The United States is home to an array of sculpture parks as varied as its 50 states, each with its own mission and setting. The parks listed below, selected for geographic diversity, are a starting point for would-be open-air-art aficionados.
Although most indoor exhibitions and facilities at the listed parks are closed, all outdoor spaces are open. Many require advance registration or timed entry and all require masks and social distancing. It’s time to go soak up some culture — and maybe work up a sweat.
Olympic Sculpture Park
2901 Western Ave., Seattle
At the nine-acre Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle, opened by the Seattle Art Museum on an erstwhile industrial site along the city’s waterfront in 2007, the angles and curves of colorful modern sculptures are set against the breathtaking backdrop of the Puget Sound. On clear days, visitors can turn their heads in the other direction, where the snow-hatted Mount Rainier claims a large piece of sky. The park’s ample green space is interspersed with permanent and visiting installations by artists including Alexander Calder, Louise Bourgeois and Mark di Suvero. Its location provides a unique opportunity to view monolithic sculptures such as “Echo,” the 46-foot-tall head of a girl by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, in a setting as compelling as the works themselves. Admission is free.
Storm King Art Center
1 Museum Rd., New Windsor, N.Y.
At 500 acres, the Storm King Art Center, located about an hour outside New York City, is so large that no matter how many times you visit, you’re still likely to find something new. Opened to the public in 1960 with the mission of preserving Hudson River School paintings, the center quickly pivoted to focus on modern sculpture in a natural setting. As visitors walk the park’s paths, they weave through a lush landscape of undulating hills, open meadows, ponds, streams and forests; the site is especially striking in fall when the trees turn brilliant shades of red and gold. The park features works by the likes of Henry Moore, Andy Goldsworthy and Roy Lichtenstein, many of which, such as the treelike “Luba,” by Ursula von Rydingsvard, rise out of the earth as if they’re part of the landscape. Admission is based on the number of occupants per vehicle; from $20 for one person.
Laumeier Sculpture Park
12580 Rott Rd., St Louis
This 105-acre space in St. Louis, founded in 1976, is one of the country’s largest and oldest sculpture parks. It includes more than 70 works by artists such as Anthony Caro, Sol LeWitt and Beverly Pepper. Among its highest-profile pieces are Tony Tasset’s “Eye,” a nearly 38-foot-tall eyeball, and Alexander Liberman’s bright red “The Way,” constructed on-site from salvaged oil tanks. The park’s walking trails wind past enormous sculptures such as Jackie Ferrara’s “Laumeier Project,” a wooden pyramidal structure that visitors can walk through, blending with the patterns of light shining through its slats. It also hosts traveling exhibits, such as Odili Donald Odita’s flag series “From Periphery to Center,” which is concurrently on view in Ferguson, Mo. Admission is free.
DeCordova Sculpture Park
51 Sandy Pond Rd., Lincoln, Mass.
The deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum outside Boston is New England’s largest outdoor art venue. Established on the estate of collectors Julian and Elizabeth de Cordova, the property was gifted to the city of Lincoln with the stipulation that it become a public museum dedicated to art. The 30-acre park opened in 1950, with a focus on collecting and celebrating New England artists. In a pastoral setting on the wooded shores of Flint’s Pond, the garden features a dazzling array of permanent and visiting installations by artists including DeWitt Godfrey, Isaac Witkin and Nam June Paik. Highlights include Jim Dine’s “Two Big Black Hearts,” which is exactly what it sounds like, and Joseph Wheelwright’s “Listening Stone,” a toppled-over head that looks as if it’s been there since ancient times. Admission is $14; there are reduced prices for students and seniors.
12100 Glen Rd., Potomac, Md.
On nearly 300 acres in the D.C. suburbs, the Glenstone Museum seeks to weave art, architecture and nature into one seamless experience. Founded in 2006 as a collection of modern and contemporary art in a single building, the museum has undergone several expansions and today includes a second museum complex, as well as extensive grounds where outdoor artwork shares space with trails, streams, meadows, ponds and groves. Everything at Glenstone is intentional, designed to enhance contemplation and enrich the visitor experience. The museum’s collection includes a who’s who of 20th-century artists; among its outdoor pieces are works by Ellsworth Kelly, Richard Serra and Charles Ray. Don’t miss the towering 37-foot floral sculpture “Split-Rocker,” byArt Jeff Koons, which is host to over 25,000 flowering plants. Admission is free.
The Neon Museum
770 Las Vegas Blvd. North,
Have you ever wondered where old neon signs go when they die? They don’t — at least not in Las Vegas. Instead, the city’s iconic signs live forever at the Neon Museum, which chronicles the glamour, glitz and history of Las Vegas from the 1930s to the present through its distinctively over-the-top signage. The outdoor portion of the museum is known as the Neon Boneyard, a surreal 2.25-acre concrete landscape where visitors can wander among gems from the museum’s main collection of more than 250 restored and unrestored signs from the city’s past, such as Aladdin’s Lamp from the original Aladdin casino and the graceful curved lettering of the Moulin Rouge, which was famously the first integrated hotel in the city. Admission is $20.
1931 Brookgreen Dr.,
Murrells Inlet, S.C.
Open to the public since the early 1930, the sculpture park at Brookgreen Gardens is the oldest in the country. It occupies about 550 acres of the sprawling 9,000-acre site, which also includes indoor galleries, a zoo and a nature preserve. (In addition to collecting and exhibiting American sculptures, Brookgreen works to preserve the floral and fauna of the American Southeast.) The sculpture garden bears the names of Archer Huntington and his wife, sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington, who bought the property south of Myrtle Beach — once the site of four rice plantations — and reimagined it as a showcase for her work. Today the park’s numerous themed gardens contain more than 1,000 works of American figurative sculpture by more than 400 artists, including Mount Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum and Augustus Saint-Gaudens, known for Boston’s Robert Gould Shaw Memorial. Seven-day admission is $18, with discounts for children and seniors.
Gane is a writer based in Seattle. Find her on Twitter: @tamaragane