The Center for Art and Nature at the State Botanical Garden moved a step closer to reality as donors and UGA staff held a ceremonial “topping out” of the facility last week.

Deen Day Sanders, who gave her collection of porcelain and decorative art to the garden to be housed at the museum, was the first to sign the large white steel beam that will be installed at the top of the building.

“It’s an exciting day because we’re beginning to see it come to fruition, and now you can begin to dream about what it will be,” said Sanders, a longtime supporter of the garden, a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach.  “It will be not only a place where you can enjoy beauty and nature, but also a place where the spirit will be enriched.”

After donors Mike and Betty DeVore, Public Service and Outreach Vice President Jennifer Frum, State Botanical Garden Director Jenny Cruse-Sanders, Senior Director of Development Brooks McCommons, members of the construction team and garden staff signed the beam, it was lifted by a crane to the top of the structure, where it will be installed.

The Center for Art and Nature (CAN) Porcelain and Decorative Arts Museum is part of a trio of construction projects underway at the garden. Also in progress is construction of a main entranceway that will include an elevator to improve access for visitors in wheelchairs, pushing strollers or who have trouble navigating stairs. Donors to the new entrance and accessibility project include Sanders, the Callaway Foundation, Tom Wight, Jim Miller, and Mike and Betty Devore, the Garden Club of Georgia, Inc. and donors from across Georgia.

“I just feel that it’s important for everyone to easily access the garden,” Betty DeVore said. “There are people, either young or old or infirmed, that have a hard time traversing down to the garden. This is going to allow easy access for all.”

The third project is a Discovery and Inspiration Garden that will surround the CAN to allow visitors to explore the relationship between art and nature. The garden will have native plant beds, a pond and a great lawn where classes and special events can be held. Chuck and Suzanne Murphy provided funding for the Discovery and Inspiration Garden.

“I cannot imagine us not having this here,” Cruse-Sanders said of the new facilities. “It is a perfect marriage of art, gardens, botany, and everything we love about the botanical garden. The new entrance and accessibility project will create a beautiful front door for this garden and bring more visitors to the garden to enjoy what we have here.”

The topping-out ceremony is an ancient construction tradition that signifies the project reaching its last beam or the building’s highest structural element. Those involved in the project sign the beam, symbolizing their permanent place in the building and hopes for success of the building and safety for the construction teams working on it.

Writer: Emilie Gille,, 706-583-0964

Contact: Jenny Cruse-Sanders,, 706-542-6131