Josephine Sculpture Park

Josephine Sculpture Park

By Melanie VanHouten

Our (not so) brief history:

What once was our family farm, has now become the home of Frankfort’s Josephine Sculpture Park, and arguably, the only one of its kind in the state. But there is now more to explore than just old farm equipment and dilapidated sheds…we strive to recreate the wonder that I remember so vividly from my childhood and to share this with the community.

Josephine Sculpture Park is a non-profit arts organization that strives to connect our community with the land through the arts. Our mission is to provide community arts education and creative experiences while conserving the beauty of our native, rural landscape. We strive to establish an environment where each member of our diverse community can begin to experience art on his and her own terms, in this place where there are no white walls or financial obstacles to overcome. The park is free and open every day from dawn until dusk.

The park opened on September 27, 2009 and is situated on a 10 acre plot of rolling hills, adjacent to US HWY 127 south at 3355 Lawrenceburg Rd. in Frankfort, KY. This was once farmland and we were determined to maintain it as a green space where kids and families can explore the outdoors and create new memories together, complete with cardinals, Joe Pye Weed, caterpillars and Queen Anne’s Lace!

Community / volunteer opportunities

We believe that arts education and creative experiences empower individuals and open paths to new ways of thinking. They encourage people to see the full potential of his or her being. With this basic philosophy in mind, we are free and open every day. We also offer free guided tours on the 1st Thursday of every month at 10am (April – November), and always by appointment. We will soon offer “kids make sculpture,” drawing
and large scale mural painting workshops at a minimal cost to each participant.

Our amphitheater is available for anyone to use at anytime: musicians, storytellers, actors and dancers are welcome to practice in the space or use it for actual performances. Applications from schools, community groups or individuals are encouraged. The application process is very open
and is absolutely not “juried.”

Currently the park functions are all volunteer and donation supported. Many hours of labor and in-kind donations have gone into clean up, maintenance, sculptural installation, and opening day events. We are so grateful to everyone who has helped make JSP a reality, we exist thanks to your support!

Artist opportunities

Artists are invited to submit proposals to exhibit their work at the park or to teach workshops; they are encouraged to experiment and to try things here that they may not have had the opportunity to create anywhere else. We exhibit the work of emerging, mid career, professional and outsider or self taught artists. We anticipate that with future funding we can develop the artist residency programs, enabling us to provide fellowships and residence to a juried group of artists each year.

We are currently accepting submissions for 2010. We are organizing an exhibition and fall event that will coincide with the World Equestrian Games. This exhibition will highlight Kentucky artists exploring our traditional crafts through contemporary outdoor sculpture and earth works. The works need not be of traditional materials or forms. Deadline for submissions is March 31, 2010. We are also developing programs for emerging artist internships at the High School and University levels. We envision interns working alongside experienced resident artists assisting in the construction and installation of their work on site.
See our website for more information about all the artist opportunities:

JSP Vision

Our vision is that we will provide a unique opportunity for the public to interact with the artwork and the artists who are creating that work on a daily basis among the slender wildflowers and soft native grasses. It is an environment where the experimentation of the artist leads to great adventures for visitors of every age and culture to explore. An artist residency program that will support emerging and professional artists by granting a combined residency, studio and rotating exhibition space will encourage our community to grow together through shared artistic experiences and responsible land stewardship.

Any questions regarding artist opportunities at JSP, please contact Artistic Director Melanie VanHouten at, or call the park at 502.352.7082.

Interview with Melanie VanHouten By Bruce Burris at Institute 193

Last September I came across a rather brief AP article in the Herald-Leader about Melanie VanHouten and the opening of Josephine Sculpture Park in Frankfort. It was a surprise to me because the Central Kentucky arts community is small and though I certainly don’t profess to know about all that goes on, I had not heard of her ambitious project nor did anyone I mentioned it to over the next few weeks.

Recently I had a chance to meet Melanie and she discussed her plans for the sculpture park with me. There are many things I really admire about Melanie and I believe that Josephine Sculpture Park adds another one of the pieces we have been missing in our attempts to create a more robust arts community here. Melanie has many ideas about how to get people involved in outdoor sculpture; and her desire to create a residency component will allow those from around the world as well as Kentucky to spend considerable amounts of time creating work here. I also like the idea that much of the work at the sculpture park is created from unorthodox materials and in a very positive way (I think) it will help us evolve in our concept of what varieties of sculpture (in addition to metal) might occupy our public space.

As a kid, growing up in Frankfort, KY did you know you were an artist?
I have always made art, although as a child I knew it as play. I was a builder of forts and a collector of junk and my family was always supportive of my interest in art, supplying me with crayons and paints. I remember
days spent out at my grandparents’ farm, exploring for hours through the old sheds…that is still part of my process, it is all art.

What memories do you have from HS about art?
I always took art classes, and they were good, but we didn’t get a lot of exposure to the arts in the real world. We did travel to the Speed Museum in Louisville, once or twice. And the most memorable part of that trip was the docents trying to keep us from seeing the contemporary works. Of course we still all peered around the corner, just to catch a glimpse of the naked woman in the sculpture (sitting alongside two clothed men). We were moved quickly to the old tapestries, what I learned was that the real important art was very old. Although I

don’t remember what any of that stuff really looked like…I remember the Jackson Pollock and the naked woman, Hmmm….

Did you begin at UK as an art student?
I got very lucky. I entered with a major in Landscape Architecture, but after a year of not drawing anything, I went in search of another major. Long story short, I missed drawing so I took a class, but only because I missed it, and then I realized why that
was…I was an Artist!! I switched to Art Studio my Junior year and earned my BFA in sculpture in 98.

What happened after UK?
The UK Art Department really prepared me for graduate school. I was accepted and started my MFA program at the University of Minnesota in ‘99. I studied metal casting with Wayne Potratz and was the teaching assistant in the foundry.

So you stayed in Minneapolis for almost 10 years, what were you doing all that time?
I loved Minneapolis, and I loved that you could find art on just about every corner. I was in a tenure track position teaching sculpture at the College of St. Catherine, it was a great place, the career I had
always dreamed of. While I was still in grad school, a friend invited me out to Franconia Sculpture Park for the weekend and I was awestruck…I said to Andrew, “one day, when I move back to Kentucky, I am going to build a place like this on our old family farm.”

What was it about Franconia Sculpture Park that so strongly connected with you?
It was the energy among the solitude, the scale, the conversations between passersby and artists contemplating works in progress, the collaboration between inner city projects, local community groups, schools and artists who were working at all career levels. It was everything that I loved about making and experiencing art, it was raw and complete at the same time….

What brought you back to KY?

I could feel these connections that had existed in me for years between me and our farm and the land and community, home, giving back, and they were growing. Over the next nine years I became very involved in Franconia Sculpture Park on many different
levels. I referred to myself as a “Friend of the Park” and was available to do just about anything. Eventually, I submitted a proposal and was invited to serve as a Jerome Fellowship artist in Residence during the summer of 2007. These experiences were life changing and they solidified my commitment to move back to KY, to give something back to my community, to nurture artistic experiences