-term aim of producing a florilegium from the Gardens’ collection. With a special focus on those plants of significant ecological or cultural significance, she began with the Aboriginal Plant Use Garden. The residency gave Julie access to traditional owners and Indigenous knowledge of the native plants. She also built a lasting relationship with both Tanks and Botanic Gardens curators, horticulturalists and an army of gardeners who collected specimens for her to illustrate.

The following four exhibitions each focused on a different feature of the Gardens’ collection, becoming a visual record, seen through the eyes of an artist with a strong connection to the natural world. Julie believes botanical drawings bring the defining features of a plant into an isolated space where its unique character can be observed and appreciated. In 2011, Julie was awarded the Cairns Regional Council Tourism Product Award for a combined package of workshops and merchandise. The resulting linen tea towels are now a top selling line in the Botanical Gardens Visitor Centre and Julie conducts botanical drawing workshops on a weekly basis at the Gardens. These secondary activities, along with the strong partnership between the artist, the arts centre and the gardens, have enabled the residency to continue, allowing Julie to carry on documenting plants of the Cairns Botanic Gardens as a major part of her arts practice.

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