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5 Fabulous NYC Sculpture Gardens

Sculpture gardens offer the best of two lovely worlds: art and nature. Here are five in New York worth exploring and enjoying. By Jessica Allen.

(credit: Garrett Ziegler)

In 1986, a group of concerned citizens and artists, led by artist Mark di Suvero, transformed an illegal dump site and abandoned landfill into a magnificent art-filled public space. Today Socrates Sculpture Park functions as an outdoor studio for artists working large (sometimes very large), as well as a top-notch museum. The views across the East River are super, the art is thought-provoking and often fun, but the best part about the park is its utter integration in the community: it's open 365 days a year, doesn't charge an entrance fee, and boasts a huge variety of free programs.

(credit: Central Park Conservancy)

Central Park has more than 50 sculptures, fountains, and statues, memorializing everyone from William Shakespeare to the crew of the USS Maine to Balto, a Siberian husky who helped carry medicine to curb a diphtheria epidemic in 1920s Alaska. While "Eagles & Prey," the oldest known statue in any NYC park, is captivating, we're particularly partial to the hulking depiction of King Jagiello, the grand duke of Lithuania. It's as fierce today as when the king led his country into battle in 1410. You can almost hear the clang of metal on metal.

(credit: Garrett Ziegler)

Once again, this summer FIGMENT -- a grassroots organization that puts together participatory art projects -- will create an interactive sculpture garden on what was once the parade grounds of Governors Island. In addition to a tree house, the City of Dreams Pavilion, and several large works, this event will include a free minigolf course. This year the theme is "New York City Now," so the artist-designed holes will allow visitors to "re-evaluate and re-imagine what our city is all about."

Serpentine Structures
(credit: Garrett Ziegler)

The roughly 2-mile stretch of Hudson River Park between Grand Street in Tribeca and West 29th in Chelsea offers several fascinating, permanent works of art. "Twister," one of three cantilevered "Serpentine Structures" (2008) torqued and welded by Marc Gibian, looks less like the waves it purports to represent and more like a very shiny jungle gym (pictured). Then there's the AIDS Memorial, a 2-foot-high, 42-foot-long granite bench that overlooks half-submerged pilings of a long-gone pier, remnants of activity and industry, a stark metaphor for the dead.

(credit: Alexandre Arrechea)

The landscaped strips (known as "malls") separating uptown traffic from downtown traffic along Park Avenue play host to art on a rotating basis, and we're not just talking about blooming tulips, budding trees, and lush, lush grasses. On view through July 2014 is a seven-piece exhibition by artist Alice Aycock called "Park Avenue Paper Chase." Aycock's work is the 23rd installation to appear on the Park Avenue Malls. The Fund for the Park Avenue Sculpture committee generally sponsors two installations a year.

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