Grounds For Sculpture, a Magnificent Garden for Art

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While in New Jersey, explore Grounds For Sculpture. A beautiful garden where art and nature inspire visitors with each new discovery. Read on for what to see and why you must go.

I recently discovered Grounds For Sculpture while visiting my roommate from college, Gina, in New Jersey. I lived in New Jersey after college for over a year, so after her son’s wedding, we decided to go to places we had not seen before. We spent one day at Coney Island, and on the other day, we visited a place she had heard about from a friend called Grounds For Sculpture.

The Park

Grounds For Sculpture is a 42-acre sculpture park, museum, and arboretum in Hamilton Township, displaying more than 300 contemporary sculptures made of wood, bronze, stone, steel, and paper created by sculptors from around the world. The art comprises pieces made in the last 60 years while continuously adding works made by today’s most captivating and pertinent sculptors.

Situated on the former New Jersey State Fairgrounds, the park opened to the public in 1992. It has been a top cultural destination for New Jersey, with more than three million visitors since its opening. Aside from the outside gardens, there are six indoor galleries with rotating exhibitions where guests can enjoy performances and lectures or even participate in an art workshop.

When you enter the Visitor’s Center, one of the buildings on the property, the first thing you see is Double Check: The Survivor, Seaward Johnson’s bronze interpretation of the aftermath of 911.

Double Check The Survivor by Seaward Johnson.

Double Check The Survivor by Seaward Johnson. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

Grounds For Sculpture showcases works by famous artists Clement Meadmore, Anthony Caro, Beverly Pepper, Kiki Smith, George Segal, Magdalena Abakanowicz, and Issac Witkin, along with pieces created by the founder, Seaward Johnson.

Seward Johnson’s Vision for Grounds For Sculpture

Artist and philanthropist Seward Johnson envisioned the sculpture park in 1984 and began construction in 1989. He founded the nonprofit Grounds For Sculpture with a distinct vision. He said, “The park should be a public space where the broadest cross-section of the public is invited to relate to sculptural arts and nature in an emotional way and encouraged to overcome any natural, habitual, or learned resistance or fear of art, for an experience that elevates the soul and heals the spirit.”

Seward believed the park should be a place to discover joy and develop a greater appreciation and understanding of complicated works of art. He felt that the park should delight all the senses. He said, “The visual, tactile, and auditory experience should be further enhanced with dance, music, poetry, painting, photography, and other forms of art, without disturbing the enjoyment of nature’s sights, sounds, smells, and sanctity.”

Finally, the founder wanted the Grounds For Sculpture to serve as a “leader in the arts, landscape design, and horticulture communities by assisting others in replicating aspects of the Park model and serving as an inspiration for accessible public art and horticulture.” Seward wanted the park to evolve and improve by encouraging a culture of learning and self-reflection among its future contributors, visitors, and members.

Meandering About Grounds For Sculpture

It was a beautiful day to wander the paths throughout the property. Some trails are easy to find, and others are not. The goal is to wander somewhat aimlessly and discover as you go. There is no set path to follow, and as you ramble, your soul will find delight when you come upon hidden art and other pieces out in the open.

We began in the area next to the furthest parking lot, where we saw several pieces from the road and decided to check them out first. We found a little pond adorned with Seaward’s 36 x 61 x 20-foot aluminum sculpture Daydream; this gigantic piece with five women uninhibitedly dancing in a circle made me smile with joy.

Daydream by Seaward Johnson at Grounds For Sculpture.

Daydream by Seaward Johnson. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

After walking a good distance through a wooded path, my friend Gina, her husband Jim, and I came around a bend and discovered Crossing Paths by Seward Johnson. This 20 x 27 x 19-foot aluminum sculpture was a fun surprise for all of us. It was a serene setting with two giant older women chatting on a bench in a park.

Crossing Paths by Seward Johnson at Grounds For Sculpture.

Crossing Paths by Seward Johnson. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

My Favorite Sculpture

Not far from the lovely ladies, we came upon a meadow with The Awakening by Seaward Johnson; this was my favorite piece in the park. The Awakening is an aluminum sculpture depicting a giant in the earth trying to get free. The sculpture spans 17 x 70 x 30 feet. Gina and I could virtually hide behind the hand.

