Whimsical Annmarie Sculpture Garden (AMG) is the perfect day trip for any traveler visiting Washington, DC, Baltimore, or Annapolis on their summer road trip. But it also should be on regular rotation for locals in the DMV.
Art + Nature = Annmarie Gardens (AMG). It is located at Solomons, Maryland, where the Patuxent River meets the Chesapeake Bay.
“Discover the possibilities where Art and Nature meet.”Annmarie Sculpture Garden
Follow the 1/4-mile walking path that curves and bolts past permanent and loaned sculpture. The whimsical Annmarie Sculpture Garden features over 30 works on loan from the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art. Artists in the collection include: Antonio Tobias Mendez, Barbara Hepworth, Cesar, Robert Engman, Jean Arp, Kenneth Snelson, and Fransisco Zuniga, according to the AMG website.
This “not-a-big-city” outdoor sculpture garden is whimsical, wonderful, and wild. It’s a place where you take your dog for Art 101 classes. And your children will dance with the tiny people at the Fairy Garden each year.
I decided to visit in April after reading a Washington Post article about the best way to discover art during a pandemic is outdoor sculpture gardens. In addition to reviewing such high-profile venues as the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden and Glenstone Museum, the writer gave an enthusiastic thumbs up to AMG.
“The AnnMarie Sculpture Garden in Calvert County is a magical place to encounter art.”Washington Post
Curious I hopped in my car to investigate. I have lived here my whole life. I love outdoor sculpture venues. How did I not know about this museum in southern Maryland? Sadly, it may be one of the best-kept secrets in the DMV. But this clearly changed during the pandemic as people flocked to outdoor venues.
“While our annual overall attendance numbers stayed about the same, what we lost in large event attendance (due to covid crowd restrictions) we gained in an uptick of daily visitors from the DC/ Baltimore/VA metro area,” said Joann Foltz, Director of Marketing & Development at Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center.
You never feel crowded or shoved or hurried at whimsical AnnMarie Sculpture Garden. Picture a wooded walking path that meanders past huge sculptures planted on a lawn. Stop at the “Council Ring” to meditate. Explore 30 acres where art blooms.
The “Ekto” sculpture was created by Ed Rupard of Chesapeake Beach, Maryland. He used salvaged plumbling supplies. The sculpture reminds me of a pony prancing through the forest.
“Our visitors really respond to the whimsy here at Annmarie. We swap out our whimsical touches often, so people feel like each visit is different from the last,” said Foltz.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see four-legged creatures wander on the property to mingle with the sculpture installations. In fact, the deer love to visit wild & whimsical AnnMarie Sculpture Garden. “We currently know of four living within our fences. We also see raccoons, foxes, lots of rabbits, and squirrels. Thanks to the surrounding fields and waterways, we see lots of birds of prey like hawks, eagles, owls, and shorebirds like egrets and herons. Our butterfly gardens attract a broad assortment of pollinators as well,” said Foltz.
This is one reason why I so enjoyed The Bird; Uranus II sculpture (1957). Created by Etienne Hajdu (French, b. Romania), the bronze sculpture is on loan from the Hirshhorn Museum.
The venue’s “built-in audience” is locals. And who wouldn’t want to regularly visit a place where art is honored on a pedestal? “Our southern Maryland community, particularly Calvert and St Mary’s County residents are the heart of our AMG family. While we do pull from the mid-Atlantic region and enjoy visits from out-of-town tourists, the love and support from Southern Maryland (SoMD) families are what keep us going! Our gallery exhibitions highlight artists from all over the U.S, but you can always find local artists represented in our indoor and outdoor collection,” said Foltz.
A Surveyor’s Map
Architecturally, the most riveting sculpture is A Surveyor’s Map. It was created by Jan Rose Queralt and Roma Campanile. Commissioned by AMG, the wood and steel structure is dramatic, oversized and interactive. Whether a child or adult, this sculpture begs to be climbed. No signs read “KEEP DISTANCE.”
I am fascinated by the artists’ statement: “The boardwalk through the woods provides an experience of place at different levels and from different perspectives. This work of art reflects the roads, crossroads, zig zags, and benchmarks that constitute one’s memories, like a surveyor’s map. Process, change, and memory are integrated in the experience. Inscriptions taken from interviews with residents from Calvert County reflect the community at large and its collective memory; over time the words will be worn away by the footsteps of others, just as a memory can fade with time.”
