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The "Chop Stick" art installation at The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park: 100 Acres / Image courtesy of Newfields // Published: 9.26.17

This Indiana Sculpture Park Is Full Of Art You Can Actually Play On

A park is a park is a park, right? Not if you’re talking about the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park in Indianapolis, a short two-hour drive from Cincy.

The 100-acre park is just one section of the expansive Indianapolis Museum of Art (which just rebranded as Newfields: A Place for Nature and the Arts). In total, 152 acres of gardens, grounds, and art museums boast collections by the likes of Georges Seurat, Paul Gauguin, and J.M.W. Turner.

That’s all to look at, and by contrast, the Art & Nature Park is to touch, climb, and even jump on. Launched in 2010, the park has been lauded as a new model for site-responsive sculpture parks in the 21st century and is one of a handful of sculpture parks in the United States dedicated to the ongoing commission of site-responsive art work.

So, what exactly, does “site-responsive artwork” entail? At The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park, that means installations like “Free Basket” by the Cuban artist group Los Carpinteros. Drawing on Indiana’s long history with basketball, the interactive art experience is comprised of large blue and red steel arcs that mimic the trajectory of a bouncing ball. There’s even a hoop if you feel like playing a really interesting kind of pickup game.

Other notable installations include “Bench Around the Lake,” by Jeppe Hein, a Danish artist who created a series of long yellow benches meant to challenge the notion that a bench is made for sitting. Through twists and turns and the occasional dip underground, the benches interact with the various environments they’re in. There’s also Atelier Van Leshout’s “Funky Bones,” (which made an appearance in the 2014 film The Fault in Our Stars) comprised of 20 fiberglass benches that when taken together, look like an enormous, stylized human skeleton. When you need a break from all that activity, there’s “Chop Stick,” created by the Swedish architecture duo visiondivision, which offers a place to sit, swing, and enjoy refreshments in an outdoor pavilion crafted almost entirely from a single 100-foot tall tulip tree.

Suffice to say, this isn’t your usual art museum -- it’s art you can play on. Consider us sustaining members.

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