HOLLAND — A pair of new attractions at this year’s Tulip Time festival feature works from Dutch artists making their United States debuts.
The Immersion Garden designed by horticulturist Ibo Gülsen and the Zeeuws Meisje (Zeeland Girl) exhibit from Rem van den Bosch bring new elements to the 93rd annual celebration.
“I had a desire a couple years ago to bring in something from The Netherlands,” said Gwen Auwerda, executive director of Tulip Time. “It’s really what we’re tied to with the home country, if you will.”
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The groundwork for bringing both exhibits to town began in 2019, but the pandemic delayed their arrival until this year.
The Sentinel had a chance to speak with both artists prior to the start of the festival.
Gülsen’s Immersion Garden is located at the Ottawa County Fairgrounds. More than 50,000 tulips have been installed in a garden custom designed for Tulip Time.
“We’ve done these immersion gardens in different places in the world, in Asia and Europe, attracting millions of people,” Gülsen said. “But for Holland, Michigan, we’re able to tell the story of the tulip and have a themed immersion garden called ‘The Journey of the Tulip,’ telling how it traveled from the east to the west.”
Holland’s garden took a couple months to design, Gülsen said. Set up was done over the course of three days with help from volunteers.
Gülsen aims to provide a unique experience where people can be surrounded by tulips, rather than just seeing them on the ground.
“It’s a completely new way of enjoying and experiencing the flowers and the tulips,” he said. “We bring them up close and personal, so it’s a different way of experiencing the flowers, and it allows for these great photo opportunities. When you arrange it like this, it looks like you’re surrounded by flowers or walking through the valley, on a relatively small footprint.”
The Zeeland Girl exhibit, located at the Holland Armory, features photographs by van den Bosch and traditional dresses made by Wanda de Groot. The exhibit features three series — Equality, Tulips and Brotherhood.
Included are photographs, some up to 10 feet in height, hanging throughout the armory, and traditional Dutch dresses. The equality series features dresses in the colors of the rainbow, while the Tulips series of dresses are made of prints of tulip photographs.
The overall message of the exhibit is to share the importance of coming together, accepting people for who they are and caring for the environment.
“For me, it’s more than photography. It’s about getting people together in a positive way,” van den Bosch said. “What I really hope people will take away from this experience is that you’ll treat your fellow companion the way you want to be treated yourself. Always be open to the world and to other people in a positive way.
“It’s not only interaction between people, but interaction between people and the world and how we treat the world.”
“It’s very important that people look after each other and talk with each other,” de Groot said. “Culture is where you come from. It’s nice to see. Culture gives everybody a smile, and that is what we hope to do.”
Both events are ticketed with limited supply. Tickets are available at tuliptime.com.
Auwerda said both exhibits will provide great experiences for festival goers.
“(The Immersion Garden) is immersive so you can walk through it,” she said. “The tulips are intermixed with heights and different colors and varieties.
“(Zeeland Girl) is just a stunning exhibit with mannequins with costumes on them as well as very large print pieces. There’s a whole story behind the three different sections of the exhibit.”