Executive Update For You from Christine Conte

December 14, 2021

Dear Tohono Chul Family,

As we celebrate this holiday season and look forward to welcoming in the New Year, it is a special joy to write to you about so many good things to come at Tohono Chul.

You have probably heard that I will be retiring my post as Executive Director within a few months and that I will continue on as a volunteer member of the Board. A thoughtful search process for my successor is underway. I am tremendously grateful for the enthusiastic support you have shown me over the past 11 years and it’s comforting to know that I can count on you to welcome Tohono Chul’s new leader in the same spirit.

But right now, here are a few things bright and beautiful that I hope will make you proud:

  • Beginning in October we’ve been able to bring back more in-person experiences in nature and the arts—the Fall Plant Sale, Sundays in the Garden concert series, Guatemalan Sale, gallery exhibits, receptions, curator talks and educational workshops and classes. None of this would have been possible without your kind understanding and willingness to don your mask, not only inside but even for outdoor events where social distancing is not possible.

  • Staff and volunteers are very busy tending the winter gardens, filling the shops with holiday goodies and the galleries with spirit-lifting artworks. I can’t wait to see you at Holiday Nights once again with the garden lights sparkling, music, and good cheer all around.

  • Thanks to a generous donor, the Children’s Garden will get a new shade structure over the “tarantula table” and repairs to the javelina-bashed wooden gates.

  • We’re planning to see you in person at the Members’ Reception on Saturday, January 15th from 10am to noon for the first time since February 2020 when nearly 400 of you gathered in the newly completed Garden Pavilion. While the pandemic is still with us we will require masks and we won’t be packing in seating, but we WILL have light refreshments and a lot of fun connecting with the Tohono Chul family—staff, board members, volunteers and all of YOU. The program will include local bee expert Monica King sharing her valuable insights about to how we can preserve our native bee pollinators and prevent displacement of honeybees by Africanized bees. Staff will be on hand to show you what’s going on in the gardens, galleries, and greenhouses and coming up in the New Year.

  • Welcome to Jordan Collins, Tohono Chul’s new Plant Propagation Supervisor! Jordan comes to this position with a wealth of both educational training in plant science (including graduate studies in sustainable bioeconomy which involves using plant materials to create products) and hands-on experience in greenhouses and gardens. Stay tuned for news of improvements at the propagation greenhouse and look for evidence that his vision is unfolding in the gardens and retail greenhouse offerings.

  • It’s been a banner year for butterflies and errant Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars (Battus philenor) can still be spotted meandering on the walls of the Desert Discovery Education Center and on its host plant Southwestern Pipevine (Aristolochia watsonii) in the Sundial Plaza.

There is so much to be thankful for. Not only have you helped sustain Tohono Chul despite the pandemic’s seemingly relentless uncertainty, but you have done so in extraordinary ways. There is always more we would like to do and with your generous support we will!

Tohono Chul is emerging from mere survival to envisioning and creating a bright future. With your help, we can bring solar energy and water conservation projects stalled during the pandemic back to life, keep our charming historic buildings safe and beautiful and retain the talented and dedicated staff who make it all happen.

I hope you are proud of what you have accomplished and that you will consider a year-end gift to Tohono Chul to keep the magic coming.

And again today, as in every letter I have written to you over these many months, my heart is filled with gratitude for the gifts you have provided.

Tohono Chul is here for all to enjoy because you never lost hope. Despite unprecedented challenges, we never stopped working together towards a brighter future. With your support, Tohono Chul will continue to thrive in the coming year and beyond.

Wishing you a joyous holiday season and sending thanks from the bottom of my heart.

Christine Conte, PhD

Executive Director