Recently, a new sculpture park opened in the Great Lakes region. This new outdoor art museum exhibits 24 pieces by acclaimed modern sculptors. Eventually, 80 pieces will be on view and the park is expected to become a regional arts destination. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tamar Charney has a look at how the sculpture park at the Frederik Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids mixes art and nature:
Recently, a new sculpture park opened in the Great Lakes region.
This new outdoor art museum exhibits 24 pieces by acclaimed modern
sculptors. Eventually 80 pieces will be on view and the park is expected
to become a regional arts destination. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Tamar Charney has a look at how the sculpture park at the Frederik Meijer
Gardens in Grand Rapids mixes art and nature:
The pieces in the 30 acres sculpture park are spread out amid hills,
paths, and nooks. There’s an area with stone and bronze works from the
early modern masters like Rodin, Lipchitz, and Henry Moore. In a hollow
there’s an enormous red gardening trowel by Claus Oldenburg and Coosje van
Bruggen. And suspended just inches over a pond is a kinetic or moving
piece by George Rickey. Just downstream from the pond are 15 gigantic
ceramic eggs. A blue robin’s egg, a speckled killdeer’s egg… they are all
enlarged versions of eggs laid by birds you can find at the park. It’s a
work by Carolyn Ottmers, a sculptor from Chicago. She says the sculpture
park meshes the visual arts with the wonders of nature.
“I think in the way they have chosen to arrange the sculptures, and
integrate within the park… created this arena for encounters which for
me is a similar experience echoed when you walk through nature.”
As you move through the park you catch a glimpse of a piece here, a
suggestion of a work there through the trees, around the bend, or across the
pond. Officials with the gardens say the collection is the most
significant one in the Midwest. But it’s not your typical sculpture park,
with formal manicured gardens adorned with sculpture.
“The sculpture is not a decoration of a garden.”
Magdalena Abakanowicz is a sculptor from Poland. Her bronze piece called
“Figure on a Trunk” is a headless, shoeless person. It’s hidden in an alcove
made of young trees. Abakanowicz rails against the idea of art decorating
a garden, but she says nature can create the right space in which to see
“Spaces to contemplate, spaces to meditate, spaces in which we are
confronted to our own scale and the scale of the world.”
These are spaces that change with the weather, the time of day and the
season. Joseph Becherer is the sculpture curator for the Frederik Meijer
Gardens and Sculpture Park. He says it’s the natural setting that may just get more
people interested in looking at art.
“I think there are many, many people… the majority of Americans that are
very intimidated by a traditional museum or gallery but there is something
welcoming, inviting and warm about coming to a garden.”
And some of the things on exhibit in the botanical section of the gardens
can help people understand some of the things on exhibit in the sculpture
section. It’s something Italian sculptor Arnoldo Pomodoro is well aware
of. At the gardens, his piece called “Disk in the Form of a Desert Rose”
sits on a small grassy field next to a waterfall. After the dedication
ceremony, he was strutting around, greeting the people admiring his piece
when he was approached by a young boy with his buddies from school in tow.
Child: “Um, they want to know what the sculpture is supposed to be… like… about.”
Pomodoro: “In the gallery down is a real rose of the desert so the inspiration
comes from this rose which is a stone very beautiful.”
Pomodoro encourages the children to go into the conservatory to see a real desert rose
to start understanding and discovering the connections between art and nature,
and sculpture and the environment.
“You go and see it’s an homage to the nature. Ciao.”
In the coming years, more than 50 new sculptures will be added to the Frederik
Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Tamar Charney.