Saturday, June 25, 2011

Worth the Trip!

Last October I had the opportunity to make my first visit to the amazing Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It is a magical and inspiring place, and certainly one I hope to visit again this summer.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, it is a beautiful 132-acre parcel of land in west-central Michigan devoted to horticulture, art, music, architecture, and discovery. It is named for two of the park's major benefactors, Frederik and Lena Meijer, whose family founded the Meijer Corporation. There are beautifully tended gardens, landscapes and wetlands, hiking trails, sculptures from nationally and internationally-known artists, a newly renovated amphitheater (which is the venue for a popular summer concert series), conservatories which hold varied and wondrous collections of plants from different ecosystems, indoor art galleries, a gift store, a cafe, and a very imaginative children's garden (which is fun even for adults).

I traveled to the Meijer Gardens with a small group of friends. We planned our trip to coincide with the Dale Chihuly installation, A New Eden. (Dale Chihuly is a glass artist and art entrepreneur from Washington state whose studio creates amazing and instantly recognizable work. His sculptures are exhibited in temporary and permanent installations all over the world.) A New Eden included various installations throughout the large park, from towers (like the one above) to Red Reeds (right) to the Niijima Floats on the waterfall.In addition to the Chihuly installations, we also enjoyed many works from the permanent collection. I was happy to see a sculpture by one of my favorite artists - Alexander Calder. His Two Discs sculpture struck my fancy - it was in a clearing by itself and was large enough we could walk under it and view Calder's signature.

Another favorite of mine was a phenomenal bronze - American Horse by Nina Akamu. Based on a composition by Leonardo daVinci, this sculpture is 24 feet tall and has its own plaza with a view of the conservatories. Its magnificence has to be seen in person to be believed!

For those of us who like to explore and discover new art, a visit to this venue is definitely worth the trip. There is something that will appeal to everyone in your group. Whether you want to walk the grounds and enjoy the discoveries that await you at every turn, or prefer to take it easier and ride the tram with the tour guide, or explore the indoor galleries and shops, or see the beautiful plants in the indoor conservatories. Since a person could not possibly enjoy in one day everything this park has to offer, you may even want to take multiple trips!

In my mind, an ideal summer weekend trip to southern Michigan would include one full day spent at the Meijer Gardens and another day at Warren Dunes on Lake Michigan (with many stops to fruit stands and roadside galleries in between). What about you?

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