Sculpture park provides social distancing and fun in a new normal

Posted at 2:01 PM, Jul 22, 2020

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — July is usually the time for summer vacations and camps.

But this summer is a little different.

More families are getting creative in how they're spending time and some looking for more economic options in tough financial times.

Near the midway point between Louisville and Lexington, there's one attraction that's welcoming visitors young and old.

The founder of Josephine Sculpture Park says it’s a relaxing spot for parents, and a fun, engaging place to learn for kids. Spread across 30 acres, there's ample room to socially distance.

"They wanna have a picnic, or you know, just a place where their kids can run around and see some things they haven't seen before," said Melanie VanHouten, the park's founder.

That's what VanHouten imagined when she and her husband returned to her family's former farmland more than a decade ago and built a park.

"I had so many great memories of just running through the fields," said VanHouten.

There are 70 sculptures spread across the rolling hills.

"And it's free and open every single day of the year from dawn until dusk," said VanHouten.

Normally, VanHouten would encourage kids curious about art to touch anything. But there's nothing normal about this time.

When the pandemic first started spreading in Kentucky, the park remained open.

"We were having more visitors than we had ever had, which was amazing and wonderful, but it was also terrifying. Because we didn't know what was safe and if it was okay for people to be out here," said VanHouten.

On April 2, she made the decision to temporarily close the park. Thanks to a PPP loan that paid salaries and the mortgage, VanHouten was able to stay afloat for two months while she purchased hand sanitizer, signs and they devised a strategy to safely reopen in a pandemic.

At the beginning of June, the park welcomed visitors back by appointment only.

"I think people are a lot more comfortable with what the different regulations are, and what's safe, and what's not safe," said VanHouten.

During the temporary closure, VanHouten built content for social media to stay engaged with the community. This park is still home to VanHouten, but one she loves sharing with everyone that enters the park.

"And for the kids, to be able to have their own experiences exploring new things. So to have a space where families feel really comfortable doing that, I think is a blessing," said VanHouten.

With fewer summer options, she wonders what better place to spend a long July day than on an old farm.