A field of pink/purple flowers on a sunny day stand in front of a blurred background of similar purples/pinks and greenery.

A Love of Nature and Learning

Amanda Daflos and Randy TanEvery gift to The Huntington makes a difference, enabling individuals to connect with the humanities, nature, and one another. Here, Jasmin and Eric Levander, longtime members of The Huntington’s Society of Fellows, discuss their love of the institution’s awe-inspiring gardens, collections, and programs, and how The Huntington’s mission aligns with their values.

Tell us a bit about your Huntington story.

Eric: I remember visiting The Huntington as a child. As an adult, I have found it to be a place of healing and renewal, stretching back to my days as a medical resident when I visited The Huntington on my “golden days,” the coveted days off from the medical wards. Together, we have visited with aging parents recovering from illness, and during the pandemic, we deeply appreciated the calming benefits of a stroll in the gardens.

You have become more involved over the years, including joining the Society of Fellows. Why?

Jasmin: The Huntington has so much to offer!

We both love being outdoors, so we always enjoy walking around the gardens. Every visit feels like a “choose your own adventure,” where we can pick from enjoying the Seuss-like shapes and sizes of plants in the Desert Garden, the more traditional Rose Garden, or our favorite—the Chinese Garden. I always manage to spot a frog or turtle hiding in the lily pads just in front of the Terrace that Invites the Mountain.

Some things, like the gardens, are here to enjoy time and again. Others are only available for a limited time. We have enjoyed many temporary exhibitions and special performances and have learned an amazing amount through lectures at The Huntington. Joining the Society of Fellows has given us even more opportunities to engage with and learn from The Huntington’s collections and staff, and get a glimpse into the important work of the scholars who come here to conduct their research.

You’ve been advocates of The Huntington for a long time. Can you speak about some of the initiatives, programs, or events that have inspired or excited you in the last few years?

Jasmin: We strongly believe in The Huntington’s efforts to make both the gardens and the Library collections accessible to a diversity of visitors. We appreciate the increased prominence given to such Library collections as the Octavia E. Butler archives and the papers of immigration attorney Y. C. Hong. Hong’s papers provide insights into the journey from China to the United States of “paper sons” [Chinese men who purchased fake identity papers claiming U.S. citizenship].

We appreciate the collaborations with other institutions, including “Made in L.A.” with the Hammer Museum and On Gold Mountain with LA Opera.

Undoubtedly, the most exciting recent initiative was the commissioning and unveiling of Kehinde Wiley’s response to Gainsborough’s Blue Boy. We are proud of the role that The Huntington is playing in bringing the artistic conversation forward in the 21st century.

What do you tell others about The Huntington?

Eric: We definitely tell them about the amazing gardens, but we also share The Huntington’s commitment to scholarship and education. We love the view of the Mausoleum and the San Gabriel Mountains from the Stargazing Tower in the Chinese Garden, and we always encourage people to check out Bertoia’s Sounding Sculpture just outside the Scott art galleries.

Fellows enjoy a wide range of specially curated activities with scholars, curators, and staff that showcase the collections. The Society of Fellows annually contributes more than $5 million to The Huntington’s operating budget. The minimum annual contribution per household is $2,500. To learn more and become a part of the Society of Fellows, please contact Pamela Hearn, director of the Society of Fellows, at 626-405-2264 or phearn@huntington.org.