Welcome Spring with Open-Air Art

Personal "Daytrip" Piece

Ninemuses steele

Whether you’re an art aficionado, a nature enthusiast or just someone with a voracious appetite for discovery, Grounds For Sculpture, in Hamilton, NJ, is bound to please the curious soul in all. Located roughly an hour from New York City and nestled upon 35 acres of true arboretum terrain, this Mercer County gem is home to over 250 contemporary sculptures, 3000 types of flora, 16 meandering peacocks, and an infinite supply of explorative energy that invites visitors to peak through the hedges and stroll down hidden paths to see what wonders lie tucked around the corner.

Established by artist J. Seward Johnson in 1992 and situated on the once-dilapidated plot of land that was used as the New Jersey State Fairgrounds for over half a century, the concept behind Grounds For Sculpture grew from Johnson’s desire to create an unconventional public space that would, ultimately, advocate a greater understanding of contemporary art. “Our mission is to make contemporary sculpture accessible,” says Grounds For Sculpture Director of Marketing Coby Green-Rifkin. “And we do that, and engage visitors to the park, in a variety of ways. We have great concerts, dance performances, poetry readings, day-long festivals and fairs…So you don’t have to know a lot about art, or even think you’ll appreciate it, to come here and be blown away.”

What started out as 15 art pieces —and only 16 trees, believe it or not— evolved over tenfold in just a few years, with some of the most renowned names in contemporary art, including Red Grooms, Anthony Caro, Kiki Smith, and George Segal, making their way onto the grounds. With two historic indoor spaces for rotating exhibitions, three unique eateries —including the Peacock Café, a water lily pond-encircled spot called The Gazebo, and a Monet-inspired Rat’s Restaurant— and no shortage of dream-like creations to please adults and children alike (like a Henri Rousseau-themed bamboo grove, for one), traveling to Grounds For Sculpture is an unparalleled experience that leaves visitors with a newfound appreciation for art, nature and beauty in all its forms.

An uncommon “Sculptures Along The Way” project, courtesy of The Sculpture Foundation, whets our appetite before even stepping foot into the park. Sculptures scattered en route throughout the town of Hamilton are the ideal artistic appetizer, and only add to the intrigue of the journey. “You drive through this industrial park to get here, and then you pull into our front driveway, and you’re like, where have I landed? […] It’s the kind of place where just getting some here the first time is all it takes, because the park speaks for itself,” Coby Green-Rifkin adds. “It’s one of the best daytrips someone can make in the area. The landscape and the way the light interacts with the art changes with the seasons. The indoor exhibits rotate throughout the year, and even our menus are seasonal- so it’s a different experience every time someone comes.”