Throughout history, humans have been enamored with the relationship between art and nature. Greeks and Romans were some of the first in Europe to create gardens with ornamental sculptures made of materials that could both withstand harsh weather and flaunt how nature’s form fits to function. Today, the influence of outdoor art remains just about the same.
Texas has some of the best outdoor art there is to offer and, when mixed with the varied landscapes that make up the state, the result is a sight to be seen. From classic garden statues to more funky and modern designs ranging from small to ambitiously large in size, sculptures in a garden — or public park — bring an element of relaxation and escapism. When galleries and museums were closed because of the pandemic, many people turned to the public outdoor space for socially distanced activities.
When you want some relief from cityscapes and bustling streets, there’s no better way than visiting a garden filled with art and inspiration. Take a drive and reset at any of these five impressive sculpture gardens around Texas.
Thirty miles north of Dallas, you’ll find the Texas Sculpture Garden in Frisco. Choose from one of all Park’s three routes to walk, all under two miles, and discover 40 photo-worthy art installations. To get a free audio art tour, download the "OTOCAST" app on your phone and hear directly from the artists.
The Texas Sculpture Garden at HALL Park is free to the public and is located at 6801 Gaylord Parkway.
On your next visit to Austin, stop at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden + Museum near Barton Springs. World-class art mixed with native Texas plants create the perfect space for lounging and enjoying some sun. Throughout the four acres, you’ll find dozens of bronze and stone sculptures that were donated to the city by 20th-century American sculptor Charles Umlauf. There’s a waterfall and stream that flow through a lovely tree-shaded area accented with benches. Unlike a traditional museum where touching the art is prohibited, the Umlauf Sculpture Garden allows visitors to touch the bronze art because there is a wax protectant on all statues. If you’re lucky, you might catch a dance performance from a local artist.
Admission for Umlauf Sculpture Garden + Museum is $7 for adults, $1 for ages 13 to 17 and free for children under the age of 12. Check the website for hours of operation. 605 Azie Morton Road.
Cullen Sculpture Museum
No list of sculpture gardens would be complete without mentioning Houston’s very own Cullen Sculpture Museum located at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The modern outdoor space houses masterworks by 20th- and 21st-century artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Dan Graham, Henri Matisse, Auguste Rodin and David Smith. The garden, located between MFAH’s new Kinder Building and the Glassell School of Art, was created by sculptor Isamu Noguchi, who landscaped and designed it. When meandering around, you’ll see life-sized statues and a personal favorite — Jim Love’s giant bronze sphere titled Can Johnny Come Out and Play?
Cullen Sculpture Museum is located at Montrose Boulevard at Bissonnet Street and is free to the public.
Abilene may seem a bit far from Houston, but the Adamson-Spalding Storybook Garden will not disappoint. Created in 2017 in a city dubbed the “Storybook Capital of America,” this outdoor art museum depicts some of the most iconic characters from best-selling children’s books. You’ll find statues of characters from “Charlotte’s Web,” “Stuart Little,” the popular “Three Little Pigs” and, most recently added, “Good Night Dinosaur.” New bronze pieces are added each year. To add to the fun, kids can participate in a year-round scavenger hunt by downloading the GooseChase app and completing “missions” around town.
Adamson-Spalding Storybook Garden is free to the public and open year-round. 1008-1098 N. 6th St.
Hanna Springs Sculpture Garden
Just an hour northeast of Austin is the Hanna Springs Sculpture Garden. If you’re ever on a road trip and heading north through Texas, this garden is a great place to stop and stretch your legs. The sculptures change every year and were originally inspired by local artist Nancy Gray. Three permanent sculptures were carved on site: David Hickman's Portal to the Springs, Carolann Haggard's Lampasas Furniture and TJ Mabrey's IV Florae for Flora, and are the foundation of the garden’s 22-piece collection.
Hanna Springs Sculpture Garden is located in Campbell, 501 E. North Ave., and is free to the public. Check the website for hours of operation.
For more information and a full list of sculpture parks in Texas, visit the International Directory of Sculpture Parks website.