Located in the heart of central New Jersey lies Grounds for Sculpture, a little known parkland where art and nature merge to create a feast for the eyes and soul.
In 1984, J. Seward Johnson, sculptor and philanthropist, conceived a public sculpture garden and museum on the site of the former New Jersey State Fairgrounds. The park opened to the public in 1992.
There are over 250 sculptures by Johnson and other renowned and upcoming contemporary artists, each carefully placed on a magnificently landscaped park of over 40 acres. The parkland is filled with exotic trees and flowers and the sculptures are often whimsically placed throughout the grounds and among the trees and bushes. The park is extremely user friendly with benches tucked in and among the trees and on the grounds and visitors are encouraged to touch most of the sculptures “with care and respect.”
Walk down one lane and you’ll find a life-sized sculptured version of Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass. There’s a huge sculpture of Marilyn Monroe in her most famous pose and life-size sculptures of famous impressionist paintings placed strategically throughout the park. That child reading a book in the corner, the man reading the newspaper on a bench and the couple stealing a kiss under an arbor are all sculptures! Peacocks roam the area often treating delighted visitors to a full view of their spectacular feathers.
There are three cafes in the park where visitors can have a light meal and “Rats” a highly rated restaurant named for a character in Seward Johnson’s favorite childhood book “Wind in the Willows” At Rats you can enjoy country French cuisine in a setting designed to emulate Monet’s beloved Giverny.
Grounds for Sculpture is located in Hamilton, NJ., a short distance from Princeton and about a two hour drive from Long Island. Grounds for Sculpture is a public not-for-profit corporation and relies on the support of visitors, art patrons, donations and grants. There is a modest entrance fee.
Caveat and Recommendation: To really appreciate the facility, you need a full day and currently the park and museum buildings are open until 9:00 PM. If you can, an overnight stay in the area is worthwhile. Full enjoyment of the park is very dependent on the weather and even though there are indoor museums, to fully appreciate the park I don’t recommend a visit when it is rainy or very hot. You can learn more about Grounds for Sculpture at their website www.groundsforsculpture.org.