There are so many examples of local Maryland artists on display at the whimsical Annmarie Sculpture Garden, including Janna Rosen-Queralt and Roma Campanile (Baltimore), Lee Aks (Bethesda), and Tom Yates (Stevensville).
But Yates is my favorite sculptor. He creates the Forest of Faces exhibit. He used driftwood to carve these old men of the woods. They remind me of the Nordic gods in mythology.
My absolute favorite art event at AMG is the annual fairy fest—Fairy & Gnome Home Festival. Calling all kids (plus adults who keep fairy cottages in their home gardens.)
“Fairies in the Garden started 12 years ago as a small community art call for a temporary exhibition. AMG staff felt the quiet mossy trails and banks of ferns were the ideal spot for fairies to frolic! We noticed how our visitors responded to the whimsical touches we would hide along the sculpture trail in and among the noteworthy Hirshhorn sculptures. We liked this playful balance. We were surprised how quickly the Fairy House hunt caught on, and we ran with it!” explained Foltz.
From April to September, come see the fairies at play in their huts and castles. This special exhibition features over 100 fairy castles. It is part of the museum’s annual “Fairies in the Garden 2021” outdoor installation. It is billed as “low touch or no-touch” fun. (Due to Covid, visitors are requested to wear their masks wherever they cannot keep six feet distant at the Annmarie Sculpture Garden.
Below is my list of 10 favorite sculptures at Annmarie Sculpture Garden.
The Council Ring
Created by Amore and Wood Dorsey (Kokoro Carvers, Vermont), The Council Ring was created as “an oasis in the heart of the garden to serve as a place of quiet refuge and reflection.” (Artist Statement)
It is indeed a “wonderful destination” for any AMG visitor. I can imagine a poet or writer standing in the middle of the circle to read to her audience. Behind her looms the dark woods, gleaming silver sculptures and svelte lawn. AMG uses this sculpture as a setting for artistic presentations.
Created from Georgia marble, this abstract sculpture soars to the sky. Its form is reminscent of a woman looking up at the sky. But it could also represent the Potomac River as it curves and cuts its way through the land.
Francisco Zuniga (Mexican, b. San Jose, Costa Rica) created this bronze statue. She represented Mother Nature to me. Her wide lap seemed to welcome all. I can just imagine a classroom of preschoolers sitting around her in a circle. It is on loan from the Hirshhorn Museum.
Castle of the Eye
This monolithic carrara marble column could equally fit as an office skyscraper in Manhattan as a sculpture in Solomons, Maryland. I think the sculpture’s name clearly denotes that the artist saw it as a place of escape.
Clearly, the meaning of this abstract form is in the “eye” of the beholder. Minoru Nilzuma (American, b. Japan) is the sculptor. It is on loan from the Hirshhorn Museum.
Inside the shape of a large hand, raised as a palm, toward the viewer, a forest elf stares out at me. This gigantic hand could be waving in peace or stopping further entry to the forest. But it clearly dominates its space on the forest floor.
Sorel Etrog (Canadian, b. Romania) created the bronze statue. It is on loan from the Hirshhorn Museum.
Forest of Faces
Tom Yates (Stevensville) created the old men of the forest. They are hidden away in a grove deep into the venue so you really feel like they are hidden. I almost felt like they might jump up and grab me!
Birds of Prey
I am most impressed by the hand carved wood sculptures that I found planted deep in the woods. At first glance, I actually thought they were real birds!
Sun Burst II
Jean Jinho Kim created this colorful ecletric sculpture that dominates the front entrance of Annmarie Sculpture Garden. She used downspouts, elbows, automotive paint and artificial tree. The sculpture is on loan from the artists.
Mother and Child
This bronze sculpture is on loan from the Hirshhorn Museum. The artist is Sorel Etrog (Canadian, b. Romania).
Girl With Braids
Also on loan from the Hirshhorn, this bronze sculpture (1950) is part of AMG’s The Women’s Walk. The artist is Gerhard Marcks (German, b. Berlin). I am not going to share more because this will probably be the focus for a future article.
As a non-profit organization, Annmarie relies on donations from visitors. Visitors should leave $5 per person. The Garden is owned and supported by the Board of Calvert County Commissioners. TripAdvisor ranks Annmarie Sculpture Garden as #2 of 20 things to do in Solomons.