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Meijer Gardens shatters attendance records and sees highest attended summer ever
Japanese Gardens, Summer 2015. Photo: Peter McDaniel.

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH.- Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, one of the nation’s most significant botanic and sculpture experiences, broke attendance records again in August, making it the best summer, and best three consecutive months, in the organization’s history.

In June, over 85 thousand guests visited Meijer Gardens. In July, that figure increased to 101 thousand, making it the best attended month on record. Following the in a similar pattern, August’s attendance wrapped up the summer with 93 thousand guests, totaling over a quarter of a million people in three months.

Meijer Gardens unveiled a monumental acquisition by Ai Weiwei, Iron Tree, and unveiled an authentic eight-acre Japanese Garden. Officials credit these two major additions, among other offerings, with the attendance spike.

“We’ve had an extraordinary summer with so many amazing things to celebrate our 20th anniversary,” said President and CEO, David Hooker. “What’s even more amazing, is not only the number of guests we’ve welcomed, but that they’ve literally traveled from all over the world to experience what Meijer Gardens has to offer.”

Celebrating its 20th birthday, Meijer Gardens planned special events throughout the year revolving around the global theme heralding the opening of the Japanese Garden.

“With landmark events ranging from the unveiling of Ai Weiwei's Iron Tree to the opening of The Richard and Helen DeVos Japanese Garden, the international stature of the organization has been elevated greatly this year,” said Chief Curator and Vice President, Joseph Becherer. “In this, our 20th year, it is extraordinary to see the development of Meijer Gardens from a regional institution to a cultural organization on the global stage.”

The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden opened to the public on June 13th and features traditional components such as waterfalls, elevation changes, extensive boulder placement, authentic Japanese structures and a functioning teahouse as well as a Zen-style garden, sights of the entire garden from the Viewing Hill and Contemporary sculpture. Major works by Anish Kapoor, Jenny Holzer and Zhang Huan, among others, are now on view.

Standing at more than 22 feet tall, and measuring more than 22 feet wide, Iron Tree is composed of 99 unique iron pieces cast from individual tree elements from southern China. Held together with oversize stainless steel bolts, this sculpture appears as a living tree in form, but upon closer examination, the diversity of shapes, exaggeration of reality and awkwardness of the bolts create a much different image.

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