The opportunity to work at a world-class art museum committed to making its gardens a priority lured Jonathan Wright from the country’s gardening mecca to the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
Wright was named the Ruth Lilly Deputy Director for Horticulture and Nature Resources at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, succeeding Mark Zelonis, who retired last December after 18 years. He started the first week of March.
The IMA is somewhat unique in the world of horticulture because of its mix of properties. Wright was particularly attracted to the diversity of gardens: the Olmsted-designed Oldfields; the IMA’s gardens and grounds; 100 Acres, the Art and Nature Park; and the Kiley-designed Miller House and Garden in Columbus. Wright comes to the IMA from Chanticleer Garden in Wayne, Pennsylvania, where he was a horticulturist for 12 years.
“I wasn’t looking for a job when I got the call,” Wright said in a phone interview shortly after he moved to Indianapolis. “But it was so exciting. There’s an Olmsted landscape, Kiley and 100 Acres (designed by Marlon Blackwell and Edward L Blake). That was really exciting to me to be a part of all these different styles of gardens. We’re going to take them to the next level.”
The mid-century modern Miller House and Garden in Columbus and Oldfields, an American County Estate, are on designated National Historic Landmarks. He said he didn’t know of any other museum with the rich diversity of historically significant landscapes.
A graduate of Temple University, the Longwood Gardens’ Professional Gardener Program, and the Getty Leadership Institute’s Next Generation Program, Wright has extensive experience at gardens throughout the United States and England.
“I feel Jonathan Wright has the vision, knowledge and creativity to provide strategic direction and leadership to establish the IMA as one of the preeminent public garden and urban ecosystem destinations in the country,” said Charles Venable, the Melvin and Bren Simon Director and Chief Executive Officer at the IMA, in a press release.
“Most of Jonathan Wright’s work experience and training have been in former private gardens now open to the public,” said Bill Thomas, executive director and head gardener at Chanticleer. “Jonathan has a great eye for design and a sensitivity to the individual site, both of which he has developed well here at Chanticleer. I expect to see great things from him and the talented staff of the Indianapolis Museum of Art.”