LINCOLN - “When it snows, it’s magical,” said Julie Bernson, deputy director for learning and engagement at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln. We were looking out at a picturesque wintry landscape: rolling hills covered in snowy meringue and flanked by frosty woodlands. But this winter scene was even more dramatic than most: rising from the white-blanketed countryside were colorful, whimsical sculptures. “It’s beautiful all year-round, but in winter, you can see sculptures you don’t necessarily notice in the leafy fullness of summer,” Bernson said.
In the distance we saw a small group of children and adults snowshoeing across the hill, making tracks in the freshly fallen snow. Young children bounded ahead of the group as they made their way to Jim Dine’s “Two Big Black Hearts” sculpture. The giant bronze, all the more striking against the stark white backdrop, is one of about 65 sculptures on display at the deCordova’s 35-acre campus of lawns, forests, and fields along the shore of Flint’s Pond. The group moved in for a closer look to see casts of objects, like seashells and tools, and the handprints of the artist, imprinted on the hearts. Before long, they were on the move again, heading across the field for another close-up look at the next sculpture.
If you think museums are hushed-up, don’t-touch, inside experiences, you haven’t been to the deCordova in a while. This award-winning, indoor-outdoor cultural space, just 20 miles northwest of Boston, is all about getting folks of all ages involved, with a slew of hands-on, fun programs.
“We’ve always had programs for toddlers and young children,” said Bernson, “but there’s a renewed focus to get people of all ages more fully involved, with hands-on, active experiences.”
The museum’s guided snowshoe hike is one popular example. On the 90-minute tour, with an Eastern Mountain Sports instructor, who offers tips on how to snowshoe, and a museum guide, kids and adults alike get a playful (and often insightful) look at some of the museum’s most beloved sculptures. You’ll snowshoe to “Lincoln,” by DeWitt Godfrey, the rubber-band-like steel sculpture that seems to creep across the landscape; the vibrantly-colored “Buzzing It Down” aluminum tower by Gary Webb; and “Five Brushstrokes” by Roy Lichtenstein, the boldly-painted, 20-foot-tall aluminum stack of three flowing brushstrokes with two smaller ones. Along the way, feel free to make snow angels and toss snowballs.
“Most adult programs are passive,” Bernson said. “It’s fun to see adults jump in, even if they don’t have kids with them.”
We headed outside in time to see a little girl run up to “Otter,” a smooth, nearly surreal sculpture of a standing otter with a human head. “Look, Grandma!” she shouted to her trailing companion. “I think he’s cute!” The woman giggled, then took her granddaughter’s hand as they snowshoed down the path.
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.