I’m embarrassed to say that I did not know as much about Griffis Sculpture Park as I thought I did. Sure I remember a field trip for school way back when, but I think at that age I was a great deal more concerned about whether or not my light-up sketchers made me run faster (they did). I remembered the gist of it, and went back a handful of times since then, always to the same stretch of land and never for very long. So when I sat down to write this, I realized that beyond describing the same handful of sculptures I always went to see, I really couldn’t talk about the park in any meaningful way. To remedy this, I spent an afternoon in the park, really made an effort to see all I could see. And I couldn’t do it. It’s too big. The park has over 400 acres of land and 250 sculptures! I had no idea. But while I was there, I discovered that the park even puts on a range of events: from nighttime lighting events, to yoga, to educational events and interactive workshops. However, the event that really grabbed my attention was the upcoming Summer Festival.
First, some history: the park’s founder, Larry Griffis, Jr., grew up in Buffalo, but not as an artist. After fighting in WWII, starting a family, and running a successful hosiery company, Larry Griffis, Jr. decided to leave the States and move to Rome to learn the art of bronze casting. Griffis already had secured the commission for his first sculpture, the Spirit of Womanhood, which served as quite the motivation to learn his craft with speed and precision. It was in Italy, amongst the ancient ruins of Hadrian’s Villa where Griffis was inspired to create the first outdoor sculpture park. Rather than the impersonal and formal atmosphere of a museum, he realized the importance of physical interaction with artwork in a natural setting.
On his return from Italy, Griffis made it his mission to create a haven for imagination and play for his fellow neighbors to enjoy. After briefly being located at the top of Kissing Bridge Ski Resort, the park was eventually established in Ashford Hollow - between Springville and Ellicottville. Griffis Sculpture Park started with a generous gift from Larry’s mother, Ruth, of 125 acres of farm land. As the park’s needs grew, so did the property, until it became the vast sprawl of artwork that you will see there today. And what better way to enjoy this regional gem than with good music and food?
In celebration of creativity, the park will host musical performances from some of the region’s best musicians, tours of the park, children crafts and activities, artists creating works, and much more. Park goers are encouraged to see the 250 sculptures that reside throughout the walking trails of the park, making it the United States’ largest outdoor sculpture park. Performances include Funktional Flow (see next page), Sly Boots School of Music, Sonder, and Kaleidoscope Sky.
The Summer Festival will take place on Sunday, August 21 from noon-7pm. Admission will be $10 for adults, free for children ages 12 and under. All events will take place on the top of the hill at the Mill Valley site of the park. It is a short walk to the site of the festival, so the park asks that you come prepared with proper footwear, as well as some blankets and coolers to assist in the R&R. There will be a food booth, as well as a beer and wine garden on-site.
The park has a history of successful musical events. Locals may remember when 6,000 fans saw 10,000 Maniacs play a benefit concert. The Band also played a show at the park in the mid-1990s. And “The Canadian Invasion” in 1994 featured an impressive collection of Canadian bands, including Lowest of the Low, 54-40, and Blue Rodeo.
Griffis Sculpture Park is owned and operated by the Ashford Hollow Foundation, which also owns the Essex Arts Center in Buffalo, NY. The mission of the Ashford Hollow Foundation is “to promote the visual and performing arts as well as construct a dynamic relationship between the arts and education in Western New York to better its young people and the greater community.” Please show your support by attending this summer’s greatest festival of art and creativity.