New park in Frankfort specializes in sculpture

FRANKFORT — A Frankfort sculptor has transformed her grandparents' old farm into a public park where the scenery includes outdoor sculptures and community art works.

Melanie VanHouten was head of the sculpture program at the College of St. Catherine in Minnesota last year when she decided to return home and pursue the innovative project.

A year later, the 10-acre Josephine Sculpture Park has become a reality with 16 sculptures donated by 14 artists from across the country, The State Journal reported. It opens Sunday with a picnic and will be free to the public every day from dawn until dusk, the Frankfort newspaper said.

VanHouten, 34, said her childhood experiences planted the seeds for the farm's transformation.

"It was always really magical to me with all these sheds, fields and barns — all these places to explore," she said. "The energy there was so amazing."

But VanHouten said the park is "not just about dredging up old memories. It's about helping the community form new experiences and delve into worthwhile issues."

The idea behind the park is "young artists working along with seasoned professionals, and there will be a dialogue between the viewer and the artist," she said. "It's certainly not a white-walled museum."

Louisville sculptor Andrew Marsh is the first artist to work on the farm. VanHouten hopes to attract others and provide a place for them to live and work. With funding, she said, she might be able to offer stipends to interested artists.

"But that's something for the future," she said. "For now, we can just offer them a place to stay and work."

The park, named after VanHouten's grandmother, will attract people from around the nation, Marsh said.

"This allows artists to work on a scale that a gallery or studio doesn't afford itself to," he said. "Any time you have a resident situation like this, it allows you to push so much further."

He praised VanHouten for her vision, saying, "She's very driven. She's very careful in what she does. But when she starts out on something, she's like a pit bull."