D.c. Gigs: Bonsai Curator (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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D.C. Gigs: The Bonsai Curator

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:03
Staying with this idea of jobs that require a whole lot of commitment, we'll now meet a man who's spent more than two decades caring for bonsai trees. It's part of Jack Sustic's gig as the curator of the National Arboretum's Bonsai Museum and let me tell you, it's no small job considering these small trees can live hundreds of years. In the latest edition of our series, "D.C. Gigs," producer Marc Adams spent a soggy afternoon with Sustic and learned why caring for bonsais is more than a commitment, it's a calling.

MR. JACK SUSTIC

00:00:33
My name Jack Sustic and I'm curator of the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum. Being curator means that you're responsible for the entire collection, for the entire museum at the National Arboretum. And that entails the oldest, which is almost 400 years old. It has been a bonsai for almost 400 years to making sure that the benches are clean and that the water basins are clean. And it's wide range of responsibility from heavy responsibility to light responsibility.

MR. JACK SUSTIC

00:01:09
So fortunately, the bonsai grow and that's job security for me, but we also have to trim them. So we have to maintain the shape. When we get rain like this, we get a break. And it's not just a physical break, but it's a mental break, too, because we're always checking the trees for water because they all dry out at different times. So it's something that's always on your mind.

MR. JACK SUSTIC

00:01:44
So this is the oldest tree in the collection and it was started as a bonsai in 1625 and we call the Yamaki Pine because it was the Yamaki family that donated it. And it was in that family for six generations before it came here in 1976. It's a very special tree. Well, they're all special, but this one is very special for us.

MR. JACK SUSTIC

00:02:11
You know, before I got into bonsai, I was not into plants. I didn't really care about plants. I was actually in the army stationed in Korea and I just happened across a store where they were selling bonsai and they were very nice trees. And they just captivated me and couldn't stop thinking about them. And came back to the States and the first thing I did was I joined a club and it just started from there.

MR. JACK SUSTIC

00:02:40
I don't see myself ever not doing bonsai. It's a lifetime commitment, if you're serious about it. These trees are, I often say that they're like children. They're like your children, our children. You know, when you have a child that does well or has a play at school and they're, you know, on stage and you're very proud, that these trees are the same way. When they're looking good and I have them in the exhibit, I'm very proud. When they're not doing well, I worry about them when they're kind of sick. So they're very much like children. They will always be a connection whether I'm here or not, there will always be a connection for me with these trees.

SHEIR

00:03:25
That was Jack Sustic of the National Arboretum speaking with producer Marc Adams. You can see photos of some of the oldest and best known Bonsai trees in the National Arboretum's collection on our website, metroconnection.org.

SHEIR

00:03:43
If you have a distinctively D.C. gig you think we should feature on the show, let us know. Our email address is metro@wamu.org.
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