By Shuan Butcher
Grounds for Sculpture, located in Hamilton Township, New Jersey, features 270 sculptures nestled amongst 42 beautiful acres of water features, tree-lined paths, flora and much more. As you start to approach this place, which seems situated in a semi-industrial, commercial zone, you start to see public art pieces along the roadway. Then you turn onto Sculptors Way and you quickly realize you’ve now entered a mecca for art. This is an art lover’s paradise.
This stunning site, which once served as the former New Jersey State Fairgrounds, was envisioned by sculptor and philanthropist Seward Johnson, who wanted to make contemporary sculpture accessible and available to people from all backgrounds.
There are seven indoor galleries on premise, including the main facility named appropriately the Seward Johnson Center for the Arts. There is a café, museum, and gift shop available for visitors to enjoy. There are other amenities located on the property, including a gazebo that offers quick refreshments to quench an immediate thirst or provide a snack break.
But you must make sure to have lunch or dinner at Rat’s Restaurant. Yes, it is a unique name for an establishment that serves food, but there is good reason. It is named after the character “Ratty,” from Kenneth Grahame’s “The Wind in the Willows,” a favorite book of Seward Johnson. Ratty represented everything a host should be and Johnson likened himself to Ratty, who threw the best parties with the best wine. The restaurant offers exquisite country French cuisine. The atmosphere is styled to make guests feel like they have stepped back in time to Claude Monet’s beloved town of Giverny with scenery featuring Johnson’s own impressionist-inspired sculptures, as well as a lily pond and bridge.
Touring Grounds for Sculpture offers a chance to see some amazing artwork. Around every corner sits a unique creation and you never know what you will find. There are installations of stone, metal, glass, bronze and much more. As you venture off the beaten path, look closely because there are even some trees cast in bronze. You may also see, or at least hear, the peacocks that roam freely throughout the grounds.