Interlochen kicks off summer Garden Lecture Series

Sixteen new classes focus on beekeeping, breadmaking, cooking, painting, and more.

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Each summer, Interlochen Center for the Arts invites the local community to participate in hands-on creative classes exploring the relationship between humans and the environment. This year is no exception, with Interlochen’s Sustainability Department and the College of Creative Arts teaming up to present sixteen events on Interlochen’s campus. 

We spoke with Emily Umbarger, Interlochen’s sustainability manager, about this year’s class selection and the thriving community connections that form as a result of the program. Umbarger, who oversees the Garden Lecture Series, builds a new list of classes each summer based on local interest. “Every year we're expanding and keeping it relevant. We're trying to meet the needs and interests of the people who are attending our classes.”

This year’s classes divide into four series. Umbarger is especially thrilled to present the program’s newest series, Bee Kind in the Garden. “I'm really excited about it because I am a beekeeper and Interlochen has a three-beehive apiary,” she says. Guests will have the opportunity to learn about Michigan’s bee species and taste different types of honey. Art in the Garden classes explore the intersection between art and sustainability, inviting guests to make cyanotype sun prints, paint with natural materials, or discuss classical music and climate change. The Lectures in the Garden series includes a broad variety of sustainability-related events. Guests can learn to keep compost piles, start a native pollinator garden, hunt for mushrooms, or identify Michigan rocks. And the popular Chefs in the Garden series brings chefs to Interlochen for an evening of regionally-inspired cuisine. “They're all taught by local people about our local ecology, using local ingredients,” says Umbarger. Individual classes focus on pastas, desserts, focaccia bread, and one-bowl meals. 

Each year, the Garden Lectures draw a diverse and enthusiastic crowd of attendees. Umbarger says that learners of all ages—from high school students to retirees—are welcome to attend, meet new friends, and learn new skills. “I love it if they can walk away with a skill that they didn't have before. Maybe it will turn into a passion or a hobby,” she says. Umbarger hopes the program will help foster stronger relationships between people and the planet, a goal that Interlochen’s Sustainability Department has been working toward since its founding. The department works alongside many other organizations in the local community, donating produce to food pantries and helping other schools develop gardens of their own. 

Umbarger speaks warmly about her work. “It is such an incredible honor for me to bring together this shared community of people who love art and nature,” she says. “Everyone is welcome—no experience necessary.” 

The Garden Lecture Series programs are Wednesdays, June 15 through September 21, from 6 p.m to 8 p.m. at the R.B. Annis Botanical Lab on the campus of Interlochen Center for the Arts, directly in front of the Interlochen Public Radio building. All lectures require preregistration. For more information or to sign up, please visit the Garden Lecture Series page