Page 52 - The Hunt Magazine - Winter 2019
P. 52

 By Sharon h. Silverman
Grounds For
  Artistic delights in a parklike setting
    Tucked in an unlikely location amid warehouses, industrial facilities,
and modest row homes, Grounds
For Sculpture in Hamilton Township, N.J.
is a 42-acre oasis that invites visitors to encounter more than 270 artworks cleverly placed throughout its landscape.
Six indoor galleries host changing exhibits by emerging and established artists. There are programs for all ages, a full calendar of special events and a range of dining options. Open year-round and easily accessible via major highways or train, Grounds For Sculpture is the ideal day trip for anyone in our region.
The site owes its existence to sculptor and philanthropist J. Seward Johnson, whose famous trompe l’oeil painted bronzes depict figures in lifelike settings. Now 88, Johnson also founded the Seward Johnson Atelier, which promotes education and appreciation of public art. In 1984, he looked at the property adjacent to the Atelier—the former site of the New Jersey State Fairgrounds—and envisioned a public sculpture garden and museum that would help people from all backgrounds get comfortable with contemporary art. Construction began in 1989, and Grounds For Sculpture opened to the public in 1992 with 15 works on display. Since 2000, it’s been a public not-for-profit corporation overseen by a board of trustees.
“Untitled” by Masayuki Korrida, 2015.
“Two Face Telescope” by Elizabeth Strong-Cuevas.
It’s difficult to imagine the barren, weedy terrain that Seward and his enthusiastic partners started with. Today, the garden features allées of maple and river birch, a bridge reminiscent of Monet’s at Giverny, a wisteria pergola, grassy areas, forested spaces and water features, as well as a warming hut and a bamboo observation tower. If you sense movement, it might be one of the resident peacocks strutting by.
The garden would be a pleasant enough diversion on its own— add several hundred sculptures set harmoniously in their surroundings, and it becomes truly memorable. There is no set route; visitors are allowed to wander and discover. As docent Volker Arendt told me, the layout is designed to encourage people to “go behind the first thing. If there’s a door, see if it opens. After you look at one side of something, look at the other side. And remember, you don’t have to like everything.”

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