Let’s take a minute to celebrate the gardens that don’t rely solely on leaves and petals to engage the spirit. Pennsylvania is full of interesting, inspiring sculpture parks, showcasing outdoor works of art large and small. And added bonus for garden lovers: These creative havens typically cultivate striking landscaping to frame the works, embracing the synthesis of art and nature. That said, sculpture parks are exciting to visit even during colder months when nothing is in bloom.
Hartwood Acres Sculpture Garden
The Pennsylvania sculpture scene has a new feather in its cap: The 629-acre Hartwood Acres Park, which spans Hampton and Indiana Townships outside of Pittsburgh, is in the midst of a multi-million dollar facelift. Thirteen older pieces, including “Ring Series #5” by kinetic sculpture artist Fletcher Benton and the massive, industrial “Stretch” by Charles Ginnever, will be painstakingly restored to their former glory, and one new work by a local artist will be included in the updated collection. Finishing touches to the site include ADA-compliant walkways, modern lighting, native landscaping, and nearly 300 new trees.
Allegheny Landing Park
North Shore, Pittsburgh
Located on the riverfront adjacent to PNC park, the Allegheny Landing Park sculpture garden has been recently refreshed. The beautiful setting features colorful pieces of metalwork along with intricate stone mosaics. Bring a picnic and enjoy stunning views of the city’s iconic bridges and the downtown skyline.
Rhoneymeade Arboretum and Sculpture Garden
Situated on a high ridge between the Nittany and Tussey Mountains, this gorgeous 150-acre garden and outdoor gallery was an active farm for more than 200 years before being purchased and enshrined as open space. The Rhoneymeade Arboretum and Sculpture Garden collection showcases rustic, textural pieces in wood, bronze, iron, and marble. The organization puts a particular emphasis on the fruitful connection between art and nature, and welcomes plein air painters to capture the grounds.
James A. Michener Art Museum
This small, revered art museum in Bucks County puts just as much thought and energy into its exterior spaces as it does its indoor galleries. On the grounds of the James A. Michener Art Museum, experience several large sculptures along with an installation based on a cell from the old Bucks County Jail, the building’s earlier iteration. The Patricia D. Pfundt Sculpture Garden, a beautiful tucked-away space inside the institution, boasts more exciting works.
This newly conceived gem is a 36-acre preserve in Perry County, just 30 minutes from Harrisburg. Still undergoing phased development, the rolling meadows and woodlands of The Bower feature native landscaping and 10 stunning sculptures, selected from 130 applications. Half are Pennsylvania artists. Rebecca Rutstein’s “Ridge and Valley” is a massive, abstract steel installation inspired by the ecoregions of the Commonwealth, while Robert Koch’s “Pollen,” a series of bronze spheres, underlines naturally occurring geometries.
A high-end hotel and spa in the Laurel Highlands, Nemacolin Resort hosts a world-class art collection featuring pieces by Calder and Botero; there is even a stand-alone contemporary art gallery on the property. This passion for the arts extends outside — an enticing selection of sculptures dot the 2,200 acre resort. Keep an eye out for Fernando Botero’s “Little Bird” — and the bronze figure of Lafayette greeting you at the entrance.
Schaefer’s Auto Art
Here’s something a little bit different: In 1988, outsider artist Dick Schaefer began building large-scale sculptures out of old cars. These quirky works, displayed on a piece of land outside of Erie, are free to visit — we recommend coming during Halloween.
This Frank Lloyd Wright home — one of the last buildings he ever designed — might not have the name recognition of nearby Fallingwater, but is fascinating in its own right. A national historic landmark, Kentuck Knob is a modernist masterpiece that boasts more than 30 sculptures from the era on the surrounding property. It’s an incredible place to experience, no matter the season.
The Abington Art Center
The Abington Art Center is a 27-acre sculpture park in Jenkintown that features a rotating selection of art pieces, so there is a reason to return season after season. Another reason to visit? Experiencing Winifred Lutz’s “Reclamation Garden,” a permanent series of installations along a wooded path, designed to evolve and decay with the passing years.
The Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania
Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia
Located on the very edge of northwest Philadelphia, the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania is home to almost 20 stunning sculptures. Navigate the property to find them all, including the steel “Cotswald Sheep” and the wind activated “Two Lines.”
Anne d’Harnoncourt Sculpture Garden
Center City, Philadelphia
The Philadelphia Museum of Art turned a problem into an opportunity, covering a large underground parking garage with a green roof/sculpture garden. Visitors to the Anne d’Harnoncourt Sculpture Garden can see large-scale works by major contemporary artists such as Claes Oldenburg and Toshiko Takaezu, and enjoy views of the iconic building, the Schuylkill River, and Boathouse Row.
Bethlehem’s Sculpture Garden
Located on the east side of City Hall, the Bethlehem’s Sculpture Garden is a community gathering space that was created in the 1970s. The garden features mostly work by Pennsylvania artists and hosts live music in the warmer months. The main materials are granite and steel, chosen for both their resilience and the way they reflect the region’s industrial past.
Lehigh Millennium Folk Arch and Art Enclave
If you’re looking for something a little wilder in the Lehigh Valley, look no further than this quirky brainchild of a Lehigh University professor. Officially dubbed the Stolfo Sculpture Garden — though most locals know it as the Millennium Folk Arch and Art Enclave — this collection of outsider-art-inspired sculpture showcases an assortment of off-beat works by students.