Ah summer. A time for sun, sand, sea and — art? Even kids who regard museum visits as a form of punishment can enjoy some of the season’s most inventive art installations without setting foot indoors. Here are a few favorites from a nation full of outdoor — and free — public art that’s sure to keep minds of any age engaged.
Middlebury College, Vermont
Middlebury College in Vermont scored an eye-popping exhibit this summer, Young America: Roy Lichtenstein and the America’s Cup, thanks to acollaboration between the Pop artist and Middlebury alumnus Kevin Mahaney, the winner of a silver medal in sailing at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and skipper of the America’s Cup boat that forms the centerpiece of the exhibit. The artist was commissioned to paint the 77-foot hull of the racing vessel with an expressive mermaid, whose golden hair mimics the flow of the painted waves through which she glides.
The exhibition also includes preliminary sketches of the piece along with memorabilia and a 1995 documentary film by Teddy Bogosian’s called “War in the Wind” about the America’s Cup race, but families who just want to enjoy the outdoor piece can do so by just walking to the pond at the college museum. Young America is on loan to Middlebury through August 13, 2017.
There also is a permanent outdoor sculpture garden at the college, with pieces that range from Clement Meadmore’s twisty Around and About to Patrick Villiers Farrow’s playful Frisbee Dog. The most controversial sculpture in the collection is Way Station (Study Chamber) by Vito Acconci, a shack-like structure emblazoned with flags of various countries that have contentious relationships with the U.S., as well as the words “GOD” “MAN,” and “DOG.” Clearly intended to provoke a conversation, older kids might enjoy speculating about the artist’s intent while younger children can just have fun climbing inside and playing with the giant playing cards on the exterior. The Middlebury College Museum of Art, located in the Mahaney Center for the Arts on Rte. 30 on the southern edge of campus, is free and open to the public.
Rose Kennedy Greenway, Boston
Boston’s Rose Kennedy Greenway, an outdoor ribbon of park and hardscapes that runs roughly between South Station and the North End, comes alive in summer. Pop-up food outlets, farmer’s markets, temporary musical stages and especially art installations make this mile-and-a-half stroll a great way to spend a day in the city. This summer, don’t miss The Meeting House, a charming little yellow cottage and its even tinier twin house, that seem to be melting into the earth. Reminiscent of a New England Quaker meeting house, the combined structure is the creation of artist Mark Reigelman.
The tipsy yellow cottages, which look like Dr. Seuss could have had a hand in their design, are both a nod to the history and culture of Boston, as well as a playful take on local architecture. Best of all, the exhibits, as are all the installations on the Greenway, are free and accessible by foot.
Lincoln Center, New York City
New York City has long been a mecca for artists, and increasingly there’s no need to wait in line for an expensive museum outing to experience some of the city’s most interesting works.
This year much has been made of The Fearless Girl, the bronze statue of the pint-sized, pigtailed girl whose stance, directly facing Wall Street’s Charging Bull, has generated both controversy and conversation about girl power and the role of art as a means of protest. As of press-time, the statue’s tenure on Wall Street has been extended into 2018.
Speaking of girls, the 15-foot bronze Hippo Ballerina, sure looks a lot like the unlikely hippo dancer — tutu and all — from Disney’s “Fantasia.” The playful creation of Danish artist Bjørn Okholm Skaarup, the statue is located at West 63rd Street and Broadway near Lincoln Center, but you’d better hurry. The exhibit will only run through July 31, 2017.
Millennium Park, Chicago
Chicago has a reputation for pulling out all the stops to support art in neighborhoods around the city, and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events has tagged 2017 as the “Year of Public Art.” For a high-profile example, check out why some 13 million people have already visited the revamped Cloud Gate exhibit in AT&T Plaza at Millennium Park in just in the last six months.
British artist Anish Kapoor, who created the formerly shiny bean-shaped sculpture in 2006, covered the surface with a light-absorbing material last spring, which now creates an entirely different mood. The coating of deep, nonflective black evokes what the artist refers to as the current dark mood of today’s world, but the “black bean,” as locals refer to it, is still a popular magnet for art lovers and selfie-taking tourists alike. When you visit, just follow the hashtag #2017isYOPA to find the locations of the nearest artworks and related festivals, movies and gallery talks.
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