The University of Texas at Austin
  • Staffer designs unique Lady Bird Johnson exhibit

    By Wunmi Bakare
    Wunmi Bakare
    Published: July 29, 2008

    Appreciation for the work and mission of Lady Bird Johnson and the native plants of America inspired designer Leslie Ernst to create an innovative and unique new exhibit in Washington, D.C. to honor the late First Lady.

    Ernst, a designer in the Office of Public Affairs who created the exhibit for the Wildflower Center, was asked to help design the display after her noteworthy visual design work on the Center’s Web site.

    “The U.S. Botanic Garden invited the Wildflower Center to do a project honoring Mrs. Johnson,” Ernst said. “It was to highlight her legacy around sustainability and environmentalism.”

    The Lady Bird Johnson exhibit, “A Clear Vision,” is part of the United States Botanic Garden’s Conservatory and National Garden summer 2008 exhibit, which continues through Oct. 13. The exhibit is in the new First Ladies Water Garden.

    Johnson, who died July 11, 2007 at age 94, was a visionary environmental leader. She expressed her passion for native landscapes through beautification programs in Washington, D.C. and shared her environmental ethic when she helped open the Wildflower Center in Austin in 1982.

    “My appreciation for Lady Bird Johnson has grown so much from working on this project and her eloquence is just amazing so there were plenty of materials to work from,” Ernst said. “Saralee Tiede, communications director at the Wildflower Center, compiled some choice quotes from Mrs. Johnson and that was kind of the starting point for me.”

    In the exhibit, Johnson’s words tell her story through quotations such as “The environment is where we all meet; where we all have a mutual interest…it is not only a mirror of ourselves, but a focusing lens on what we can become.”

    “When we were in the space I felt like the space was very formal. It’s all bluestone and granite,” Ernst said. “I started to notice that we were surrounded by circles – there is the Capitol Dome and the National Museum of the American Indian, that has beautiful curves to it.

    “Because we had all these different metaphors that had to do with circles, I wanted to emphasize the circle.”

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