Photos, story by Cassie Hepler
Get ready to step into a fairy tale world where the art and paintings come to life and will take your breath away! Grounds For Sculpture is a 42-acre sculpture park, museum and arboretum founded on the site of the former New Jersey State Fairgrounds. Opened to the public in 1992, it has rapidly become one of the premier cultural destinations in New Jersey, welcoming and enchanting nearly 2.1 million visitors since then. Founded by artist and philanthropist Seward Johnson, the nonprofit Grounds For Sculpture presents and conserves an exceptional collection of contemporary sculpture, offers outstanding programming for all ages, and provides seasonally rotating exhibitions in six indoor galleries. Grounds For Sculpture combines art and beckoning spaces to welcome, surprise and engage all visitors in the artist’s act of invention.
“This Vision Statement articulates my vision for the Grounds For Sculpture park (the “Park”), to guide future generations that steward the Park for the benefit of the public.” – J. Seward Johnson, Jr., 2014
- Emotional and Spiritual Invitation. 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.
- Visceral Experience. Tools for learning and any intellectual visitor approach to artwork must not precede, preempt, or otherwise interfere with the first, visceral response.
- Joy of Discovery. Park visitors should have a self-directed experience accompanied by the joy of discovery, allowing for a greater appreciation and understanding of challenging works of art.
- Sensory Delight. The Park should be a delight to all of the senses. In order to bring them closer to the artworks, visitors should be encouraged to touch sculpture with care and respect. 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 the sights, sounds, smells, and sanctity of nature.
- Collection and Exhibitions. The collection and exhibitions should include sculpture by recognized masters and emerging artists. Acquisitions should emphasize the work of living artists with significant influence on contemporary sculpture. Artworks should be displayed thoughtfully and creatively, and in harmony with their natural surroundings, which should be symbiotic with, supportive of, and specifically designed to enhance the artworks.
- Docents. Docents should guide Park visitors in a manner centered on the visitor’s observation of and experience with art rather than the artist’s intent. Docents should invite visitors to examine, think, and respond using their senses to make observations and discover meaning based upon their own experience.
- Arts Community Leader. Grounds For Sculpture should 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.
- Park Evolution. In order to evolve and improve, Grounds For Sculpture should foster a culture of learning and self-reflection, thereby becoming more effective and responsive to the needs and desires of Park visitors and artists.
- Culinary Experiences. Visitors’ sense of taste should be fulfilled through culinary experiences at the Park, including at Rat’s Restaurant, a warm, hospitable environment inspired by impressionist masters that provides an escape from the ordinary, transporting the visitor to another place and time.
- Sculpture Along the Way. Visitors should be led to the Park by a path of well-placed sculpture that heightens a sense of anticipation and adventure.
We can talk about how wonderful it is there all day but you have to see it to truly believe it! Enjoy the photo story below.