Summer is finally here, and we're excited to spend as much time outside as possible, whether it be a morning hike, a picnic on the grass, or an art-filled afternoon. To that end, we've culled our favorite outdoor sculpture parks across the United States that cover a broad range of artwork, from classical to contemporary. Best of all, many of these parks are free and open to the public.
Located on what was formerly an industrial site, the Olympic Sculpture Park is operated by the Seattle Art Museum and has been open and free to the public since 2007. At 9 square acres, it's the city's largest public green space, and is open year-round; it was designed by the renowned architecture firm of Weiss/Manfredi, and features a mixture of greenery and artwork by Ellsworth Kelly, Louise Bourgeois, and Richard Serra, among many others.
The Fran and Ray Stark Sculpture Garden is part of L.A.'s famed Getty Museum, and was recently transformed when 28 modern and contemporary outdoor sculptures were donated from the collection of the late legendary film producer Ray Stark and his wife, Fran. The pieces are integrated into the garden's landscape and architecture, creating a dramatic outdoor art experience with work by Joan Miró, Isamu Noguchi, and Elisabeth Frink. The experience has been carefully designed by the original architects of the Getty Center, Richard Meier and Partners, and the site's original landscape designers, Olin Partnership, to facilitate intimate and peaceful outdoor gallery rooms.
The Neon Museum in Las Vegas, NV
The Neon Museum, founded in 1996, is dedicated to collecting, preserving, studying and exhibiting iconic Las Vegas signs for educational, historic, arts and cultural enrichment. While not a traditional sculpture park in that its collection doesn't contain works of art by famous artists, the museum's campus includes the outdoor exhibition space known as the Neon Boneyard, and is an important testament to Las Vegas' history. Visitors can attend an hour-long guided tour, a self-guided tour, or on a limited-access basis.
Tippet Rise Art Center in Fishtail, MT
Located in Fishtail, Montana, roughly midway between Billings and Bozeman and north of Yellowstone National Park, Tippet Rise Art Center is set on a working sheep and cattle ranch. With its backdrop of the Beartooth Mountains, the art center hosts classical chamber music and recitals and exhibits large-scale, outdoor sculptures spread throughout the rolling hills of its 10,000 acres. The park is only open seasonally, but visitors can bike, hike, or take a tour by carbon-neutral electric van.
The Laumeier Sculpture Park in St. Louis, MO
As one of the first and largest dedicated sculpture parks in the United States, Laumeier was founded in 1976 in St. Louis County. Although the collection initially started with 40 pieces that were gifted by local artist Ernest Trova across 72 acres, today the sculpture park has 60 works of large-scale outdoor sculpture spread throughout their 105 acres. It is free and open to the public daily, and recently had several buildings renovated for exhibitions, programs, and events.
The Kenny Hill Sculpture Garden in Chauvin, LA
The approximately 100 concrete sculptures found on the narrow, bayou-side property of recluse Kenny Hill form the collection of the Kenny Hill Sculpture Garden. Hill, a bricklayer by trade, had settled on the property in the late 1980s and began in the 1990s to create pieces more for himself than for the public, the majority of which included strong religious references, Cajun colors, and allusions to his personal pain and suffering. The personal nature of the pieces make the sculpture park particularly evocative, and it was gifted to nearby Nicholls State University after Hill abandoned his home in 2000 because he was evicted from the parish.
The Sculpture Garden of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Located on Washington, D.C.’s National Mall on a six-acre block adjacent to the National Gallery, the Sculpture Garden features a bright mixture of flowering trees and blossoming flowers amid work by world-renowned artists including Sol LeWitt, Joan Miró, and Marc Chagall. The landscape, designed by Olin Partnership, includes plantings that are specifically of native American species. The garden, like the National Gallery, is free and open to the public.
Storm King in Mountainville, New York
Located about an hour north of New York City lies Storm King Art Center, a 500-acre outdoor museum of large-scale sculpture and site-specific commissions. Opened in 1960, Storm King has a permanent collection of more than 100 sculptures including works by Isamu Noguchi, Roy Lichtenstein, and David Smith, along with special exhibitions held in indoor and outdoor galleries. Its rolling hills, meadows, and forests provide a powerful respite from the hustle and bustle of New York City.
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