Museums without Walls


OZYMANDIAS by Douglas Cornfield, at the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, Lincoln, MA

I still remember the exact moment when I realized our gallery-opening days were over, or at least on hiatus for a decade or so. Miss M was about two and a half and we were at an opening featuring work by many of my colleagues at Lark Books. M was no longer containable in a pack or a stroller, so I spent the frustrated hour following her around, darting between exhibit stands and relaxed patrons, redirecting her hands before they reached fragile functional ceramics.

Going to shows and openings had been such a big part of our life, it was a real loss, until I discovered how we could still get a semi-regular art fix: sculpture parks. No worries about my kid being the one who breaks the $3000 piece. No annoying other patrons. No problems with sticky fingers on oil paintings.

Now, wherever we go, I find out if there’s a sculpture park we can visit. As Miss M has grown up, we’ve been able to talk about the art interacting with the landscape and the elements, the different materials used when a piece is meant to be outdoors or to be temporary.

Spider (1996), Louise Bourgeois, Storm King Art Center

Tops on my Wanderlist want-to-visit sculpture parks are Storm King Art Center in the Hudson Valley outside New York and the DiRosa Preserve in  Napa Valley. I’m also intrigued by the sculpture gardens at the Frank Lloyd Wright house Kentuck Knob near Pittsburgh (the Frank Lloyd Wright house is a bonus). And of course the giant spoon with a cherry on top at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden of the Walker Art Center.

Spoonbridge and Cherry by Claes Oldenberg and Coosje Van Bruggen (1985-88), Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Walker Art Center


Red Army (1990) by Ray Williams, at Kentuck Knob, Chalk Hill, PA

I lived in Florence, Italy in the early 1990s and had heard about Niki de Saint Phalle’s Giardino dei Tarocchi, but it wasn’t completed at the time. When we went to Italy in 2007, it was the one place I insisted we visit. I don’t think Miss M will ever forget it—it was truly a once in a lifetime experience.

Stateside, the only large-scale permanent work of Niki’s is at Kit Carson Park in Escondido, California. Queen Califia’s Magical Circle is on our Wanderlist!

Graft (2009), Roxy Paine

Earlier this year, we got to visit the sculpture gardens at the National Gallery of Art in DC and the kids really ate up the steel tree by Roxy Paine.

House (1996), Roy Lichtenstein, National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

Both kids also still remember the Hidden Hill Nursery outside Louisville in Utica, Indiana. It’s primarily a plant nursery, but there’s a sweet little sculpture garden there, with low-key, whimsical, sight-making pieces. It was a hot day, and we must have spent an hour and a half running around the gardens, checking out the pond, miniature outdoor train, and the other features.

Each sculpture park/garden has it’s own rules, so check it out before letting your kids climb on/touch them. Any other great, kid-friendly sculpture parks I should know about?

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1 Comment

Filed under Places to See List

One response to “Museums without Walls

  1. North Dakota’s Enchanted Highway is a spread-out type of sculpture garden. Along the 20-some miles of road, there are a number of large sculptures. Each has a pull-off with a parking lot, picnic area, and some sort of playground-type equipment for kids to stretch their legs. If you got out at each stop, you could spend all day on that stretch of road! http://minnemom.com/2009/12/17/north-dakota-enchanted-highway/

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