Arts

Five Hidden-Gem Outdoor Sculpture Parks to Visit on a Quick Trip from Boston

Talk a walk, see some art.


david lang sculpture

The Fuller Museum’s David Lang sculpture “The Question is the Answer” Photo by Sage Brousseau

After months of finding yourself cooped up inside, chances are your eyes would love a glimpse at something bolder than your four walls. Luckily, these five outdoor sculpture parks—each a hidden gem—are nearby, offering both fresh air and some al-fresco art.

The Fuller Craft Museum

Brockton, MA

Though the Fuller Craft Museum boasts a wealth of artworks indoors, you’d be remiss in breezing past the wonders that wait outside the building. All in all, you’ll discover twelve pieces of artwork off the concrete path from the parking lot to the museum’s front entrance, including the two interconnected behemoth rusted slabs of Paul Meneses’s “Sight,” which look like a doorway between the trees, and George McGoff’s “Daedalus,” by the entrance, made of painted red cedar planks that seem to almost hover in defiance of gravity. A couple of park benches await for some quiet thinking as you reflect on the serene water views of the surrounding Upper Porter Pond, while you can also wander down a small wooded area and take in a memorial sculpture garden. Beth McLaughlin, artistic director and chief curator, finds a favorite piece in David Lang’s “The Question is the Answer,” which is tucked in a little wooded glade by the entrance. “The work itself is a graceful, curvilinear gesture—an abstracted question mark that encourages viewers to be curious, to wonder and imagine. A fitting philosophy to greet art museum visitors!” she says. “The punctuative form suggests life isn’t about having all the answers. Rather, it’s about leaning into uncertainty, which is a helpful mindset to adopt in these troubled times.”

Admission by donation. Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-5am, 455 Oak St., Brockton, MA, fullercraft.org.

butler sculpture park

Butler Sculpture Park photo provided

Butler Sculpture Park

Sheffield, MA

Think of this sculpture park as a living novel of the work of a single independent artist, Robert Butler, whose stainless steel sculptures and kinetic art glint from between the trees and weaving paths. Butler runs the park, which spans about forty-two acres, with his wife, fellow artist Susan. You can see around 40 of Robert Butler’s unnamed sculptures of various shapes and sizes—some like inscrutable alien artifacts, others like mobiles a giant kid tossed in the grass after playtime—at this plein air playland, with around 35 more inside the small gallery and visitor center. Butler lives and works on the grounds, too, so with a little luck you’ll bump into the artist himself.

Free admission. Open through October 31, 11am-5pm, 481 Shunpike Rd., Sheffield, MA, butlersculpturepark.wordpress.com.

The Path of Life Sculpture Garden

Windsor, VT

Overflowing with 18 sculptures and nestled near the Connecticut River, this patch of paradise offers a bit of respite from the rest of the world. Managed by the neighboring outdoor adventure company, Great River Outfitters, the sculptures, artworks, and hedge mazes of this 14-acre Japanese-inspired garden tell a story of birth, death, and the beyond, as dreamed up by local artist Terry McDonnell. As you wander grand open fields and copses of wildflowers, the enormous sculptures of bamboo, Russian River driftwood sentinels, and prayer wheels invite you to look inward. “Many times people arrive not knowing what to expect, and when they come out of the garden, there is this appreciation and transformation,” says Nicki Carmody, the shop director at Great River Outfitters. “These experiences are for everyone so you actually become a part of it.” If you’re in no hurry to head back to real life, Great River Outfitters also offers camping packages on the grounds.

$6; $3, children 4-12. Every day, 10am-6pm, 36 Park Rd., Windsor, VT, greatriveroutfitters.com.

andres institute of art

Emim Petroyan’s “All Things Are Flowing,” Photo by John Becker, Andres Institute of Art

Andres Institute of Art

Brookline, NH

Craving a combo of cardio and art? Hoof it to the Andres Institute of Art where you can hike among the sculptures scattered throughout a former ski area of Big Bear Mountain. All in all, 100 sculptures dot more than 10 miles of 12 well-marked trails—from easy walks to uphill heaves—of the 140-acre park. Artists from all over the world dreamed up these creations, and you’ll spy striking faces carved from stone staring up at the sky, animal-human hybrids hewn from metal that seem suspended in a game of catch, and much more.

Donations accepted. Daily, dawn to dusk. 98 Route 13, Brookline, NH, andresinstitute.org.

trees of life

Photo by Stephen Sherlock

Franklin Sculpture Park

Franklin, MA

The town of Franklin manages this petit park, spreading out over just about an acre at the past site of the now filled-in old town pool, where you can now float around the 13 sculptures. Opened in 2014, the park’s gentle walkway curves around a pond, showcasing view of local wildlife and artwork, like the painted PVC pipes of “The Trees of Life” that rise from the water, and Buddy Olson’s giant welded steel bear named “Ursus.” Many of the artworks were created by students from the Franklin Art Center and elsewhere, so bring the kiddos here to spark some creativity.

Free admission. Daily, dawn to dusk. Panther Way, Franklin, MA.