Descanso Director to Retire Next Year

By all indications, Descanso Gardens blossomed under the leadership of Executive Director David Brown, who last week announced his plans to retire at the end of next August.
He’ll leave a post he’s held since 2005, during which time the member-supported, Los Angeles County-owned botanical garden has seen a surge in membership as visitors took advantage of a series of new attractions.
“There was all kind of opportunity here in terms of ideas and beauty to start with, and for the most part, great support from the owners,” Brown said. “For me, it seemed as much about getting things organized and prioritized, rather than generating entirely new, previously unimagined scenarios and things to do.”
Tapping into his creative restlessness, Brown oversaw the restoration of the historic Boddy House, the addition of the Sturt Haaga Gallery, and the addition of new gardens and displays such as the Oak Woodland and Ancient Forest. On his watch, the gardens also introduced a Long Range Concept Plan, began offering extended summer hours and a midweek evening concert series, and emphasized sustainable practices and water conservation.
And the public responded: In the past seven years, Descano’s membership doubled to its current 14,500 members.
“Of all the things I think about as a measurement of how we’re doing, that’s one of the most important because it indicates people are willing to make a commitment,” said Brown, a longtime Pasadena resident who formerly served as president and CEO at the Art Center College of Design from 1985-1999. “It’s not a huge commitment, but it is a commitment that they make on a long-term basis.
“So we’ve appreciated that and then we’ve just had some good luck, and if we just had a little more rain, we couldn’t complain about anything.”
Brown plans to stay “relaxed and busy” in the coming few months as he oversees several prominent projects. On the docket: the new seasonal production “Enchanted: Forest of Light,” the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Japanese Garden and finding Brown’s successor.
“I’m confident that they will have a lot of very good, and hard, choices to make,” Brown said. “But in the meantime, we have all kinds of great things going on here.”

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