Art in the Open: Sculpture Parks and Gardens of the Hudson Valley
When you live in the Hudson Valley, every mountain and creek can feel like a work of art. The scale of nature in the area makes this the perfect place to set sculpture and installations. The artist's vibe of the Valley is never more obvious than when you visit a sculpture park! Going from furthest away from NYC to closest, here are some of the best centers, some a little more hidden than others.
This non-profit art center and sculpture park in Ghent offers 120 acres of beautiful scenery and sculpture. In addition to its expansive grounds, Art Omi makes a name for itself in the local community by offering both immersive art classes and yoga on the grounds. Art Omi also has a globally renowned artist residency program, bringing in writers, fine artists, dancers, and musicians, among others, to work on their craft in a community and atmosphere unlike any other.
If you’re looking to take a walk, Art Omi makes for an incredible visit! With amazing exhibitions and seasonal installations, Art Omi curates a different experience every time you visit. They also curate architectural sculpture in addition to institutional art. On view now is the multicolored Prismatic - a huge rope and steel structure that encourages you to interact with it from all sides.
Ten minutes to the East is Chatham, a sweet little hamlet full of bars, pubs, and exciting eats. Be sure to check out the Chatham Berry Farm on the way in, an open-air farm stand right on RT 203.
Going across the river we get to Opus 40, an expansive earthwork sculpture park where the landscape has been tamed by paving stones, amphitheaters, and even an underground tunnel system. Opus 40 is a much less expansive, the entire park is less than seven acres, but it’s full of beautiful views of Indian Head Mountain, and the entire area has been turned into an interactive sculpture full of wide paths, expansive terraces, and sloping ramps. The events and concerts that are put on at Opus 40 are incredible, and if you go on a weekend, be sure to catch a performance.
Behind this huge endeavor is the vision of one man, Harvey Fite, who used the techniques he learned while restoring the Mayan ruins at Copan to create this fantastic structure. On view are a few select pieces of Fite’s representational sculptures, which make for fun photo ops and stopping points as you explore the garden.
The town of Saugerties is next door, full of great places like the Dutch Ale House and Bella Luna. It’s also home to plenty of antique stores and the well-known (to locals, at least!) Inquiring Minds bookstore, a perfect place to grab a book and a coffee before heading to your next destination.
This place is a little more exclusive. While the other sculpture parks on this list are centers, non-profits and otherwise open to the public, the Bradford Graves Sculpture Park is only open by appointment. Admission, however, is free. With amazingly beautiful work carved from limestone spread out across private property in Kerhonkson, this place is not to be missed. There’s also a center featuring Graves’ sketches and paintings, as well as some of his smaller works, cast in bronze.
This park is an immersive look into the work of a singular voice in abstract sculpture, active during the minimalist movement in the sixties and seventies, all the way up until his death in 98. He studied extensively and was keen on archeology and ancient techniques, seeking to interpret these older forms into his own art.
For a guide to Kerhonkson and some of the other small surrounding towns, you can check out our post here for some great ideas! (We recommend the nearby Westwind Orchard, or the Arrowood Farm-Brewery, both lovely places for food and drink only a short ride away.)
Set in the center of a bustling community, Unison Arts is an educational facility and sculpture garden, open to the public. This garden is novel because they change their installations annual, commissioning and sourcing new artwork from all kinds of emerging and established artists, from SUNY New Paltz students to internationally known names.
Traveling through Unison Arts is an immersive, wild experience. Foliage and forest cover the grounds, and finding the sculptures is part of the fun. The woodland park has paths that lead throughout the five-acre garden, leaving space for wildflower meadows and artwork that incorporates the natural landscape.
New Paltz is just across the Wallkill River, and if you wanted to stop into the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art to complete your culture immersion, you’ll find a vibrant college town, full of fun and off-the-beaten-path restaurants and bars.
No list of Hudson Valley art spaces is complete without at least a mention of Storm King, a 500-acre sculpture park in New Windsor, just south of up-and-coming Newburgh. With miles of paved paths, open fields, and massive artworks that dominate the landscape, Storm King has a reputation for a reason. This popular art center is nestled in the Shannemuc Mountains, and if you walk around the most eastern paths you will find the Moodna Creek, which provides even more stunning views and sites.
The names on display and sheer size of the works at Storm King mean that you can spend the entire day perusing its grounds. There are shuttles that travel around the park, as well as bikes for rent, so you can take in the pieces anyway you like. The gallery at the top of the hill is a lovely place for a rest, and the seasonal cart outside will have lemonade or hot cider, depending on the time of year.
Storm King is next to one of the hidden gems of the area, Blooming Hill Farm. If you stay anywhere nearby, stopping by this farm-to-table holding is a must. Head up to Newburgh for a jaunt along Liberty Street, full of cafes that are perfect after a long walk in the midst of amazing art.
Many familiar with the area know that Kykuit is the former family estate of the Rockefeller family, nestled in spooky Sleepy Hollow, of headless horseman fame. What quite a few people overlook is the massive sculpture installations held at Kykuit make for an impressive display of modernist work, from Calder to Lipschitz, and quite a few others in between.
If you’re planning to go to the Kykuit estate for the architecture, history, or even just the grounds, ring up Historic Hudson Valley and ask for a tour of the sculptures as well. The property is massive, and some buildings are still occupied, so getting access to the full breadth of sculpture at Kykuit is an invite-only affair.
With a top-down view of Tarrytown, there’s no shortage of great places to visit for a bite. If you’re feeling exceptionally fancy, or just want a full Rockefeller experience, you can drive a cool ten minutes north to Blue Hill at Stone Barns, not only one of the best restaurants in the Hudson Valley, but in the world. Also, there’s an Agricultural Center worth looking into, and a cafe, if you’re not so blue-blooded.
The Valley is not wanting for art! Take a weekend to make a trip full of sculpture, mountains, and hidden-places. There’s enough art in the Hudson Valley to last a whole year. (And then it changes! You get another year of art!)
THIS IS A GOOGLE MAP OF THE ART CENTERS ON THIS ROUNDUP!