Descanso Gardens: Call for Curatorial Proposals

Descanso Gardens invites curators, artists, collectives, cultural producers, and thinkers of all kinds to submit preliminary proposals for exhibitions and programs.

Descanso Gardens is committed to giving emerging, mid-career, and established curators and artists the opportunity to expand their portfolios. Curatorial proposals will be considered for Descanso’s Sturt Haaga Gallery, the Boddy House, and for satellite locations throughout the botanical gardens. Applicants must review the requirements below and submit their preliminary proposal by May 15, 2023.

At Descanso Gardens, we connect people with nature and one another. Our mission is to practice exemplary stewardship of Descanso’s distinctive character and assets; offer people an experience close to nature; and cultivate an understanding of the natural world and people’s place in it through inspiration, education and example.

Here is how to participate: 

How to Apply

Please submit your preliminary curatorial proposal to Descanso Gardens by May 15, 2023, by including the following information:

  • The completed preliminary curatorial proposal form
  • Curatorial statement
  • Your Resume and CVs of curators, artists, and other key collaborators
  • 5-10 images with captions (no more than 10 MB)
  • Any other information that may be relevant to your proposal (essays, articles, etc.)

Application Schedule

The call for curatorial proposals has the following schedule*:
April 27, 2023  9 am Open Information Session – applicants have an opportunity to have a Zoom conversation with Descanso Gardens about the Call for Proposals and ask questions. To join the Zoom Meeting, please use the link and the meeting ID below:        
May 15, 2023
 Preliminary submissions are due
May 30, 2023 Descanso Gardens will review preliminary proposals and invite the shortlisted candidates to proceed with the full application
August 1, 2023 Completed Curatorial Proposals are due
October 5, 2023 Descanso Gardens will inform applicants what proposals have been selected for exhibition in 2024-2026

*Please note that the above schedule is subject to change and applicants may be asked to submit additional materials during the evaluation process. Curatorial proposals are reviewed by Descanso Gardens leadership and the Exhibitions and Engagement Roundtable.

Curatorial Proposal Guidelines

Descanso Gardens presents a variety of exhibitions and programs each year including solo, group, traveling, and guest-curated displays. These are intended to broaden the education programs by presenting art, science, and relevant historical material to support the mission of Descanso Gardens “connecting people with nature and one another.” Through our exhibitions and programs, we strive to deepen our impact in our community, strengthen engagement with members and visitors, and create experiences of discovery and connection. 

Descanso Gardens seeks curatorial proposals for the 2024–2026 calendar that will address the following requirements and selection criteria:

  • Theme: Trees. Trees form the backbone of Descanso’s botanical collections and are key to the garden’s character. From the canopy above, to the roots underground, trees provide beauty, shade, shelter, habitat, food, connectivity, and movement at the Gardens. Around the world, trees are symbols, metaphors, landmarks, elders, part of legends, and people’s daily lives. What can we learn from trees? How can we celebrate them? How do they connect and protect us? What stories are revealed by careful study of trees?  
  • Curatorial Concept: The exhibition/ program concept must closely align with the mission of Descanso Gardens to connect people with nature and one another, reflect the latest knowledge on the subject matter, foster innovation, as well as inspire discoveries and creative contributions that respond to Descanso Gardens’ botanic collections. As an organization located in Los Angeles County, Descanso Gardens prioritizes the inclusion of diverse viewpoints, backgrounds, experiences, and community connections;
  • Interdisciplinary Approach: Descanso Gardens seeks proposals that utilize a creative blending of disciplines, media, and diverse points of view.
  • Media: The proposal may use any media type (artworks, installations, performances, projections, virtual reality, text, etc.). The exhibitions and programs must be appropriate in scale material, form, and content for the cultural and physical environment in which they are to be presented. The proposed works, displays, and programs don’t need to be new and may have been presented before;
  • Scope: The exhibition will utilize the indoor spaces of the Sturt Haaga Gallery and/or the Boddy House (The Gallery is 1750 sq. ft in 3 rooms plus the front window area. The Boddy House is a historic building with 2220 sq. ft. of exhibition space ranging from a single room at 330 sq. ft. to 2220 sq. ft. for all 5 rooms). Outdoor use of the botanical gardens is welcome. Programs may utilize any of the indoor/outdoor spaces of Descanso Gardens. 
  • Collaborative partnerships: Proposals that establish partnerships with other cultural organizations, educational and botanical institutions, community members, and Descanso Gardens visitors are preferred;
  • Audience: Descanso’s visitorship has been growing over the past few years and the Gardens attract an audience that is more diverse in race or ethnicity than many other museums and gardens. However, many attendees may be first-time visitors to the Sturt Haaga Gallery or the Boddy House, and exhibitions and programs in these spaces should consider ways to engage “first-time visitors” as well as people who are already familiar with the garden’s gallery spaces and exhibitions;
  • Accessibility and Engagement: Descanso Gardens strives to expand access, engagement, and education opportunities for a broader public. Preference will be given to proposals that prioritize opportunities for visitor participation, hands-on activity or response, as well as engaging diverse programming that reaches out to traditionally underserved groups. At Descanso, there is an opportunity and need to attract more visitors who identify as Hispanic or Latino/Latina/Latinx, Asian or Asian American, and other minority groups, so that visitorship reflects more closely the diversity of surrounding areas and Los Angeles County;
  • Budget: Descanso Gardens rely on a range of budgets typically within $25,000-$60,000. Proposals outside of this range must include potential funding sources, such as grants, foundation support, or sponsorships. Budgets must include curator fees, artist/ collaborator stipends, collateral design and copy writing, installation and de-installation, framing if needed, photography, equipment rental, shipping, travel, reproduction rights, etc. Insurance is provided by Descanso Gardens.
  • Group Applications: Curators are discouraged from submitting or including their own artwork; artistic collectives may be included within curatorial proposals but should not submit their work without a specific curator. 

If you have any questions about the Descanso Gardens Call for Curatorial Proposals, please contact Cristeen Martinez, Gallery Director, at

Website link: Call for Proposals – Descanso Gardens

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