18 Jun 10 great sculpture gardens across the USA

You don’t have to stay inside to view art. Sculpture parks and gardens combine natural and man-made elements, making fall a perfect time to visit. “In these settings, art enhances nature,” says Rebecca Reynolds , a sculpture expert and curator of the Margaret Cassidy and John Paul Manship Collection in Boston.

  • A bronze statue of a Pony Express rider marks the final stop of the famous fast-mail route in Sacramento, Calif.

Forest Hills Cemetery 


Sculpture gardens began as garden cemeteries in the 1800s, and one of the first was in Boston, Reynolds says. “It was a radical plan for burial and commemoration, linking nature, landscape design and horticulture with art and architecture.” Visitors to Forest Hills, she says, will find the best collection of memorial sculpture in the country, with six works by Daniel Chester French, who created the Abraham Lincoln sculpture for the Lincoln Memorial. 617-524-0128;foresthillscemetery.com


Fairmont Park Art Association 


This group started in 1872 to integrate sculpture into the city, and is the main reason Philadelphia is now said to have more public art than any other city. Visitors can download MP3s or use a cellphone for tours of the city’s extensive sculpture collection, which is overseen by the association. You’ll find a concentration of art in Fairmont Park, a 9,200-acre urban oasis. 215-546-7550; fpaa.org

Brookgreen Gardens 

Murrells Inlet, S.C. 

The nation’s first official public sculpture garden has more than 1,500 works distributed over 300 acres, which is just a portion of the property. “This is the largest collection of figurative sculpture by American artists in this country,” Reynolds says. The garden, which dates to 1931, also has a zoo and nature preserve, and offers pontoon boat tours through four plantations that once were on the site. 800-849-1931; brookgreen.org

Laumeier Sculpture Park 

Sunset Hills, Mo. 

This St. Louis-area park was founded in 1968 by Matilda Laumeier as a memorial to her husband, Henry. A few years later, artist Ernest Trova, a leading American surrealist, donated 40 sculptures, and the garden has grown ever since, now covering 105 acres. The park has walking trails and hosts films, concerts and other events. 314-615-5278;laumeiersculpturepark.org

Nasher Sculpture Center 


Less than a decade old, this center has acquired an international reputation. “It’s really the best of the best. There’s Matisse, Picasso, David Smith, Henry Moore, Claes Oldenburg. The people represented in all the art history books are represented there,” Reynolds says. The center’s setting, in downtown Dallas, offers a compelling juxtaposition of art and skyscrapers. 214-242-5100; nashersculpturecenter.org

Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden 

Los Angeles 

You’ll find one of the country’s finest collections of 20th-century outdoor sculpture in this five-acre garden at the Hammer Museum on the University of California-Los Angeles campus, Reynolds says. The 70-plus works are beautifully landscaped, making it a joy to stroll the grounds. She particularly likes Pensive by Deborah Butterfield, a horse assembled with cast bronze pieces that resemble driftwood. 310-443-7000;hammer.ucla.edu

Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park 

Grand Rapids, Mich. 

This 130-acre garden blends nature and sculpture, with garden trails weaving through the property. “There’s an element of discovery or drama when you’re walking through a space and you encounter a work of art,” Reynolds says. New to the park this year, and already much loved by visitors, is Roxy Paine’s Neuron, an abstract structure resembling a giant nerve cell, made from steel rods and industrial pipes. 888-957-1580;meijergardens.org

Storm King Art Center 

Mountainville, N.Y. 

Reynolds first encountered this 500-acre art center when she was in high school, and it has been a favorite ever since. The artworks are carefully sited to take advantage of the setting in the Hudson Valley, about an hour north of Manhattan. “There are incredible vistas all around,” she says. A standout: Maya Lin’s Storm King Wavefield, an 11-acre open space where the ground has been sculpted into grassy waves. 845-534-3115;stormking.org

Olympic Sculpture Park 


Just a few years old, this reclaimed industrial site could represent the next wave of sculpture gardens, Reynolds says, creating new green space in an urban environment. “You have this linear park that zigzags down to the harbor with incredible views out to Puget Sound.” 206-625-8900; seattleartmuseum.org

Stuart Collection 

La Jolla, Calif. 

Artists designed site-specific works for the University of California-San Diego’s campus, so the pieces in this collection are particularly attuned to the setting. Most visitors, Reynolds included, are charmed by Tim Hawkinson’s Bear. Although made of granite boulders and reaching 24 feet high, it appears fluffy and soft like a giant stuffed animal. Other pieces are just as compelling. “People generally wouldn’t think of going to visit a college campus, but it’s something to see,” Reynolds says. 858-534-2117;stuartcollection.ucsd.edu

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