Clifton, NJ sculpture park brings art, beauty to municipal complex
CLIFTON — Since 1994, a 26-acre area that contains this city's municipal building, courthouse, police station, and recycling center has been beautified by the generous contributions of sculptors displaying their creations in the outdoor space between each building on site.
Taking inspiration from Mercer County's Grounds for Sculpture, in Hamilton Township, the sculpture park prefaced the opening of the Clifton Arts Center in 2000, but the sculptures are now considered part of the center.
These grounds were formerly used as a quarantine station for hooved animals coming into the United States, and Roxanne Cammilleri, director of the Arts Center and Sculpture Park, said the history of this particular section of Clifton stretches "from the footprints of the animals to the footsteps of the people."
One of the sculptors who has added to the park over the years, Michael Bertelli, first approached its creator, the late Dr. Jerry Raphael, about possibly having some of his art included.
After Raphael died, Bertelli became the park's curator.
He said the Sculpture Park is "a work in progress, and forever shall be."
Part of that is because of its natural setting, in the middle of the operations of numerous city departments that have themselves become more influential in its sustainability over time.
"It's all about environment, so people are beginning to realize how you can recycle your environment, how you can change your environment, and look at it differently through art," Cammilleri said.
After World War II, the federal government sold the land to the city, meaning it will continue to be a protected space.
That said, not all the sculptures are permanent fixtures. Bertelli said one or two are taken down each year, given back to the artists who loaned them, and two or three new ones are installed with the financial assistance of the Arts Center's nonprofit board.
Currently the city lists 33 sculptures on display, the works of nearly two dozen creators.
What the changing roster means is that there is no theme to the Sculpture Park, an eclecticism that Bertelli said works in its favor.
"We get so much traffic going through there, I would bet there's not a sculpture park in the world that sees more traffic than we do," he said. "They're not all coming to look at the sculpture, but it's in their face."
Find out more about the exhibits at the Clifton Arts Center & Sculpture Park by clicking here.