GFS TEMPORARILY CLOSED
COVID-19 Update

Dive Deeper into our Landscape

Garden History + Features

Credit

The Museum Building, photo: David Michael Howarth Photography

Gardens
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A Brief History

In 1984, J. Seward Johnson, sculptor and philanthropist, envisioned a public sculpture garden and museum in Hamilton, New Jersey. His desire was to make contemporary sculpture accessible to all, offering visitors the opportunity to become comfortable with contemporary art through a progressive and self-directed journey.

In 1986, an architectural competition was held for the design of a sculpture park to be located at the old New Jersey State Fairgrounds. The site, which had been abandoned for years, was derelict and barren except for three dilapidated exhibition buildings and fifteen gnarled maple trees. Brian Carey of AC/BC Associates in New York City was selected to be the Project Architect.

Grounds For Sculpture (GFS) was envisioned as a place to exhibit sculpture and as a garden and arboretum. The design included formal and informal aspects. Paved terraces, pergolas, and courtyards juxtaposed natural woodlands, ponds, and bamboo groves. Expanses of lawn were delineated by sculptured rose-covered berms.

Landscape construction began in 1989. Since then over 2,000 trees, representing more than 100 species and cultivars, have been planted. In addition to typical nursery stock, many plants were collected from estates and abandoned nurseries, or were salvaged from construction sites. Many of the rare and unusual trees you find here today were selected by Carey and Bruce Daniels, former GFS Facilities Director and Project Manager.

GFS opened to the public in 1992. Since that time, it has welcomed over three million guests. The sculpture park, which started on 15 acres with 15 works of art on display, has expanded to 42 acres containing nearly 300 contemporary sculptures across the ever-changing landscape. It is a work of art itself.

The interplay between sculpture and horticulture is an important part of the vision for GFS. In founder Seward Johnson’s words, the hope is that GFS will “fill people everywhere with the emotional sustenance derived from the powerful and restorative connection between art and nature.”

We invite you to read further and explore our garden features.

Click the (+) to expand each description, and view the slideshow below.

Garden Features

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We have received many questions about whether the opening of state parks includes Grounds For Sculpture. Please note at this time we remain closed. 

As a nonprofit organization we are not part of the state parks system and we are not yet permitted to open. We are watching the situation closely. When we are permitted to open, we are determined to do so in way that is safe for our staff, volunteers and visitors.

We know the value of being out in nature and experiencing art is all the more important and restorative during these uncertain times. We look forward to welcoming visitors back to experience GFS later this season when we are permitted and able to reopen. We are tending the garden to ensure we are ready when the time comes.

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