Susan Hardy-Brown

Susan Hardy-Brown

Susan Hardy-Brown

Curatorial Assistant

125 Arborway
Boston, MA 02130
Phone: 617.384.5348
Fax: 617.524.1418


BFA, Syracuse University
Massachusetts College of Art and Design

My work as a curatorial assistant primarily entails preparing botanical specimens for the Herbarium of Cultivated Plants housed in the Hunnewell Building, as well as the Herbarium of the Arnold Arboretum, a vast collection of wild-collected plants which is part of the Harvard University Herbaria in Cambridge. I started as a volunteer in 1985, responding to a flyer calling for plant collectors. Having lived in Jamaica Plain since 1972, I had been a frequent Arboretum visitor, but this was my first exposure to an herbarium. At the time I was exploring opportunities for meaningful work to sustain and support me as an artist and single mom. Now, 25 years later, I can say I found what I was searching for. I joined the staff in 1986 to process a growing backlog of herbarium specimens and to lend a hand to the verification project, a curatorial review of our living collections.

As an artist, I feel privileged to witness the incredible biodiversity of our fragile planet by handling and preserving these sometimes delicate, sometimes unwieldy plants that range from tiny arctic tundra specimens to tree ferns from New Guinea. I enjoy the quiet, meditative quality of the job, working with my hands and applying my fine arts skills in a useful way. I have trained volunteers and interns, taught classes in our Adult Education program, appeared on a PBS show (“Cultivating Life”) to demonstrate the process of creating an herbarium specimen, and documented the current state of The Botanic Garden of Cienfuegos, Cuba with photographs for an online exhibit.

I continue my life as an artist by creating and exhibiting. Working in my South Boston studio, I paint using an ancient medium, encaustic; sometimes my paintings reference the work I do at the Arboretum, but I also explore other themes and media. I use a plastic camera—a Holga—to do creative, alternative photography, at times combining encaustic and photo imagery. I am passionate about all the arts, literature, music, dance, and film. I love travel and hiking, and have practiced yoga for more than 35 years, becoming a certified yoga instructor in 2004. I stand on my head every morning and am grateful for the opportunity to create art every day by working with the Arboretum’s botanic specimens.


Arboretum Curator’s Art Takes Root: Susan Hardy Brown collages plants and paper found at Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum, The Harvard Crimson

Seeds of Inspiration, Harvard Gazette