In 1986, the American sculptor Mark di Suvero took a derelict area of wasteland and turned it into one of New York City’s most dynamic and unique spots. Occupying a vast five-acre area, The Socrates Sculpture Park is the city’s largest outdoor sculpture exhibit, offering visitors the chance to take in the themed offerings of the nation’s top artists, along with the opportunity to participate in one of the park’s many projects and programs. To find out what makes the site such a top destination, keep reading.
1. It’s free
The number one reason to visit the park is perhaps the most obvious: it’s free. Even if you can think of better ways to spend your weekend, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to think of one that’s quite so budget- friendly. The park is open from 9 AM- sundown every day of the year; with so many days to visit, and with it costing you precisely zero to try it out, you’d be a fool not to give it a go.
2. It’s kid-friendly
If you’re struggling to think of ways to keep the kids entertained during the long summer holidays, you’re in luck. Head on down to the Socrates Sculpture Park between Monday and Friday, from July to August, and you’ll find plenty on offer to keep your kids happy. The park sponsored “The Sculpture Camp” offers a series of art workshops designed to get your kids learning while keeping them too entertained to realize. There’s just one minor caveat: the camp is only available to groups, so you’ll need to enroll your kid in a participating neighborhood youth agency, community group or day camp beforehand.
3. It’s even more kid-friendly than you thought
So, we know Socrates Sculpture Park offers kid’s programs in July and August, but in case you were wondering whether they offer the same in other months, then yes, they do. From May 18-September 14, the park offers free Saturday workshops for kids and their families on a drop-in basis. With no need to pre-register, you can drop in anytime you like for some hands-on artiness.
4. It’s great for teenagers
Socrates Sculpture Park’s Sculpture Camp and Saturday Workshop may prove entertaining for kids, but teens are usually a little trickier to please. Fortunately, the park offers plenty of on-site entertainment for older kids, including the Sculpture Studio, an interactive opportunity to learn more about contemporary art-making concepts, techniques and visual literacy; the Coastal Classroom, a science-led activity program that teaches such skills as rowing and fishing; and Socrateens, a chance for teenagers to create their own experimental art and develop their skills in performance, drawing, sculpture making, and more.
5. There’s an outdoor cinema
From July 3-August 21, the park turns into a huge, open-air cinema. Get there by 7 pm to enjoy a host of cultural performances and some tasty food before the film begins at nightfall. The park’s Outdoor International Film Festival is the perfect opportunity to enjoy foreign films (upcoming for this season are Cielo, Purple Noon, Anbessa, The Story of the Weeping Camel, En El Septimo Dia, Dark Toons, La Cienaga, and March of the Penguins), live music, thrilling dance performances and some choice food offerings from the country of origin of that night’s film.
6. It’s a great way to embrace healthy living
Summer 2019 will see Socrates Sculpture Park work in partnership with Hellgate Farm, Root Culture, The Connected Chef and Smiling Hogshead Ranch to offer a range of programs designed to encourage visitors to develop a sustainable, healthy approach to life. On Saturdays between May – October, 12-3PM, visitors have the opportunity to participate in the food-centric, Roots Saturdays, a series of drop-in workshops, food demos, and family-friendly activities. On select Thursdays from June – September, 6:30-7:30PM, the park will also be offering Roots Workshops, interactive opportunities for adults to learn more about cooking, food, and the food system.
7. The exhibitions are ever-changing
Even if you’ve visited the Sculpture Park in the past, the ever-changing nature of its exhibits makes it worth a repeat trip. At the entrance to the park hangs a billboard structure that, twice a year, gets a complete revamp. The billboard then sets the tone for that season’s exhibits, guaranteeing an ever-changing line up of artists and sculptures.
8. It’s got all the top artists
Where else in New York but the Socrates Sculpture Park do you get the chance to take in the work of the nation’s top artists and its brightest emerging talents for free? Some of the renowned artists to have displayed in the past include Vito Acconci in 1986, Merle Temkin in 1991, Sanford Biggers in 2001, Agnes Denes in 2015 and Virginia Overton in 2018 (who also happened to be the first female artist to get her own solo exhibition at the park).
9. You can take a tour
If you want to learn more about the exhibits as you make your way through the park, you’ll be glad to know the site offers a range of tours designed to suit your needs. Along with free self-guided tours, the park also lays on guided tours. For $150, you’ll get the assistance of one of the park’s knowledgeable agents, who will be happy to give you their insights into contemporary art and interesting info about the site’s history.
10. It’s doing its bit for the community
Given the area the park sits on was once a barren landfill site, its transformation into a lush area of horticultural beauty is nothing short of amazing. With over 90 varieties of trees, shrubs, and perennials, you’ll find something of interest at every corner. As well as offering a visual treat, the gardens are also doing their bit to support the community. Socrates Sculpture Park’s Community Works Initiative Program offers employment and training programs to local residents of the nearby Astoria Howes. Its range of programs provides valuable transferable skills that aim to enhance the employment prospects of participants, as well as exposing them to cultural resources they may otherwise never have the chance to explore.