This summer isn’t much like other summers. So, instead of continuing to state the obvious, here’s a list of some of the best free outdoor art experiences for kids, all across the country. We hope that this will open up fun ways to stay engaged with art while staying safe this summer, whether it be with your family or a socially distanced field trip with your class!
Even better, create a walking tour of as many as you want in a particular neighborhood, to stimulate exploration, curiosity, and inspiration.
This well-researched list of free outdoor activities is just a small part of the Á La Carte art resources section of IPaintMyMind’s newly available Arts Education Curriculum & Resource Guide. This 88+ page booklet is a customizable resource-building tool to help teachers, parents, and administrators deliver stellar arts education, whether it be virtually, through a hybrid model, or through homeschooling. Available for a limited time at the discounted price of $197 (valued at over $2,000!), the Arts Education Curriculum & Resource Guide includes customizable timelines, a learning framework that can be adapted to any situation, 20+ prompts, and 18 art activities and lesson plans.
And, just to add more to this behemoth of an Art Guide, this list is a sneak peek into the kinds of amazing bonus art activities, resources, and ideas we threw. in, just for you!
If you want to learn even more about this truly invaluable resource, check out our informative website page about this unique digital art curriculum.
And, here is another link to purchase the curriculum on a very well-known and often used platform for resources for teachers, Teachers Pay Teachers.
Part of the Walker Arts Center, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is a massive outdoor garden of 3D art, which requires no tickets for entry. Filled with the work of famous artists, this walkable art tour is really world class. Bring a picnic for a leisurely day of strolling and appreciating fine art.
The Crown Fountain is a classic fixture of any Chicago summer. These days, it might be one of the only components of summer fun remaining the same in the Windy City. The twin fountains, designed by Jaume Plensa, consist of two 50-foot glass block towers with blown-up faces of Chicagoans who spout water down onto the plaza between them. These faces represent people from all over the city, replacing the traditional motif of the gargoyle, guardian of classical fountains. The plaza is open to the public, allowing kids to run around in the mist and splash. Wood benches line the plaza, allowing for those who don’t want to get wet to sit and observe the fun.
This immersive art experience takes up a whole neighborhood of Detroit’s East Side. Created by visionary artist Tyree Guyton, the Heidelberg Project was his effort to revitalize his childhood neighborhood with vibrant art. Cleaning up and painting empty lots, abandoned houses, and dilapidated storefronts, as well as streets, trees, and his neighbors, Guyton involved his community making their blocks literal pieces of art. His bright and graphic style makes a visit to this neighborhood a real treat. The Heidelberg Project is also offering a free app to take you on a outdoor guided tour, called the Heidelberg Project App!
The 100 Gates Project is an incredible community arts effort spanning large areas of New York City. Looking around NYC, the roll-down metal security gates often fade into the background. Meant to protect the independent small businesses which make up the soul of the city, the security gates were definitely not designed with aesthetics in mind. The Lower East Side Project saw this, and decided to make these gates a tool for beauty and creativity. They invited local artists to decorate these gates, originally hoping to reach 100, but today closing in on a staggering 400! These gates are gorgeous and artistically diverse. Peppered all over Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Staten Island, there might be a few near you!
The Great Wall of LA is a great example of visual storytelling! Conceptualized by Judy Baca, and executed by over 400 local youth and families, the Great Wall tells the story of LA — that is, the real story. The mural starts from prehistoric times and reaches into the 1950’s, illustrating how the great city of LA was built by immigrants and people of color. This mural is a landmark and nationally recognized as a critical piece of art history, as well as a revolutionary treatment of the city’s history. The half mile outdoor mural and accompanying park and bike trail is a must-see for Angelonians and transplants alike. Get empowered and inspired by this accessible deep dive into LA history!
The whimsical and fun Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen fountain is a crowd-pleaser. The colorful and tactile forms that make up the fountain resemble abstract slices of fruit and their peels. The shapes swoop and slide, making visual chaos into organic, non-hierarchical harmony. The addition of water to the sculpture makes this piece even more exciting. You’ll just want to run up and dive straight in!
