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Over the course of a decade as an environmental educator with Mass Audubon, I discovered a passion for play and playspaces. I’m now getting a Master’s of Landscape Architecture and look forward to creating opportunities for kids and grownups to play. I dig in the dirt, build stuff, and seek the unexpected in Boston, Mass.

Secret Shelters at Heritage Museums & Gardens, Sandwich, Mass., 2015

Heritage Museums & Gardens on Cape Cod offers something for everyone: botanic gardens, a vintage carousel, historic cars, a meditation labyrinth, and a natural playscape called Hidden Hollow (I wrote about it here). Art and nature are combined in this summer’s “Secret Shelters” exhibit, in which artists were challenged to create a space for observing nature, writing poetry, meditating, or resting. I’ll share three of my favorite installations here, and in my next post, I’ll talk about the Secret Shelter I built with artist Ross Miller.

Heritage Museums Secret Shelters Wings Spire 2

Wing’s Spire by artist Nancy Winship Milliken, is a tall pyramid draped in sheep’s wool. Two hundred years ago, Heritage was farmland owned by the Wing family, and this evocative sculpture pays respect to the idea of agriculture, as well as its textures and smells.

Heritage Museums Secret Shelters Wings Spire 3

Squeezing through the reclaimed wooden doorway, the heady scent of sheep’s wool fills your nostrils. You can imagine farm kids ducking into a dark corner of a barn to escape the sun, or their chores.

Heritage Museums Secret Shelters Outside-In 1

Heritage Museums Secret Shelters Outside-In 2

Yugon Kim, an architect and sculptor with the design firm ikd, inverted the typical tree bench by making it face the tree.

Heritage Museums Secret Shelters Outside-In 3

Heritage Museums Secret Shelters Outside-In 4

Waste wood from timber manufacturing has been glued and nailed into square blocks, forming a gorgeous structure that prompts climbing, hiding, sitting, lying down, and reconsidering the nature of wood. The sculpture is called Outside-In.

Heritage Museums Secret Shelters Please Be Seated 1

Heritage Museums Secret Shelters Please Be Seated 2

Mary-Ann Agresti’s Please Be Seated is a more theatrical work, with two set pieces. Platforms and steps are semi-enclosed by planks (again, reclaimed wood) with peep-holes. A kid-sized chair, a croquet stake, and tiny doors encourage exploration and storytelling. Like Yugon Kim, Mary-Ann Agresti is an architect and an artist, and uses both talents to craft engaging spaces.

Heritage Museums Secret Shelters Please Be Seated 3

Heritage Museums Secret Shelters Please Be Seated 4

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Quotes from Alice in Wonderland contribute to the feeling that you’ve entered a fantasy world where a peculiar creature might poke its head around the corner at any moment.

“Secret Shelters” includes six other installations, and will be on view through October 15, 2015. More info here. If you like to climb trees in a high-ropes kind of way, check out the Adventure Park at Heritage.

3 Responses to “Family Activity Area at Garden in the Woods”

  1. Rachael McNamara said:

    I love the post with the iridescent paper which creates rainbows. Can you be more specific about what type of paper I should look for to recreate it at my house?
    Thank you for posting these wonderful pictures and descriptions.


    June 07, 2015 at 7:24 am

  2. Julie Morris said:

    Hi Erica,

    What a great sight full of ideas! Love the way we think alike. I have an family daycare in my home and am reworking my backyard for the kids play space. I want a place for them to explore and get excited about playing in. Not the regular commercial stuff, but homemade, cool stuff. I am working on a mud/snow kitchen and outdoor music area. Would love any other ideas you may have.
    Thanks so much for the inspiration!!
    Julie Morris
    Lil’ Explorer’s Learning Place ~ Oshkosh, WI

    November 21, 2014 at 2:49 pm

  3. Mitch Ryerson said:

    Hello Erica,

    Just learned about this blog, what a great source of info ! Interested to meet you and hear more about what you are all up to. I’m also curious about the upcoming show at the Design Museum. Is it focusing on playscapes ?

    I’m about to do two new play areas next summer in the Boston area that you might be interested in.One is a collaboration with Perkins School for the Blind to create a “Sensory Garden” along the Charles River in Watertown and the other is a big natural log climber sort of like the ones I’ve done on the Esplanade and in Cambridge. If you get a chance sometime give me a call !

    Thanks, Mitch

    April 03, 2014 at 9:27 pm

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