Reconnect with art and nature at Griffis Sculpture Park

Griffis Sculpture Park offers visitors the opportunity to reconnect with art and nature while safely enjoying the outdoors.

EAST OTTO — Deep within the woods of Ashford Hollow lies Griffis Sculpture Park, a hidden gem in the Enchanted Mountains region. The public garden and sculpture gallery is a place where nature meets art in a most beautiful and serene way.

For over five decades, visitors near and far have come to marvel at the more than 250 steel sculptures created by Larry Griffis Jr. and other international artists. The magnificent sculptures reside along the trails in the woods, fields and even ponds of the 450-acre interactive sculpture park.

Due to these challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic, the sculpture park opened early this year to provide visitors a safe sanctuary and the opportunity to reconnect with art and nature.

Executive Director Nila Lampman said this summer is an especially good time to visit the park and spend the day. She said it’s the perfect place to social distance while reconnecting to nature.

“We made the difficult decision to open our doors early this year. We typically open May 1, but we chose to open early this year, in March, to allow people to find solace in the 450-acre sculpture park highlighting art and nature,” she said. “We’ve had a great response from the public.”

The sculpture park usually hosts an annual Volunteer Day in April to prepare for the park’s opening. This gives people who love art and the great outdoors the opportunity to work on the trails, paint and do garbage pickup. Lampman said although they were not able to host the annual event, a few families came to help clear the trails.

For more than 40 years, the park has hosted free outdoor activities every Saturday in July and August for young and old alike but, like many summer activities across the nation, some may be on hold this year.

“We as an organization are still exploring the possibility of hosting our annual events at Griffis Sculpture Park while keeping the safety of our visitors at the highest priority,” Lampman said.

The park’s administrative team is continuing to follow updates from New York State Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation and will remain open to the public as long as New York State parks remain open.

While taking advantage of the outdoors, they ask visitors to follow the recommendations laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including social distancing and keeping a distance of 6 feet or more from other visitors.

“If New York chooses to close their public parks due to COVID-19, we too, unfortunately, will close,” Lampman said. “We hope the sculpture park brings you much joy during this time. Stay safe and healthy.”

Founded in 1967, the park is one of America’s oldest and largest sculpture parks and offers several miles of scenic hiking trails. The park is split into two sections, each with its own parking area.

The Rohr Hill Road site is characterized by its towering sculptures in the fields and woods just off the road. The Mill Valley Road site features miles of trails through a variety of terrain, including a semi-steep climb to the area that includes the outdoor stage for concerts and events in the park.

Guests can spend just an hour or two or an entire day exploring the park. Be sure to bring a picnic and some comfortable walking shoes to enjoy all the wonder and creativity the park has to offer.

Griffis Sculpture Park and the Essex Arts Center, in Buffalo, are both owned and operated by the Ashford Foundation. The arts center complex has many studios presently occupied by painters, musicians, sculptors, photographers, draftsmen, filmmakers and Big Orbit Gallery.

The sculpture park is open daily from dawn until dusk, May 1 through Oct. 31. Guests are asked to donate a general admission fee to the Sculpture Park of $5 per adult, $3 for seniors/students and children under 12 are free.

The main entrance to Griffis Sculpture Park is located at 6902 Mill Valley Road, East Otto, a short drive off of Route 219 between Ellicottville and Springville.

For visitors who want to see a large part of the collection from their vehicle, a second entrance can be found on Rohr Hill Road, off of Route 219. For more information, visit griffispark.org or search for Griffis Sculpture Park on Facebook.

(Contact press reporter Deb Everts at salpressdeb@gmail.com)