I regularly travel to Grand Rapids, MI on business. Of the cities in my usual travel rotation, it is one of my favorites. Pedestrian friendly downtown, good restaurants, nice hotel….not to mention productive business meetings (which after all are kinda the point of my being there). My first few trips I explored the downtown area in the evening, even doing this little photo essay. On a cab ride from the airport, I’d noticed a billboard for the Fredrick Meijer Sculpture Gardens. Hmmm, told myself that some trip I’ll need to work in a visit. What finally spurred me to action was this post from Garden Faerie about a Chihuly exhibit at the Meijer Garden.
I have been a fan of Chihuly for years. Made it to several exhibits – from indoors at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum to outdoors at the Chicago Botanic Garden, and several visits to the installation at the Missouri Botanic Garden. The “someday I need to try and work in a visit”, turned to “I *must* work in a visit”. Was glad to discover they were open late on Tuesday evenings, and could take advantage of the long sunlight hours in June for my first visit. Took hundreds of pictures, added that trip to my mental list of future blog topics…but never quite got around to putting up a post.
Another post by Monica, the Garden Faerie, mentioned the exhibit being extended through the end of October, which got me thinking about a second visit. Finding an opportunity to see the sculptures and the gardens in another season. Fate would have it on a recent trip I’d have a few late afternoon hours, between meetings and plane flight home for another quick visit. 2 hours and 300 pictures later, so glad I’ve discovered the Meijer Sculpture Gardens, and made a return trip.
Perfectly planned for strolling, on my first trip my pedometer showed I’d walked over 5 miles and over 3 on the second. Don’t worry there are also trams available to tour you around; I’d done some large loops more than once to get in some fitness mileage. The gardens include an exceptional children’s garden (love the Great Lakes shaped interactive water feature!!!), an outdoor amphitheatre, natural and man-made water features, shade/woodland garden area, glass houses/conservatories, a Michigan farm area. Nicely maintained plants – primarily woodies – both deciduous and evergreen. Not what I would call a “botanic garden”, but that’s not what they are going for. This garden is designed as a showcase for the art, a goal I would say it has met or exceeded!
The Meijer Garden is designed around the sculpture. A few pieces stood out, really spoke to me. Some due to their interesting concept, others because I was familiar with the artists’ other work (Rodin, Calder), and a couple for sheer whimsy.
But it was the Chihuly sculptures I had come to see. His traditional glass, the neon he’s been doing the last few years, and the newer polyvitro forms:
Seeing not only the Chihuly but the entire gardens in two seasons was a treat. Often an entirely different look to the art because of the surrounding, the change in light. And in nearly every case, found the fall colors, fall foliage enhanced the art.
Two seasons of Chihuly:
Two seasons of other sculpture:
Visiting a botanic garden across the seasons is a lesson I learned while living in St. Louis. A very wise horticulturist suggested visiting Mobot (Missouri Botanic Garden….or as I wrote it up “The Garden”) monthly to help the home garden develop a full season, year round landscape. I made a point of doing this then. And suggest if you live near a public garden to do the same….break out of the habit of only visiting in the mid-summer flower power glory. See what you can see in the other seasons. It may surprise you!