Connecting Art and Nature at the Michigan Legacy Art Park

Last Updated on July 29, 2020 by Janet Frost

In my recent travels I have encountered a trend towards public art installations. Many cities have embraced urban mural art, as seen in my posts about Tucson, AZ or Dubuque, IA. Other urban settings are displaying temporary sculptures, creating a fun scavenger hunt through their cities. Bucky on Parade in Madison, WI  is a playful and colorful example. Art museums across the country are expanding their campuses to include some type of outdoor art. However, all of these are typically in an urban setting. I have rarely seen an art collection deep in the woods. That is until I discovered the Michigan Legacy Art Park, seamlessly connecting art and nature in western Michigan.

Let’s Go Learn Things about the Michigan Legacy Art Park….

Michigan Legacy Art Park Mission…to inspire awareness, appreciation and passion for Michigan’s history, culture and environment through the arts.

Public Art

What is the point of public art? Why are so many communities embracing this trend? An obvious answer is in the word “public”. Solemn art museums and posh art galleries intimidate a good portion of the public. But outdoor sculpture gardens, mural adorned city walls and serene nature trails are universally welcoming and accessible.

Michigan Legacy Art Park begged you to stop, take a moment and absorb the beauty.

Arts made available to all society can shape our consciousness, create a collective attitude, inspire, modify behavior, educate, honor history and reduce stress. I found myself effected on all these levels as I hiked the Michigan Legacy Art Park Trail.

Art and Nature Meet

art and nature
Trail Map

The park is 2 miles of moderately strenuous trails. The first short portion of the trail is paved and wheelchair accessible. After that, visitors have a choice of extending the loop with progressively steeper grades. There are 40 installations sharing the stories of the people, events and natural resources that continue to shape the legacy of Michigan.

Michigan’s Legacy

If you are aware at all of Michigan history you will know that the Lumber and Steel industries played a major role. Much of the art reflects these legacies. 

Lumber Industry

Steel Industry

Michigan’s Natural Forces

You can see how seamlessly these pieces are nestled into the natural setting. Each piece takes on a new dimension as the seasons change. 

Adventure in the Stockade Labyrinth

Just in case the hiking trail wasn’t adventurous enough, the founding artist, David Barr, created this stockade maze full of clues to Michigan’s history.

Art and Nature and a sense of Community

The Michigan Legacy Art Park encourages visitors of all ages to experience how art and nature enhance our lives. The Mo and Linda White Discovery Grove sits in the heart of the forest and offers the opportunity to create. Interpretive programs, such as school field trips and weekend drop-in sessions offer children and adults activities to develop a more personal relationship with art and nature. Another community program is the popular Summer Sounds Concert Series and the holiday Winter Sounds event. Guided tours feature artist led visitors to experience the art and nature on a deeper level. 

art and nature
Outdoor Amphitheater, home to the Summer Sounds Concert series.
Discovery Grove provides an outdoor workshop for local schools and visitors

Take a Load Off

Even the benches strewn along the trails were fascinating. I found myself sitting on many of them and taking the chance to absorb the art and nature around me. 

More opportunities to find Art and Nature

Prince George’s County in Maryland, just outside of D.C.,  shares  Art on the Trails with environmentally inspired sculptures. The Art on the Trails program recycles and repurposes materials found in nature and changes them into sculptures. The sculptures reflect native wildlife and the local

After experiencing the juxtaposition of art and nature at the Michigan Legacy Art Park, I am eager to discover other similar opportunities. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas proudly maintains over 3 miles of trails which wind through the Ozark landscape and helps guests form connections to art and nature. My fellow blogger at Everyday Wanderer highlights this pleasantly surprising art experience

Earlier in the summer I visited the Morton Arboretum in DuPage County, the western suburbs of Chicago. This year they are hosting a tribe of Trolls, a sculpture installations by Danish artist, Thomas Dambo. The gigantic ancient creatures are hiding throughout the 1,700 acres park. 

art and nature
My visit to the Morton Arboretum

In a more traditional setting, cities like Des Moines, IA and Minneapolis, MN have public sculpture gardens that bring a slice of art and nature to urban dwellers and visitors. 

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