Get Out . . . of Town – a visit to Loveland sculpture gardens

In the last couple of years, I have spent a lot of time within my city and county limits. Sometimes it feels a bit well, limited. Call it lazy, call it frugal, call it what you will. Call me bored.

Sometimes, it helps to change the scenery, change the pace, and change the perspective. At the end of March, I took a few days off from work and spent most of the time in Longmont. I used some of the time for catching up on chores and dealing with annual medical appointments, but I was still trying to figure out how to change my view with my stay-at-home, stick-in-the-mud stay-cation. Don’t get me wrong, I love home, but sometimes horizons beckon. So, I turned to another L-town, Loveland.

Pardon the pun, but I loved Loveland. The 15 mile distance is similar to my daily commute, but by going in a different direction, I found something new and found part of myself again. I packed a water bottle and a well-stuffed burrito (homemade) and pointed the car north.

Loveland advertises itself as an art town and according to the brochures it’s one of the artsy-est towns in the nation. I believe it. There are galleries and art walks and festivals and public art and the largest outdoor sculpture show in the U.S. I was headed to Loveland’s two sculpture parks. Several communities have art in public spaces, of which I’m a fan, but usually that means a few art pieces scattered over a large area or distance. Loveland’s sculpture park, Benson Sculpture Garden packs a punch with lots of sculpture in a concentrated area. The park is tucked into a residential neighborhood, easy to find and not far from a major road. Despite being a popular local landmark and tourist spot, it has the feeling of an antique store on a rainy day, like you’ve somehow stumbled upon a hidden, unknown treasure. I visited on a Wednesday, just a bit before noon. From the edges, it looks like a typical city park: lots of grass with a sidewalk tracing a path and water running through the middle. A high school and a church are nearby and it seems like a great place to take a break at lunch or to spend some time on a Saturday. Look closer and explore a bit and you’ll see that this park is not so ordinary.

There are 132 permanent sculptures placed artfully and whimsically around a walking path. The park was dedicated as a sculpture park in 1985 and the folks who created it deserve a standing ovation. The Loveland High Plains Arts Council and the city of Loveland have done an amazing thing. They have created an adventurous oasis and a unique destination in the middle of the ordinary, a spot where I will happily return. I don’t know anything about sculpture, but I thought the collection was a welcome combination of being approachable and playful, yet not mundane. The light, the different styles, and materials used all make for a beautiful outdoor gallery.

Here’s a little bit of what I saw.

I gazed.

I saw changes in color.

I thought about traveling in packs.

I pondered play.

I looked twice.

I danced to a different tune.

I remembered the days where naps in sunshine are important.

A quick jaunt east of six miles brought me to Loveland’s second sculpture park, Chapungu Sculpture Park. This park, planted in the shadows of a large outdoor shopping mall, near the interstate, is on the edge of suburban sprawl. I have been to the movies and bought sweaters and shoes in this particular retail behemoth, but never noticed or delighted in the sculpture park. Two marked pathways, trail signs, and a stand of cottonwood trees helped me imagine I was far from the Gap, far from a Best Buy. This park has its roots in African art and I could envision the Colorado plains as the African savanna. According to the signage, there are plans for an arts education center to be built nearby and for more sculpture to be added to the collection. This park is very cohesive, with 80 similarly themed Zimbabwe rock sculptures placed into 26 acres of a wonderful outdoor art haven. The trails marked loop routes and I think this would be a fun spot to go for a run, to sprint among the sculpture.

I held my breath for the sculpture juxtaposed with the mall in the background.

I imagined.

164I let them draw me in.

I soaked in the shadows and light.

I remembered the joy of leap frog.

I left  with a smile. . . wanting to return and thinking about expectation.

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