Executive Update For You from Christine Conte

October 14, 2020

Dear Tohono Chul Family,

Maybe you know the old maxim, “There is no good news that comes without a challenge attached.”

If you don’t know it, that’s probably because I just made it up.

As you know, I always try to open these letters with some good news. And I do have a bit of good news…. Tohono Chul was able to reopen safely full-time on October 5th. Right now, I’m watching the return of many familiar, happy faces repopulating the grounds and the gardens.

But regarding the challenge part of my made-up maxim… We’ve made the hard decision to cancel our big and much-loved Holiday Nights fund-raiser. There’s just no way to safely accommodate the crowds during the pandemic. We just announced this on FB and the comments have been both positive and sympathetic. The challenge (!) is to find a way to provide a bit of holiday cheer, while everything seems to be conspiring against.

So here’s what’s good (followed by the not-so-good).

  • Stroll N’ Shop/October 22 through 25. Explore the gardens, see the latest the Exhibit House has to offer, and start your holiday shopping.

  • Fall Plant Sale/November 5 through 8. The always-popular event returns in a modified format.

  • Floating an idea… moving Santa online so the younger set can interact with the jolly elf virtually! But we need your input! Please visit this link to fill out our short survey: surveymonkey.com/r/virtualsanta

Just visit tohonochul.org/tohono-chul-home for all the details on these and other dynamic offerings for you to enjoy in person or online.

More good news…

  • Welcome Hanna Blood. Our new retail greenhouse guru is settling in nicely and has the greenhouse restored to its former glory. Look for an announcement soon of the grand reopening of the Greenhouse.

  • Despite lingering summer heat and nonexistent rainfall, it looks like our maintained gardens are fighting back. Recent bursts of activity in the entry beds are attracting bees and butterflies. Our version of fall color is the wallop of purples, reds, and yellows of Salvia leucantha, Solidago wrightii, and Epilobium canum currently blooming near the Admission window.

  • In the Sundial Plaza: Ageratum, Aristolochia, and Passiflora are all clamoring for attention.

  • Wildlife. Apparently, the return to extended visitor hours has been an adjustment for at least one of our resident coyotes, caught romping all by itself in the Children’s Garden fountain late one afternoon. Startled to see a staff member, it vaulted the wall and disappeared in a flash.

Like all good news, ours comes with some challenges attached. (See the maxim above.)

The effects of a prolonged drought… javelinas seeking out hidden water sources, including increased munching of Ferocactus and Opuntia. A dwindling snake population? Or they are more strictly enforcing social distancing guidelines? Dwindling pollinator numbers? According to our volunteer butterfly counter, Andy Hogan, this seems to be the case.

But our challenge—the big, existential challenge—is raising $200K before January to ensure that Tohono Chul will remain open into the New Year.

Apologies for being so blunt. But in my last letter, I said that we will continue to need your generous support to make it through the end of 2020. It’s now clear that even with all our best efforts, normal revenue streams will not begin to return until the end of the pandemic.

Only a few short months ago, when the pandemic forced Tohono Chul to close, it was almost unimaginable to envision how we would survive. But thanks to your astounding response to the Survive and Thrive campaign, we did survive.

Now, will you join me, Board members, and other volunteers who have stepped up to give and pledge support?

$200K before January. You’ve met the challenge before. You’ve made it possible for Tohono Chul to remain a glorious urban oasis and a haven for birds and wildlife and now for people again. I hope you will join me again in this new challenge, in embracing this new goal.

This will be a real push, I know. But I am confident that with your help, together we will get there.

Thank you and thank you again for all that you’ve done.

As always, I look forward to seeing you—in the gardens, the galleries, on the grounds, in the Garden Bistro—seeing you and thanking each and every one of you for all your help.

Warm regards,

Christine Conte, PhD

Executive Director