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Sculpture Parks

For art lovers, summer can present a conundrum. You finally snag some vacation time to wander the galleries of the areaís trove of museums, but the sun and fresh summer air are beckoning you outside. Well, thereís no need to compromise your hunger for art for your hunger for picnics. Summer is the perfect time to explore the outdoor art of sculpture gardens, of which the region boasts an impressive array.

Down south, the Storm King Arts Center (Old Pleasant Hill Road in Mountainville) celebrates its 50th year this summer, and over those five decades it has built an international reputation as one of the premier sculpture gardens in the world. Its 500 acres of flowing grounds are punctuated by an impressive collection of contemporary works, including site-specific landscape works by Maya Lin and Andy Goldsworthy. You can picnic on the grounds, kids younger than five get in free, and the most admission will cost you is $12.

In Saugerties, Opus 40 50 (50 Fite Road) is not a park full of sculptures, but a sculpture that is a park in itself. The fitted stonework sculpture is an expanse of ramps and terraces, pools and fountains constructed in the rockbed of an abandoned bluestone quarry. It spreads over six acres, and every inch of it is the work of a single man, Harvey Fite, working alone with traditional quarry tools over 37 years. Picnicking is permitted on the grounds, which are open Friday through Sunday for a modest admission fee.

For a much closer jaunt to the south, visit the Fields Sculpture Park at Art Omi (1405 County Route 22, Ghent). Open sunrise to sunset every day and always free to the public, the Fields Sculpture Park presents more than 80 large-scale sculptures on 400 acres of farmland. The viewing path wends along a natural pond and the landscape eases from woodlands to wetlands and can be explored in as little as an hour.

Not even 15 minutes from Fields, a giant head looms above the Taconic Parkway, marking the site of the Taconic Sculpture Park (Stever Hill Road, Spencertown), where owner, resident and artist Ron Kanwit has been creating huge, figurative sculptures on his land for more than 25 years. You can explore his property and his work free of charge on the weekends, but he recommends calling ahead (392-5757) if youíre making a special trip.

Apparently sculpture gardens run in the neighborhood, because about five minutes from Taconic youíll find the Circle Museum on Route 22 in Austerlitz, where artist Bijan Mahmoodi has created more than 100 large-scale fabricated-metal and cast-bronze sculptures that create an eclectic, junkyard gallery on his property.

If youíre heading up north, the folks at Salem Art Works offer their grounds free to the public every day until dusk. In addition to extensive programming ranging from blacksmithing workshops to folk music, their campus is a former dairy farm nestled between the Green and Adirondack mountains and dotted with sculptures.

So pack a picnic and step out of the gallery halls to explore a different kind of landscape.

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