As far as art forms go, carving in stone was not one of the more popular mediums at the end of the 20th century; but that never stopped Bradford Graves. Now, Valley residents can spend the day outdoors exploring more than 200 of his mostly limestone works at the Bradford Graves Sculpture Park in Kerhonkson.
Originally from Texas, Graves moved to New York when he was 19, “thinking he was going to be a painter and soon discovered that he was a sculptor,” says his widow, Verna Gillis. “He was deeply influenced by geological references and the physical aspects of land. His favorite place in the whole world was the Southwest because of the extraordinary stone formations there. I consider him to be a very American sculptor, but he was also drawn to what he considered stone cultures where stones figured prominently, for example in Japan or the U.K.”
To honor her husband of 34 years (Graves died in 1998 at age 58), Gillis moved most of his works from his studio to their six-acre Kerhonkson property and arranged them so that visitors can have “intimate and direct contact with the work,” she says. The park, which opened in 2010, has a policy of “please touch.”
Graves often worked in series. His best-known group, This Mirror Can Crack a Stone, is a 27-piece work inspired by Thoreau; 20 of those pieces are now in the park. Every sculpture on the property is positioned on a bluestone slab (which all come from local quarries) to allow guests to sit near them and take photos. There is a pavilion constructed from Ulster County pine, and also a small bridge and pond where visitors can break for lunch. An indoor center showcases Graves’ paper and bronze works.
Off Rte 209, Kerhonkson
By appointment only
The park is family-friendly and free to guests, although visits are by appointment only. Some of the sculptures are also for sale. Gillis says that the response has been very positive. “Very often people will send us photographs of themselves in front of the sculptures,” she says. And — with a nod to Opus 40, which is 30 or so miles up the road — “Ulster County has two significant sculpture parks.”
1405 Rte 22, Ghent
COVID-19 update: Open for limited visits, with restricted parking. Art Omi discourages visitation from anyone living outside a half-hour radius. Masks are required in the parking lot and when near others on the trail, and social distancing is required. Restrooms and indoor facilities are not open at this time.
From its home in Ghent, Art Omi seeks to introduce creativity into the lives of the Hudson Valley community. The 120-acre sculpture park attracts an international roster of artists to display on the grounds, take up residencies, and participate in local programming. To date, the site has hosted more than 2,000 artists from over 100 countries to promote diversity of style, voice, and viewpoint. At the architecture and sculpture park, visitors can traverse the grounds to take in more than 60 works of art from a collection that varies every year.
3930 Rte 28, Boiceville
COVID-19 update: Open by appointment beginning July 3
Although it’s not exactly a sculpture garden, Fabulous Furniture is worthy of a mention on this list. A Boiceville secret, the shop is the brainchild of artist Steve Heller, who began the business in 1973 after working with wood since childhood. The store and the grounds are a hub for quirky, wonderful pieces that run the gamut from “defect” tree stumps turned unforgettable end tables, sky-high metallic spaceships, and souped up retro rides. If ever there was a place that brings truth to the notion that “one man’s trash is another’s treasure,” this is it.
381 N Broadway, Sleepy Hollow
Tour prices vary
COVID-19 update: Currently closed to the public
Not just a sculpture garden, Kykuit is the historic home of four generations of Rockefellers. Nowadays, the Westchester County gem is a beloved landmark within the Hudson Valley. Locals can wander through the residence and art galleries, then head outdoors to the gardens, which house a number of eye-catching sculptures that harmonize with Kykuit’s breathtaking interior.
50 Fite Rd, Saugerties
$11 adults, $8 seniors and students
COVID-19 update: Open for socially distant visits from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday through Monday. Guests must sign up in advance and can spend no more than two hours onsite. Masks are required. Opus 40 offers Picnic Fridays, a picnic lunch program, in collaboration with the Dutch Ale House and Stockade Saturdays, an evening drink delivery service, in collaboration with Stockade Tavern.
For more than 40 years, Opus 40 has showcased the harmony between art and nature in the Hudson Valley. Set just outside of central Saugerties, the artistic venue’s claim to fame is a 6.5-acre sculpture with a number of unique features, including 16 feet of subterranean pathways and a nine-ton monolith at the summit. Visitors are free to traverse the three stories up to the top, then take in the incredible view of Overlook Mountain when they reach the peak. Also on the grounds, the Quarrying Museum, Fite Gallery, and hiking trails offer all-day entertainment.
96 Covered Bridge Rd, Warwick
The former home of internationally acclaimed artist Frederick Franck, Pacem in Terris is a transreligious oasis located across the river from the Hudson Valleyite’s Warwick abode. Once a time-ravaged watermill, the space and grounds play host to sculptures that integrate beautifully into the greenery that surrounds them.
23 White Oak Dr, Sugar Loaf
Free and by donation
Call before visiting for a guided tour or go on a self-guided tour following the sculpture trail
Anyone planning a day trip to Storm King should stick around Orange County for a detour to the Seligmann Center. Set in Sugar Loaf, the venue is the former home of Kurt and Arlette Seligmann, an artistic couple who often welcomed names like Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, and Alexander Calder to their abode. While the Center is an attraction itself, with four galleries and performance spaces, the sculpture trail outside is a must for art lovers in the Hudson Valley.
1 Museum Rd, New Windsor
Price per vehicle: $20 for 1 person, $40 for 2 people, $48 for 3 people, $68 for four people, $76 for 5 people, and $84 for 6 people
COVID-19 update: Open for outdoor-only visits beginning July 15 at a limited capacity, with special exhibitions by artists Kiki Smith and Martha Tuttle. Visiting hours run Wednesday to Monday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Timed-entry tickets and per-vehicle pricing are currently in effect, with pricing running from $20 for one person to $84 for six people by vehicle.
Arguably the most famous of all the Hudson Valley’s sculpture parks, Storm King Art Center attracts top artistic talent to the region. Set on an expansive 500 acres, the outdoor museum has operated since 1960 and houses dozens of larger-than-life works. In addition to its permanent collection, the Orange County hotspot welcomes rotating selections from visiting artists. If you visit, don’t forget to wear your walking shoes to trek it from one sculpture to the next.
Stever Hill Rd, off Rte 203, Spencertown
Unlike other sculpture parks in the Hudson Valley, the Taconic Sculpture Park remains something of a secret. Even for locals, the grounds at Spencertown are unheard of or under-the-radar. The park sits far above the highway, creating a slightly mysterious, otherworldly ambiance for passersby. On the grounds, which are open seasonally on weekends or by appointment, visitors can take in the incredible works by artist Roy Kanwit, a talented sculptor whose pieces embrace the mythical. Although the park is out of the way, it’s a worthwhile destination for weekend visits and meditative escapes.