The Atlanta BeltLine is really several projects rolled into one. An ambitious development of 33 miles of outdoor multi-use trails, 22 miles of accessible public transit, thousands of jobs, acres of new parkland, and units of affordable housing. Amongst it all, seven miles of the BeltLine trail are host to over 450 art pieces and installations. Sculptures, 2D pieces, and huge installations by upcoming contemporary artists are sprinkled throughout the trail. Whether you walk a section of it, or bike the whole way, the BeltLine is an exciting way to get a glimpse of Atlanta’s creative pulse. And keep checking back, because they rotate art frequently and are often host to performance artists and musicians!
This drop-dead gorgeous performance space is a James Turrell masterpiece. If you’re familiar with the name, you’ll know that Turrell manipulates shape and light to create entirely unique visual experiences. Besides being a formally gorgeous building, with an interesting pyramidal structure, this structure is worth a visit because of what happens every morning and night. Forty minutes before sunrise and ten minutes before sunset, a gorgeous LED light sequence is projected out of the aperture in the building’s roof. The 40 minute composition echoes gorgeously with the natural light show that the sun puts on daily. If you’ve been craving a performance in the post-COVID world, this outdoor one doesn’t require you to get close to anyone else. Check it out!
The Fremont Troll is the Aurora Bridge’s solitary resident. He’s a massive 18 ft troll made from 2 tons of poured concrete and rebar steel, holding a Volkswagen Beetle in his left hand. The Fremont Troll is an icon, drawing visitors of all ages to climb and play on his back. Designed by Steve Badanes, the Troll was a champion of a public art competition in 1989, meant to beautify the area. The Aurora Bridge had a long legacy of troll sightings under and around it. The Fremont Troll is a tribute to all of these trolls of legend! Come play on the friendliest troll around.
Kick Flip Sequence is a bright addition to a popular Albuquerque skate park. Designed by the artist Micheal Whiting, the piece features three steel pixel figures, executing a kickflip on their skateboards. The figures are done in bright orange, red, and yellow, and strikingly set on the edge of the park. They’re friendly and fun, and encourage visitors to climb and explore their surface. They might even inspire you to try out your kickflip — or maybe just to be safe, let’s start with an ollie.
The Blue Bear, officially titled “I See What You Mean”, is a classic part of Denver’s visual landscape. Peering into the Colorado Convention Center, the three-story blue bear subverts some of Colorado’s ubiquitous imagery. Local artist Lawrence Argent wanted to honor Denver’s unique character while creating something that expresses how modern and fast-paced it had become. The Blue Bear’s craggy, rough texture mimics the iconic mountains of Denver, and the imagery of the bear is classically Colorado. However, with the massive size and bright blue of the bear, Argent keeps this piece fun, relevant, and a real wonder to see in person!
The Grotto is a 62 acre Catholic shrine, full of gorgeous statues, gardens, and diverse landscapes. Although it is run by a religious group, the Grotto is free and open to everyone. It is a beautiful way to spend a day, and appreciate some nature. Plus, the gardens are full of mysterious hidden statues, grottos, and caves which make for great adventures. You don’t have to be Catholic to enjoy the art, nature, and peaceful surroundings offered by the Grotto.
Aptly named, these seemingly endless gardens will truly transport you to a land of wonder and awe. Mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar created this massive work over an almost 20 year period, spanning 1991-2008. He has lovingly coated the streets, buildings, and even underground tunnels with mirrors, handmade tiles, bottles, and found objects. The sprawling spaces are full of beautiful sparkling imagery, gorgeous snippets of poetry, and sculptural elements. You will love exploring this mysterious and joyful outdoor space! Note: spaces must be reserved due to COVID-19 restrictions.
We wish you a happy visit. If you have any other great outdoor recommendations, please send them our way! And remember to check our blog for more resources, activity ideas, and lists of fun places to visit.
Purchase our Arts Education Curriculum & Resource Guide and get access to the rest of our top-tier activities, lesson plans, field trip ideas, curriculum structure, and more, right here.
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