The Awakening by Seaward Johnson.

The Awakening by Seaward Johnson. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

On the Garden Patio at Grounds For Sculpture

We entered another exhibit building with a traveling exhibit about several international artists. Just outside was a beautiful patio. It looked as though people were dining outside of the café that was also in the building. To our surprise, the people dining were not people but additional sculptures. These sculptures were the size of ordinary humans and had numerous lifelike qualities.

The Eye of the Beholder by Seaward Johnson.

The Eye of the Beholder by Seaward Johnson. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

Throughout the Park

Continuing on our way, we discovered a bit of culture. God Bless America, made of wood and aluminum by Seaward Johnson, is another depiction of Grant Wood’s famous painting, “American Gothic.” This portrait of a pitchfork-wielding older man and a stern, skinny middle-aged woman is world-famous. On my trip through Iowa, I saw many “one-offs” of this painting at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. Some of these included changing the characters into superheroes and farm folks carrying lightsabers. Seawards 14 x 9 x 5.8-foot version is entertaining.

God Bless America by Seaward Johnson

God Bless America by Seaward Johnson. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

I took a photo of Jim and Gina under Skyhook. This piece by John Newman, constructed of steel, stone, epoxy foam, resin, cable, wood, and paint, allows viewers to admire and consider what the artist was attempting to portray.

Skyhook by John Newman at Grounds For Sculpture.

Skyhook by John Newman. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

We discovered October Gathering by Joan Danziger by accident. We got a little turned around and had to backtrack on a path. Lo and behold, there was October Gathering hidden amongst the bushes.

October Gathering by Joan Danziger at Grounds For Sculptue.

October Gathering by Joan Danziger. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

Open Spaces

The landscape at Grounds for Sculpture is well-designed. You will find a mix of tree-covered paths, water features, and open meadows. Trio by Sara Haviland sat in the open of one of these meadows.

Trio by Sara Haviland.

Trio by Sara Haviland. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

The Harp of David by Dina Wind is a complex piece, although I believe that the average person can identify the resemblance of a harp in this sculpture.

Harp of David by Dina Wind.

Harp of David by Dina Wind. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

Dining at Grounds For Sculpture

The founders of Grounds of Sculpture wanted guests to experience their sense of taste while visiting the gardens. Rat’s Restaurant lies at one end of the park. The restaurant features paintings and décor by impressionist artists and alfresco dining near a stunning water feature with a bridge replicating Monet’s Garden.

Monet's Garden at Grounds For Sculpture.

A replica of Monet’s Garden at Grounds For Sculpture. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

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I love gardens of all types. It is fun to appreciate the flowers booming in a neighborhood plot, the variegated shades of green bushes, trees, and native plants in a botanical garden, and the varieties of art in other gardens. Let Wander With Wonder be your guide when planning a trip to see beautiful gardens or to gaze upon fabulous art.

While in New Jersey, explore Grounds For Sculpture. A beautiful garden where art and nature inspire visitors with each new discovery. Read the Wander With Wonder article for what to see and why you must go, complete with beautiful photos of the inspirational and quirky gardens.

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Grounds For Sculpture, a Magnificent Garden for Art

Written by Tracy Ellen Beard

Tracy Ellen Beard, Wander With Wonder Senior Editor, is a freelance writer, editor, and photographer based in Longview, Washington. She is an avid traveler, wine connoisseur, foodie, hiker, cyclist, and kayaker. Tracy is the “Out and About” columnist for the Columbia River Reader and writes monthly for Upscale Living Magazine. She also contributes regularly to LuxeGetaways, Northwest Travel & Life, Country, Country Extra, and several other magazines. Her stories focus on luxury and adventure travel, fine dining, wine, libations, road trips, and recipes. Tracy shares a unique perspective on the world from her personal journeys and the excursions she took as the founder and past president of an international children’s nonprofit. Her twenty years of experience writing in various genres, and her culinary training in San Francisco, California, have added to her knowledge and expertise.

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