VAE's March installation features Bee Downtown's honey bee hives. Founder Leigh-Kathryn Bonner comes from a long line of rural beekeepers. She decided to take her family trade and love for bees to the city. Bee Downtown started in 2014 with two beehives on a rooftop at the American Tobacco Campus and a clear storefront observatory hive at the front door of Burt's Bees in Durham, NC. Bee Downtown's innovative approach uses cities, and the businesses in them, to collaboratively rebuild healthy honey bee populations. They install and maintain groups of beehives, custom painted by local artists, at landmark locations in urban locations where bees thrive, while simultaneously providing green initiatives for businesses that sponsor each of their hives.

Collaboration can't happen without ideas, people, or things coming together. This idea is something honey bees instinctively know and practice daily. Honey bees are efficient and collaborative. "By herself one honey bee can produce 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey over its lifetime, while a hive can generate over 80 pounds of honey in a matter of months" Bonner shared. The mindset of a hive is that we're stronger together. Honey bees may be in different hives, but they pollinate and work together. When a beekeeper puts multiple hives together they grow off of each other. In the same way, Bonner shared "If we focus on our own businesses, it will do well, but we will reap more when our businesses partner with other organizations and people. The entire community grows stronger when we work together."

Bee Downtown wants this exhibit to showcase the local artists' work they collaborated with and for it to be an educational exhibit. "We want people to see what beehives look like. We want them to see beekeepers, see honey, see what the honeybees pollinate, and see how they work. In turn, our goal is for visitors to bring honeybees to their garden" said Bonner.

Following the honey bees path our communities can become more connected, can grow faster, and overall be more effective. Our lives become more collaborative by emulating the honey bee, working together for a mission larger than itself.

To lean more about Bee Downtown and how you can get involved with helping the honey bee population visit