Connecticut's Must-Visit Sculpture Parks and Gardens

A view of Middletown from the Connecticut River
A view of Middletown from the Connecticut River | © Jon Arnold Images Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of By Angela Lee
21 September 2020

Despite its status as the third smallest state in America, Connecticut is home to a multitude of cultural venues. Many of its sculpture parks are just as astonishing and intriguing in design and complexity as those found out of state, so visit these top seven for an experience of art amid nature.

The Cornish Family Sculpture Garden

Located within the grand and famed Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art – one of the few large museums that gather and display contemporary art in the United States – the Cornish Family Sculpture Garden is a 2-acre (1ha) outdoor section of the museum consisting of a striking assembly of modernized sculptures open to the public. Most of the artworks are by some of the most accomplished and acclaimed sculptors in Connecticut; others are prized masterpieces by renowned artists throughout America. Though a significant contributor to the museum’s mission to present exhibitions of cutting-edge art for the public to view, that is not the garden’s only role. After its remodeling and immense improvement in appearance and size, the garden now also serves as a space for facility rental for private gatherings and parties. As a result, the Cornish Sculpture Garden attracts many from both the public as well as private organizations who wish to appreciate the outdoor exhibitions and enjoy each other’s company.

Kouros Gallery Sculpture Garden

An unusual garden, full of stunning and mystifying sculptures rather than bright colored, aromatic plants and flowers, the Kouros Gallery welcomes visitors to a small courtyard reserved specifically for majestic artworks that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Open to the public, the garden presents a vast range of the sculptural styles; each masterpiece displaying a different type of form, material and texture from the others, creating a concentrated area of diversity and individuality. The garden includes work from 50 different emerging artists who have recently become significant leaders in the evolution of sculptural art. To accentuate its full beauty and potential, each piece is placed to complement its rural environment. Some artworks are intentionally slipped into corners and under branches of trees to reveal their perfect setting. Additionally, the different time of day and lighting adds to the artwork’s magnificence by casting different types of shadow and light, revealing different forms of beauty for each sculpture throughout the day.

Margaret and C. Angus Wurtele Sculpture Garden

One of the main features of the Yale University Art Gallery, the oldest college art museum in the United States, the Margaret and C. Angus Wurtele Sculpture Garden attracts many students, professors and visitors of New Haven to its prized collection of valuable sculptures. Its open space with several works of renowned artists makes it a peaceful area where guests can appreciate their surroundings, both the sculptures and the nature. The name of the garden was established in 2001 to honor one of Yale University’s greatest donors, Margaret and C. Angus Wurtele. For years the Wurteles have contributed to the development of the new facility study center, where the public has more open access to artworks, as well as the Wurtele Gallery Teacher Program, through which Yale graduate students are hired and guided to educate schoolchildren between kindergarten and 12th grade in high school. To this day, many of the Yale Art Gallery’s improvements and developments are possible thanks to the Wurtele’s gift.

David Hayes Sculpture Fields

A vast area full of captivating figures, David Hayes Sculpture Fields is one of the largest spaces in Connecticut specifically reserved for contemporary and abstract sculptures. This 15-acre land consists of over 200 steel artworks that were created during the mid-20th century and the 21st centuries. Of the sculptures, many form unusual shapes, displaying oddly bright colors that complement the surrounding fields of roses, wild flowers, and ferns. As the name of the park suggests, the field is a compilation of some of sculptor David Hayes’ masterpieces. Many of his works can be found in public and private collections throughout the United States as well as Europe; thus, visitors do not necessarily have to go specifically to David Hayes Sculpture Fields to see the artist’s wide diversity of creations. Nevertheless, because Hayes was a resident of Coventry, most of his lifetime accomplishments can be seen at his Sculpture Fields.

David Hayes Sculpture Fields, 905 South Street, Coventry, CT, USA +1 607-353-9000

Susan Morse Hilles Sculpture Courtyard

A recent addition to the Yale University Art Gallery, Susan Morse Hilles Sculpture Courtyard is a small outdoor space made of concrete and stone. The courtyard was one of several new features of Yale University’s Master Plan—a renovation that was conducted to maintain the original art gallery’s integrity and to expand its collection space—for the Yale arts program. The maintenance and extension were successful, and now the courtyard functions to provide students, professors, and the general public an open area outside the gallery where they can view a few featured sculptures of famed artists. Currently, the artwork displayed on the courtyard is the iconic Stacks (1990) of the noted American minimalist sculptor Richard Serra, who is praised for creating art with large compilations of sheet metal during the Process Art Movement.

Edward Tufte’s Hogpen Hill Farms

Founded by the famous statistician, artist and professor at Yale University, Edward Tufte, Hogpen Hill Farms is a 234-acre park and tree farm in little Litchfield County of Woodbury, Connecticut. As a milestone for the state’s mission to increase the presence of illustrious masterpieces, the space hosts over 100 sculptures, including, but not limited to 40 stone megaliths, a wall full of carefully crafted stones and figures, and stainless steel tracing Feynman diagrams. Unlike conventional museums that divide galleries into plotted and linear structures, Hogpen Hill Farms is one vast space in which sculptures, hills and trees act as visual guides for visitors throughout the area. For example, stone mountains indicate the northwest end of the park; flat fields of small megaliths point toward the north-east end; ironstones and lacy stone walls the south; and much more. Through this style, guests wander across hills and fields of mysterious and mesmerizing sculptures surrounded by nature.

Studio 80 and Sculpture Grounds

Free and open to the public every day in Old Lyme, Sculpture Grounds is a 4.5-acre space with over 60 modern sculptures designed by sculptor Gilbert Boro and many other renowned artists, including Robert Meyer, Fred and Judith Osbourne, Gabriel Warren, Richard Warrington and Gwen Basilica. Not only is it a sanctuary of nature with completed artworks, but it is also home to Studio 80, where Boro currently works. Just like the Sculpture Grounds, Studio 80 is open to the public and guests are even able to meet and talk with the artist himself. The only difference is that visitors must make a reservation ahead of time to view Boro’s works in process and to ask him questions about his masterpieces. Together, Studio 80 and the Sculpture Grounds display a vast array of conventional fine art figures as well as creative, abstract sculptures based off of the scenery, and they introduce visitors to a rare sight of natural beauty decorated with famous artworks of nationally and internationally respected sculptors.

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