Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Adventures in Art at Grounds for Sculpture

Chamber of Internal Dialogue, Seward Johnson
Where can you step into Edvard Munch's famous The Scream? Or get between courting couples in a scene straight out of a Monet painting? Or join the Depression Era men on the bread line? The unique Grounds for Sculpture is 42 acres of rolling gardens and outdoor artworks just perfect for exploring with your kiddos.

Located halfway between New York City and Philadelphia, the Grounds for Sculpture is in Hamilton, New Jersey on the site of the old New Jersey Fairgrounds. A visit here is a totally interactive experience and almost everything is designed to be touched and explored. If you're staycationing in the New York area or headed south from Maine and Massachusetts, definitely add it to your list for an afternoon of fresh air, exercise, and artwork come to life.

Seward Johnson (of the Johnson & Johnson family) created this unique outdoor museum in 1992 and has contributed more than twenty sculptures to the grounds. He's most known for recreating famous Impressionist paintings as life sized bronze statues and you can join Matisse's dancers as they twirl on top of a hill. Or pull up a chair and dine in Renoir's The Luncheon of the Boating Party come to life as the sculpture titled Were You Invited? The little C&Gs thought this was the most brilliant way to experience paintings and you can imagine how disappointed they were on our next trip to a museum.

The Bathers, Issac Witkin
Abstract sculptures will engage your kiddos as you stroll through the beautiful gardens and everything is labeled to let them know if the art is hands on. Be sure to stop at the musical chairs and let them bang away to create their own symphony.

There's no climbing on the sculptures but they can play on and around almost everything and you'll need to be on the lookout for peacocks. The stunningly plumed birds wander freely throughout the grounds and keep an eye out for the rare white peacocks.

The grounds are ideal for picnicking, especially if you've ever wanted to step inside Manet's Le Dejeuner Sur L'herbe, but you'll have to get your supplies from the Peacock Cafe. No outside food is allowed into the gardens although they'll happily pack your lunch to go (for a small fee) and you can go off on your Impressionist way. We grabbed a quick lunch at the Peacock Cafe (not fabulous but easy) and then headed out for adventure.

Lunch in a cozy French style cottage
For more of a treat make a reservation at Rat's Restaurant, a country style French restaurant named for Ratty, the cultured rat in Seward Johnson's favorite book, The Wind in the Willows. Outdoor tables overlook Monet's bridge and it's the perfect place to sit back with a glass of bubbly.

I wish we could have spent a leisurely afternoon amongst the willows and water lilies but we were headed south to vacation in Philadelphia. There was to be no bubbly for me, although I'm sure it would have made the New Jersey Turnpike much more enjoyable.

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