BROOKLINE, N.H. — Little-known Andres Institute of Art Sculpture Park is a true hidden gem. Its outdoor gallery, spread across the slopes of Big Bear Mountain, is unexpected and extraordinary. Trails crisscross peaceful woods and traverse open plateaus leading to more than 70 original works by artists from around the world.
The outdoor Sculpture Park, one of the largest in New England, was the brainchild of engineer and innovator Paul Andres, who bought the 140-acre property in 1996, and began looking for sculptures to decorate the woods. That’s how he met local sculptor John M. Weidman. In 1998, they cofounded the Andres Institute of Art, which hosted its first sculpture symposium in 1999, inviting artists to create sculptures for permanent display in the park. Every year since, artists worldwide have been invited to the annual symposium to create what they like and place it where they want on the mountain.
When we visited for the first time, the unassuming entrance sign off Route 13 was easy to miss and gave little hint of the scope and quality of the work we were about to discover. We picked up a trail map at the self-service kiosk at the entrance and headed up Parkway Trail. Within a few steps we saw a set of guerrilla-style warriors lurking in the woods. “Ambush 1” by Colombian sculptor Carolina Mayorga was eerie; the rusted silhouetted figures seemed to be watching us as we walked by. Just beyond was a massive stone carving “The Boat” by Bulgarian artist Milen Vassilev. The 9-by-8½-foot sculpture featured a massive stone base cut with ripples and waves, topped with a crude granite-carved boat. We stopped at “Souls of Peace,” by Kenyan artist Gerard Motondi, a striking, 8-foot-tall, flowing figure, with its “soul” exposed. We’d barely left the parking lot, and we were already impressed.
We continued on, encountering no more than a handful of people along the way. There were several side trails and a variety of loop trails, all color coded, and lined with art. We walked the leafy, yellow-blazed Headwall Trail, traversing the mountain slope through sun-filtered woods. The short walk featured 12 sculptures. We followed the Summit Loop Trail to an open vista of the rolling Monadnock range. Perched on top of the summit was “Phoenix,” by Latvian sculptor Janis Karlovs, the park’s largest sculpture at 15 feet tall and 11 tons.
We worked our way back down the mountain along the Southway Trail, lined with 11 sculptures, including the whimsical “Touch Me,” by Maine sculptor Anne Alexander, a set of granite boulders with several smooth circles carved out of them. It was nearly impossible not to run our hands across the silky knobs. The artist wrote, “Please sit on these boulders and feel the pods as you reflect upon your life, your connections to people, and the natural world.”
We saved the best for last, taking the Quarry Trail on our way back to the parking lot. The granite quarry with stone slabs and giant boulders is the source for the artists’ materials. Water dripped from the quarry walls into a deep reflecting pond. Against the wet, damp walls, and mirrored in the water, hung two white granite teardrops, suspended by steel cables: “Memories,” by Jaya Schuerch, a native Californian now based abroad.
We took our own as we departed.
ANDRES INSTITUTE OF ART SCULPTURE PARK 98 Route 13, Brookline, N.H. 603-673-8441, www.andresinstitute.org. Open dawn to dusk, free.