Grounds for Sculpture: the Hidden Gem of New Jersey

Hidden away on the outskirts of Trenton, New Jersey, lays 42 acres filled with beautiful sculptures that leaves one breathless. Grounds for Sculpture is situated on the former New Jersey State Fairgrounds land in Hamilton Township, NJ. It is one of the best places someone can go if they want to feel like they have been transported to another world. Surrounded by what seems to be an industrial part of town filled with warehouses and rundown rowhomes, this beautiful space is a hidden gem that stuns anyone who walks its grounds.

Grounds for Sculpture opened to the public in 1992 after being under construction since 1989. It all began with a vision from Seward Johnson, a philanthropist and sculptor. His wish was to allow anybody, from anywhere, to have an accessible destination where they could appreciate sculptures and other contemporary art. Johnson was committed to making a place where people could come and make intimate connections with both art and nature. 

In 2000, Grounds for Sculpture officially became a non-profit organization; the Board of Trustees at the organization are the people who oversee everything. It currently has over 270 pieces of art on display with outside exhibits coming and going in 6 different indoor galleries. It features work from many artists such as Beverly Pepper, Clement Meadmore, Kiki Smith, Anthony Caro, and New Jersey’s own, George Segal. It also has a welcome center that features a mini museum about the grounds and how they came to be. 

I first went to Grounds for Sculpture with my family 5 years ago for a special exhibit being hosted there, and I fell in love with it. When one is surrounded by such beautiful art, all worries seem to fall away. Wandering below tall sculptures amidst luscious trees that tower above with the occasional peacock that may roam near feet; I felt like I was in a fairy tale. The best thing about it, is that there can be hundreds of people roaming about and visiting at the same time, but one can manage to make it a world of their own. It never feels like there are many other spectators around.

For a first time visitor’s experience at Grounds for Sculpture, it may feel quite overwhelming. A person can easily get lost, but that’s the beauty of it. No matter where one turns, around every corner there’s a surprise, something that grabs a person’s attention and it’s exhilarating. There are sculptures behind trees, in ponds, and laying on the ground. There is tall bamboo for one to weave through and bridges to cross. Some sculptures look like real humans because of the intense amount of detailing the art has. Plus, visitors are allowed to get interactive with the artwork. One can touch, take pictures with, and sometimes climb the sculptures. It becomes a playground for anyone with a curious mind. 

It’s hard to understand how this place is still considered a “New Jersey secret” because when one sees how much work has gone into the creation of the sculptures themselves as well as the amazing upkeep of nature and scenery within the grounds too, it’s hard not to want to tell the world about it.