Friday, May 28, 2010

Lynden Sculpture Garden opens Sunday - Yes!

The public is about to be let in on one of Milwaukee’s best kept secrets. For decades the Bradley Sculpture Garden remained invisible to drivers passing by on busy Brown Deer Road. A tall fence of weather-worn vertical timbers, like the ramparts of a colonial era pioneer outpost, kept the treasures inside from view.

Once a year, in August, the public was invited to a “garden party,” so it wasn’t a complete secret. Although the public wasn’t admitted—except for that one day each year—hundreds of school children, along with their teachers, were able to take tours of the garden led by docents from the Milwaukee Art Museum. That is how I was introduced to the remarkable collection of modern sculptures behind the mysterious wall. I felt privileged, but as an arts educator, it was a guilty pleasure. My natural instinct is to make art accessible to all and I always wished that the gardens would be opened for everyone to enjoy.

On Sunday my wish comes true.

With a new name and mission to serve the public, the Lynden Sculpture Garden has its grand opening from noon to 5 pm on Sunday, May 30. I’ve been there many times and I plan to go. If you’ve never been there, now’s the chance. The sculpture alone is worth the $5 price of admission, but it wouldn’t be a grand opening without additional festivities. (Check it all out on the Lynden Garden website.)

Because they were all purchased by Mrs. Bradley during the 1960’s and 70’s, the collection has a marvelous cohesion. Her taste ran mostly to abstraction, as these few samples illustrate, but the polka dotted cows by Samuel Buri “grazing” on the edge of the pond are a delightful exception.

There is something magical about situating abstract sculptures in a landscape like this. I’ve spent too many hours trying to explain minimalism to skeptical high school students, but when I bring them to this place and they see it against the carefully groomed hills, pond, and trees of the garden, it just seems right.

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