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Artful in Nature

Sculpture gardens and museums harbor a sense of creativity and elegance for groups gathering in spectacular landscapes

By Amanda Christensen

From acres of contemporary sculptures to outdoor activities on-site, sculpture gardens can be a relaxing, natural setting for groups. Whether planners are looking for a venue that highlights regional artists or sites that host the works of renowned sculptors, there are abundant opportunities to connect attendees with often-towering artistry. In addition to the sculpture lawns, many locations offer function space in the form of indoor museums
open year-round.  

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Rodin Museum is home to one of the largest public collections of sculptures by Auguste Rodin. Host an event inside the sprawling gallery or in the outdoor Dorrance H. Hamilton Garden centered with a reflection pool—both can seat up to 125 reception-style or 60 for dinner. Additional spaces include the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Main Building comprised of the Great Stair Hall & Balcony, which is perfect for an intimate cocktail party; the Lenfest Hall; Williams Forum & Vaulted Walkways; the East Terrace, which is a memorable space for an outdoor gala; and the Saint-Genis-des-Fontaines Cloister and Saint-Laurent Gallery. 

North entrance of Philadelphia Museum of Art. June 19, 2023
The Philadelphia Museum of Art features the only museum dedicated to Auguste Rodin outside of France. || Photo by Steve Hall of Hall + Merrick Photographers, courtesy of Philadelphia Museum of Art

New Jersey’s Grounds For Sculpture in Hamilton offers a sprawling 42 acres with 300 contemporary sculptures for groups to explore. “We have multiple meeting and event spaces for private and corporate events [alongside] a bunch of other experiences [for] team-building opportunities, group tours, [and] volunteering,” says Lauren Shepard, director of events for the park and museum. In the main Seward Johnson Center for the Arts building, gather in the Boardroom for up to 30 or 60 classroom-style with access to audiovisual equipment and the nearby gift shop and Van Gogh Cafe. “We also have an indoor East Gallery space with artwork in the room [for] 300-plus lecture-style with a stage, podium, [and] microphone,” she continues. “For outdoor use, we purchased a tent [that’s] connected to our beautiful Water Garden,” emphasizing that it is a flexible indoor-outdoor option for up to 250 with the sides of the tent able to be open or closed. 

Lecture at Grounds For Sculpture's East Gallery. June 19, 2023
A lecture in the East Gallery at Grounds For Sculpture || Photo by David Michael Howarth Photography

Grounds For Sculpture also offers on-site group activities. “We’re finding that, especially for corporate [groups], they’re coming to our venue for an overall experience … [where] the first portion is a meeting with food and beverage, then they might break for lunch and then do a team-building activity,” Shepard says. Options include sculpture hunts; found-object workshops where guests bring an item from home that represents something in their life and discuss it with team members; and guided tours to learn more about the displayed works and the artists who created them. 

In New York City, The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden at the Museum of Modern Art can host up to 500 guests and is available for rental to corporate members of the museum. Rentals can include use of the Agnes Gund Garden Lobby and The Donald and Catherine Marron Family Atrium as well. To the north in New Windsor, New York, the Storm King Art Center boasts 115 large-scale works amid 500 acres of the Hudson Valley. With a membership, host a private group of up to 50 people for a catered lunch outside on the patio accompanied by views of featured pieces from American artists like Isamu Noguchi, David Smith, and Alexander Calder; or gather at the Lollipop Grove nestled in a thicket of trees where guests can view the distant Schunnemunk Mountain. Additional on-site options include the South Pavilion and the Hill, overlooking Maya Lin’s Storm King Wavefield. 

The outdoor pond and sculptures at Grounds For Sculpture. June 19, 2023
Visitors explore the outdoor pond and sculptures at Grounds For Sculpture in New Jersey. || Photo by David Michael Howarth Photography

The deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts (a 50-minute drive from Boston), features 60 large-scale modern sculptures and installations with rotating exhibitions and programs. Guests can enjoy on-site activities including snowshoe tours; yoga in the park; nature tours; curator and artist conversations; and special talks, screenings, and events. The park and museum are managed by The Trustees, Massachusetts’ largest preservation and conservation nonprofit organization that has been operating for more than 125 years. 

A membership with The Trustees allows event planners to rent deCordova’s Dewey Family Hall, which features vibrant works from emerging local artists and has the capacity to host 175 guests. Or gather on the Sculpture Terrace adjacent to the iconic brick turrets of the original deCordova Mansion, which overlooks picturesque Flint Pond with space for open-air dinners and cocktail receptions. 

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