Santa Fe Botanical Garden Announces Staff Changes Amid Pandemic … Persisting During Difficult Times

Lavender daisies blooming at the Santa Fe Botanical Garden at 715 Camino Lejo. Courtesy/SFBG 

Santa Fe Botanical Garden News:

SANTA FE – The Board of Directors and professional staff of the Santa Fe Botanical Garden have worked continuously since early March to confront the difficult financial and operational challenges of the ongoing pandemic crisis. 

Board Chair Scott McIntyre said today that “the staff has been particularly resourceful, flexible, and determined to preserve the physical Garden intact and support our ongoing programs. We owe them a great debt of gratitude for persisting in difficult times”.

The Santa Fe Botanical Garden announced today that, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the organization’s finances, it has eliminated the position of President and Chief Executive Officer, as well as reduced the working hours of its remaining staff.

 “This decision, which saddens all of us, was made to help ensure the continued viability of the Garden,” McIntyre said. “Everyone – our board, our staff, our volunteers – has worked to keep the Garden operating, preserving its two sites, the Botanical Garden at Museum Hill and the Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve, which are so important to the rich botanical heritage and biodiversity of our region. By tightening our belt in all other areas as well, we will be able to protect both sites.”

The Garden has been closed for more than three months as part of New Mexico’s health orders directed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus. The organization had hoped to open on June 13, but received notification from the State of New Mexico that the Garden is classified as a “recreational facility,” and therefore is not able to open until the state moves into Phase 2 of its reopening plan.

McIntyre said the Garden began the year in a solid financial position, but its lengthy closure has led to a dramatic loss of revenues from admissions and events. Because the organization has no overall endowment, minimal cash reserves, and receives little government funding, the slowdown in revenues has been especially difficult to manage.

While the organization received the Paycheck Protection Program loan that largely covered two months of payroll, McIntyre added that “continuing health-related restrictions promise to limit our ability to reach expected levels of attendance and program participation, and we now have to cut back on staff and on the hours our remaining staff members are working.” 

“All of us involved with the Garden thank Clayton Bass, who has been our President and Chief Executive Officer, for his many contributions to the organization,” McIntyre continued, “among them helping the Botanical Garden develop a national reputation as a respected scientific and cultural organization as well as growing its reputation for integrating fine and performance arts into ongoing Garden programming.” 

Bass joined the Botanical Garden in 2013, during the final phases of construction for the Botanical Garden at Museum Hill site. Under his leadership, the organization completed the second phase of the site and launched an education partnership that in 2018 drew national acclaim at annual conferences of the American Public Gardens Association and the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). That same year the Botanical Garden won the prestigious Excellence in Exhibitions award from AAM for the Ojos y Manos: Eyes and Hands Garden interpretive plan. Also during Bass’s tenure, the Garden has expanded its Museum Hill site from 11 acres to over 20 acres and has developed an extensive site plan for future development of the Garden.

“Leading the Santa Fe Botanical Garden for almost eight years has been an extraordinary professional experience,” Bass said. “The Garden is a place of profound beauty and learning for the community, featuring living collections and educational programs for all. Santa Fe’s residents and visitors deeply value the Botanical Garden, and their engagement has inspired me throughout my tenure. I sincerely appreciate the tireless efforts, generosity, and collaboration by so many during this transformative time when the Botanical Garden on Museum Hill became a reality. I am thankful for having been a part of it.”

Jim Moore, Vice Chair of the Board of Directors, has agreed to step in as Interim Executive Director of the Garden. A longtime Santa Fe resident, Moore is a lawyer and business executive with over 45 years of federal government, law firm, and senior-level corporate experience. 

Commenting on his new role, Moore thanked Bass for his leadership and thanked “the Garden’s dedicated staff, who have worked extremely hard under the trying conditions of the last few months. Our Garden members and supporters can feel confident that the Garden will continue its commitment to ongoing excellence as we navigate the challenges of opening and operating in this pandemic world.”

Bass’s recent monthly letter to the Garden supporters and the broad Santa Fe community is available on the Botanical Garden’s website.

On a final note, some weeks ago the Garden launched a Spring Appeal fundraising drive. The response from the community has been heartening. If you would like to help the garden weather this difficult time, visit santafebotanicalgarden.org to give.

About The Santa Fe Botanical Garden

The Santa Fe Botanical Garden celebrates, cultivates, and conserves the rich botanical heritage and biodiversity of our region. In partnership with nature, we demonstrate our commitment through education, community service, presentation of the arts, and the sustainable management of our Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve and Botanical Garden at Museum Hill. The Santa Fe Botanical Garden currently hosts 50,000 visitors and 14,000 youth education engagements each