Open: 365 days a year
Location: Kelly Drive north of the boathouses (you will need to park above or below in one of the free parking areas and walk to the memorial)
What is it? Three terraces with seventeen sculptures, some landscaping, and benches.
This memorial sculpture garden is maintained by the Association for Public Art, formerly the Fairmount Park Art Association.
Ellen Phillips Samuel (1849-1913) was an active member of the Fairmount Park Art Association (although she could not serve on the all-male Board!!) and a philanthropic supporter of many cultural activities in Philadelphia. When she died in 1913, she left the bulk of her estate in trust to the Art Association, specifying that the income be used to create a series of sculptural monuments. Thematically, the sculptures were to be about the history of the United States, particularly the establishment of the nation, the development of democracy, and foundational ideas.
To identify sculptors, three international exhibitions were organized at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. These Sculpture Internationals, in 1933, 1940, and 1949, brought together the works of hundreds of sculptors from the United States and abroad. The sculptors chosen largely represented well-established realist artists, with the exception of Jacques Lipchitz who is generally associated with cubism. However, even his massive sculpture in the Memorial, The Spirit of Enterprise 1950-1960 (below), is representational rather than abstract.
The webpages about the Memorial have an excellent “Museum Without Walls” audio. It’s very informative and I highly recommend it.
The Poet by Jose de Creet (1954)
How do these outdoor sculptures differ from those you saw at Grounds for Sculpture?
Many of the ones at Grounds for Sculpture are abstract. They’re made of many types of materials. Of course there are many more there. And some of them are humorous. These are very serious.
Welcoming to Freedom by Maurice Sterne (1939)
These sculptures are supposed to represent the history of and ideas about the development of America. Do you think they succeed in doing that?
To some extent. It depends on what you bring to it. There is a figure called The Slave, but that’s all about Black people. And almost all the figures are male, which I guess represents a lot about America until recently.
Would you bring a friend here?
Yeah, probably. It’s a nice place to sit and look at the river. The semi-circle stone bench is like a whispering structure. The day we were there it was quiet and peaceful.
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