After months of lockdown, there may be no better cleanse for the human spirit than art.
Across the U.S., museums, botanic gardens, community-based organizations and artists have built parks that let visitors enjoy that creativity in the sweeping expanse of the great outdoors.
These exhibits are often integrated with and pay tribute to the wonder of their natural settings. And, with special social distancing measures in place, many remain open to visitors seeking to leave behind the dust of everyday life, even if just for a few hours.
As Pablo Picasso once said, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
Below are some of the country’s best outdoor art experiences.
San Juan Islands Sculpture Park
Roche Harbor, Washington
On the northern tip of Washington’s San Juan Island — best known for marine adventures — The San Juan Islands Sculpture Park is home to more than 150 sculptures.
Five marked trails lace the 20-acre park, winding through forests, meandering over hills, and circling Frog Pond. The artwork is jury-selected every two years and some is for sale, so the experience is never the same twice.
Current favorites include a flock of sheep made from driftwood and netting and a newly acquired giant bronze grizzly with cubs.
Hours: Daily, dawn to dusk. Cost: $5 recommended donation for adults
New Orleans Museum of Art Sculpture Garden
New Orleans, Louisiana
Fifteen minutes by streetcar from the buzzing French Quarter, the Besthoff Sculpture Garden at the New Orleans Museum of Art is a sanctuary of nature and creativity.
The lagoon, magnolias and 200-year-old live oaks dripping with Spanish moss serve as a reminder of Louisiana’s wild beauty.
The garden features more than 90 sculptures by 19th- to 21st-century artists, several — including a 60-foot mosaic wall by Teresita Fernández, a glass bridge by Elyn Zimmerman, and an installation by Maya Lin — commissioned specifically for the unique site.
In 2019, a 6.5-acre expansion enhanced the sustainability and health of the water and added several experiential features, such as a 280-foot canal link bridge (the first of its kind in the U.S.) that dips into the lagoon, bringing visitors nearly eye-level with the waterline.
Hours: Wednesday to Sunday; Senior and immunocompromised only — 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.; General public — 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Museum members only — 4 to 6 p.m. Cost: Adults — $5; Seniors, military, university students — $3; 19 years and under — free; Healthcare workers and first responders — free through Dec. 31, 2020
Michigan Legacy Art Park
Just 20 minutes from Arcadia Dunes and the shores of Lake Michigan, the Michigan Legacy Art Park perches on 30 acres.
Among the wooded slopes and framing the grassy meadows, 51 sculptures — all envisioned and constructed by Michigan artists — are the product of nature and creativity coming together. And with two miles of hiking, cross-country ski, and snowshoe trails, the art adventure is accessible year-round.
In fact, MLAP has welcomed visitors every day since it first opened in 1995.
Hours: Daily, dawn to dusk. Cost: Adults — $5; Kids 17 and under — free