The Lowcountry has a long history of attracting talented artists and creative minds, one of which helped create the finest collection of American figurative sculpture in the world – Brookgreen Gardens.
Located a short drive from Charleston on Highway 17 between Murrells Inlet and Pawleys Island, Brookgreen Gardens was the country’s first outdoor sculpture museum. Today, it’s home to more than 2,000 works by 425 artists displayed in a stunning botanical garden setting, as well as traditional indoor galleries.
One of the Lowcountry’s many hidden treasures, Brookgreen was the brainchild of Anna Hyatt Huntington – one of the most successful and important sculptors of the early 20th century. Its mission from the beginning was simple: “to get, if possible, what represents each sculptor at his best.”
A living history of American figurative sculpture, Brookgreen Gardens offers visitors works from artists that might otherwise only be available in larger metropolitan cities like New York and Chicago. You can stroll through the gardens on a guided tour or explore on your own.
“The word ‘museum’ is not part of our name, but that’s absolutely what we are,” says Lauren Joseph, marketing director of Brookgreen Gardens. It’s one of a few select places in the U.S. to have earned accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, as well as being designated a National Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
While many of Brookgreen’s sculptures are part of their permanent collection, others are part of traveling exhibits and can only be seen during select times throughout the year.
Rod Zullo’s sculpture, Ode to the West Wind II, is one of the more recent additions to the permanent collection. As an artist, Zullo likens traveling to Brookgreen Gardens to a golfer traveling to Augusta National.
Each year, Brookgreen also hosts a series of sculpture exhibits featuring major works of contemporary sculpture. Most notable is the National Sculpture Society Annual Awards exhibition, which celebrates its 85th year when it returns from Aug. 11 to Oct. 29.
The juried show is an excellent opportunity to view sculptures from both up-and-coming artists and those already established. During this time, select works may also be available for purchase.
Don’t be intimidated by the caliber of art on display. Brookgreen is as much for history buffs, nature lovers and families as it is for the art aficionado.
Parents can help foster an early love of art in their children by picking up a copy of the Brookgreen Detectives booklet at the welcome center. The scavenger hunt game helps kids unplug and engage with the beauty around them by searching for various sculptures throughout the park.
Visit Brookgreen Gardens to see the finest collection of American figurative sculpture in the world from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Learn more about current exhibits and upcoming events at Brookgreen.org or call (843) 235-6000.