Grounds for Sculpture: a small universe of art


By Lyvia Yan, Centerspread Editor

As I wandered through the towering art, my eyes feasted on the bold colors and unique architecture. To my left, excited visitors stepped into “The Scream”, the famous painting by Edvard Munch, while others opted for a leisurely stroll through Claude Monet’s “Water Lily Pond”. The crisp smell of fall provided the perfect backdrop for the life-size sculptures which were nestled in cocoons of rich foliage and the last, bursting flowers of spring. I marveled as a myriad of people, young and old, wandered with the same mission to experience art in another dimension to one destination: Grounds for Sculpture.

Grounds for Sculpture is a 42-acre outdoor, interactive art museum situated in Central New Jersey. Housing more than 270 sculptures, Grounds for Sculpture combines traditional fine art with botanical wonders. The exhibition is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors, and $10 for students. As ticket availability may become limited, it is recommended to buy your tickets online to secure your desired date and a discounted price.

Grounds for Sculpture takes curious minds through works from artists like Clement Meadmore, Anthony Caro, Kiki Smith, and Magdalena Abakanowicz, which join the fantastical wonders of the founder, Seward Johnson. Seward Johnson was inspired by his early career in painting, then turned to the vastly different medium of sculpture. Johnson’s works are featured across the globe in museums and private collections in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia. The artist regularly adds pieces to his collection and was inducted in the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2014. At 85 years old, Seward Johnson continues to craft captivating artwork.

Walking through the massive gardens, I marveled at the sheer volume of artwork in the former New Jersey State Fairgrounds. From towering witches stirring murky potions emanating a mysterious fog, to party scenes with exuberant guests chatting over glasses of wine, every courtyard held a surprise to entice a mixture of amusement and astonishment. Empty chairs invited curious onlookers to not only admire the artwork from afar, but become part of the masterpieces. In the short span of around thirty minutes, I was able to admire Claude Monet’s work-in-progress over his bronze shoulder, secure an invitation to Pierre Auguste Renoir’s masterpiece “The Luncheon of the Boating Party,” and glance at my distorted reflection in a modern, reflective orb.

After touring the gardens, visitors’ minds are full of racing thoughts about the art; however, their stomachs remain empty. Luckily, Grounds for Sculpture readily anticipated their hunger and offers four dining venues: Rat’s Restaurant, The Peacock Café, Van Gogh Café, and the Gazebo.

With a sophisticated ambiance and a view of the peaceful lake, the Rat’s Restaurant combines the breathtaking environment with upscale French cuisine. Rated the number one restaurant in Hamilton, New Jersey by Trip Advisor and Philadelphia Magazine’s “Most Romantic Restaurant,” Rat’s is an ideal dining location for museum-goers and outsiders alike.

For those who are seeking a casual cup of coffee or an afternoon mug of tea, The Peacock and Van Gogh Cafés feature small snacks, baguette sandwiches, salads, pastries and sweets, and made-to-order crepes. In contrast to warm coffee in the winter and fall seasons, the Gazebo serves locally made ice cream and refreshing cold drinks during the hotter summer months.
Overall, Grounds for Sculpture is a truly unique experience that combines the unaltered beauty of nature with contemporary masterpieces. Whether you’re in the area, looking for a venue to host a wedding or event, or simply bored on a weekend morning, Grounds for Sculpture is the ideal place to escape into another dimension and satisfy your art (or food) cravings.

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Lyvia Yan can be reached at [email protected].