Here, Nature and Creativity Converge
Friday, May 22, 2009
Where the Chesapeake meets the Patuxent there is a little patch of woods that is home to trees with painted eyes, an Algonquin warrior and a maiden with braids. Annmarie Garden Sculpture Park and Arts Center in Solomons, Md., is a whimsical place with no boundaries between art and nature.
You know you are entering someplace magical as soon as you pass through the colorful, ceramic gates that depict trees and water. Azaleas, bursting into blossoms of bright pink, purple and white, line the driveway, and a sculpture of an oysterman gathering his haul is there to remind you just how close you are to the bay.
The 30-acre garden is made up of a sculpture park and an arts center and boasts a collection of more than 30 works on loan from the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. The garden is named in honor of Ann Marie Koenig, who owned the land with her husband and donated it to Calvert County in 1991 with the desire for it to become a sculpture garden. The relationship with the Hirshhorn began a couple of years later as part of a Smithsonian program that offers works to cultural organizations.
Although the real draw is a stroll through the park, the arts center is the better place to start your tour. Since its opening a year ago, the light and airy center has offered family-friendly exhibits. The most recent one, "Touch," was made up of works that visitors were encouraged to feel. Up next is "Wild Things." Although it doesn't officially open until May 31, installation has begun, and visitors can see paintings and sculptures of animals both real and imagined. Upstairs offers a rare nautical treat with the exhibit "Sailor Made: Art of the Woolie." During the 19th century, sailors needed to be good at needlework and would stitch images of boats and ports to pass the time.
Before you head outside be sure to pick up a scavenger hunt brochure. The hunts aren't just fun activities, but also a way to uncover treasures you might otherwise miss. For example, artists have re-created scenes from masterpieces on eyes of trees. These paintings, some only three inches in diameter, can easily be overlooked.
The walk outside begins at either end of the parking lot and makes a quarter-mile horseshoe around the arts center. Allow at least 25 minutes to take in all the works that line the paved trail. Add even more time if you hope to find all the tiny paintings on the trees!
Make sure you take a step off the main trail onto the "Women's Walk," which features a collection of six Hirshhorn sculptures (including the nude "Girl With Braids") connected by a zig-zagging path.
Also worth exploring is "A Surveyor's Map." The work of art is a boardwalk off the main trail that winds between tall pine trees, gradually ascending to a platform that rises about 12 feet. You won't find information plaques about flora and fauna here. Just a simple wood and steel walkway with the occasional bench. This work of art challenges the visitor to see the garden from another perspective.
You can be sure, however, that whatever your vantage point, a visit to the enchanting garden is worth the trip.
-- Amy Orndorff