The National Archives overlooks the the fountain at the center of the Sculpture Garden

The National Archives overlooks the the fountain at the center of the Sculpture Garden. This fountain converts to an ice skating rink in the winter.

(Heather Burns photo)

Amongst the backdrop of these turbulent, political times, lies an artistic oasis surrounded by natural beauty.

Set on 6.1 acres between 7th and 9th Street in Washington D.C., The Na­tional Gallery of Art Sculp­ture Garden offers mind provoking works of modern art in the tranquil setting of a city botanical park.

When designs were first created for the National Mall by Charles Pierre L’Enfant in 1790, a public, landscaped garden was de­signed to be on the northside of Washington D.C.

In 1966, the White House announced plans to add sculptures to the site of this landscaped garden as an outdoor extension of the National Art Gal­lery.

The Sculpture Garden was designed by landscape architect Laurie Olin, and opened to the public in 1999.

The garden features 21 modern art sculptures from a variety of artists from around the world.

Some pieces, such as Hector Guimard's “An En­trance To the Paris Met­ropolitain” were created as early as 1902. Other pie­ces are mid-century modern, like the classic “Type­writer Era­ser,” created by Claes Ol­denburg.

Oldenburg received at­tention in the art world in the 1960’s and 70’s for his visualized public mon­uments based on common objects such as clothes pins, scissors, and the now extinct, typewriter eraser.

Pieces like the breathtaking “Graft,” created by artist Roxy Paine, were added to the collection in the garden in the early and mid 2000’s. The “Graft,” which was added to the collection in 2008, features a shiny, stainless steel, lifesize tree, which relates to the many ma­ture, natural trees in the garden.

Botanically speaking, there are 33 different varieties of trees in the garden, including elms, magnolias, oaks, and cedars.

Plantings of perennials, groundcover, shrubs and annual flowering plants finish off the pristine grounds surrounding these magnificent works of art in the gardens collection.

In the center of the garden there is a monumental water fountain that converts to an ice skating rink in the winter months. In the background of the fountain area, the impressive National Archives Buil­ding can be seen, ma­k­ing for a pleasant place to sit and relax and enjoy the view of the city of our nation’s capital.

To maintain all of this natural beauty, The Na­tional Gallery of Art has its own department of horticulture. This department not only maintains the lush beauty of the Sculpture Garden, but also the grounds around the museum, including the famous Tulip display around the fountain in early spring and the re­cent plantings of Magno­lia and Cherry trees next to the East Building of the museum.

While the outside gardens flourish in the warm months, staffers are busy in the National Gallery’s onsite greenhouses, pre­paring plantlife to be displayed in the museum during the winter months. Large flowering Hibiscus trees, Weeping Pussy Wil­lows, Christmas Poinset­tias, and Easter Lilies are just a few of the many plants that are moved in and out of the museum for display throughout the year.

The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden reopened to the public on June 20 after a shutdown due to the pandemic.

In keeping with COVID-19 restrictions, the garden has reduced their daily hours of operation to 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and are limiting the capacity with only one gate open for entry and another for exit to encourage a proper flow for social distancing.

The National Gallery of Art’s West Building ground floor galleries have also recently reopened to the public. Admission to both the garden and the gallery are free, but timed passes are required for the inside gallery, and can be ob­tained on their website www.nag.gov.

Just this past week, a peaceful Black Lives Mat­ter protest took place on the National Mall, which is just a stone's throw away from the tranquil Sculpture Garden. While political views, hate and fear still divide our great nation, The National Gal­lery of Art Sculpture Gar­den, with its peaceful ambience and natural beauty surrounded by centuries of history of our great nation, offers the seedling of hope to be planted for a better tomorrow.

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