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Grounds For Sculpture


18 Fairgrounds Road
Hamilton, NJ 08619
tel. (609) 586-0616
Hours of Operation
10am-6pm Open year-round.
Closed Mondays except Labor Day and Memorial Day.


In 1987, J. Seward Johnson, Jr. envisioned a public sculpture garden and museum where a large and varied body of sculpture could be exhibited. His desire was to make sculpture accessible, to offer the opportunity to people from all backgrounds to become more comfortable with contemporary art, and to provide related educational programs and events at this art center. The entire scope of the project included outdoor exhibition space and museum facilities in a serene, landscaped setting.

The Inaugural Exhibition in June of 1992 was timed to coincide with the 14th Annual Sculpture Conference in Philadelphia. Fifteen outdoor works by thirteen artists from New York and the local region were on view. The official opening of the Museum Building occurred in May of 1993. Since that time Grounds For Sculpture has become a recognized venue for one-person and group exhibitions, featuring American and internationally known sculptors. Its unique facilities are open year-round to the public. Thousands of artworks by more than five hundred artists have been exhibited in the museum buildings and in the sculpture park. Currently more than 230 sculptures are sited outdoors. In June of 2002, Grounds For Sculpture celebrated its 10th Anniversary and inaugurated the annual Anniversary Arts Party, which is held in June each year.

In July of 2000, Grounds For Sculpture changed its governance and became a public nonprofit organization, Public Art Foundation, Inc. As a public foundation, the sculpture park counts on the support of visitors, art patrons, and grants to continue its growth as an outstanding art center. In keeping with its mission, this vital community resource offers exhibitions, educational programs, and special events to create cross-disciplinary experiences in the arts and to promote contemporary sculpture.

The original project site was a vacant lot that was originally part of the New Jersey State Fairgrounds. The property included a portion of the race track and three buildings that at one time housed fair exhibits. Grounds For Sculpture’s park renovation began in July 1989. The architectural plans and the landscape design were created

by Brian Carey of AC/BC Associates of New York City. Initial preparation included preliminary landscaping and grading; construction of interior roadways, sidewalks and a parking lot; and installation of irrigation and storm drainage systems. An ornamental metal fence was installed along the perimeter of the property.

Since the three buildings were very close together, it was decided to move one of them out to a central location. Originally built in the early 1940s, the 10,000-square-foot structure that was used for exhibiting rabbits and goats at the state fairs has been renovated into the raised-rib, steel-roofed Museum Building. Its design incorporates natural light and open space for showing large sculptures, and includes glass walls offering panoramic views of the grounds, a mezzanine gallery for smaller-scaled artwork, and an office. Three, 37-foot-high steel arches were separated from the framework of the original building and placed north of the Museum to form an open air sculpture courtyard. Wisteria vines were planted at the base of the arches, creating a covered arbor. This arbor is also symbolized in the Grounds For Sculpture logo.

Two other fairgrounds structures, the Domestic Arts Building and the Motor Exhibit Building, remain at their original locations. Both of these former fair exhibit halls date from the 1920s and have entrances decorated with ornamental terra-cotta tiles. These tiles were made by the Mueller Mosaic Company of Trenton. The 10,000-square-foot Domestic Arts Building was renovated to provide additional interior exhibition space, a cafe, a museum shop, and offices. These facilities opened in May of 1997. Renovations of the larger 40,000 square-foot Motor Exhibit Building were completed in 1998. The open space was divided into artist’s studios, storage areas, and a central bay area.

Adjacent to the Domestic Arts Building, a garden with cascading, flowing watercourses and a reflecting pond was designed. Called the Water Garden, this space provides a formal viewing area for sculptures, and is enclosed by a yellow stucco wall that matches the exterior of the buildings.

The park was designed to provide an arboretum-like setting, with more than two thousand rose bushes, rhododendrons, and other flowering shrubs, and over one thousand trees –many of them unique evergreen and deciduous specimens. A number of berms and waterways were excavated to create topographical contours and backdrops for displaying sculpture. A gazebo with a deck was constructed by the lotus pond to offer a tranquil place to sit and enjoy a beverage and snack during the warmer months. A helipad is also available for use.

Grounds For Sculpture’s continued growth as a leading art center and its increasing number of visitors have led to further development. In 1999, an elegant, full-service gourmet restaurant—Rat’s, and an office complex were added at the northern end of the sculpture park. In 2002, Toad Hall Shop & Gallery, located adjacent to Rat’s, opened its doors. Unique creations by local and national artisans and a changing selection of small scale sculptures are offered for sale.

Expansion continues with the addition of the new Seward Johnson Center for the Arts and 13 acres to the sculpture park. Phase One of the Center has been completed and offers conference and catering facilities. Additional exhibition space, a library/resource center, and more are planned for the future. The new parcel will also be landscaped to join seamlessly with the original grounds—bringing the park’s total acreage to 35.