The Sculpture Garden at Edgewood Orchard Galleries

Photo by Dan Eggert.

Sometimes one birth leads to another. When Nell and J.R. Jarosh’s twin girls were under six months old, “and we were in the height of sleep deprivation,” J.R. recalled, he had gotten up in the middle of the night to feed one of them. “In that hazy line between being awake and asleep I thought of a sculpture garden,” he continued, “and before I fell back to sleep, I did a sketch of it.

“It was winter, and I hadn’t been to the gallery much since the girls were born,” he continued. “The next morning I came down to breakfast and found the drawing in the kitchen. It was like discovering it for the first time! I was animated about my new idea, and Nell was a good sport. When the snow melted and I could walk the woods, I became excited about the possibility of this happening!”

The conception of the sculpture garden at Edgewood Orchard Galleries became a reality with champagne and a ribbon cutting at the May opening of the 2008 season.

The original garden, located in the woods east of the barn, grew during the fall of 2008 and into 2009, extending farther east along Peninsula Players Road and around the front of the barn. Now approximately 75 pieces, 50 or so major works are displayed in natural settings.

The sculpture garden, like a living organism, has evolved, touching the lives of not only the Jaroshes but featured artists and visitors.

Photo by Dan Eggert.

De Pere sculptor Bill Jauquet has shown his work at the gallery for years, his large-scale bronze pieces displayed in the courtyard entrance to the barn. In 2007 Jarosh, his father-in-law Minnow Emerson, and Jauquet drove together to Park Ridge, Illinois, for the installation of one of Jauquet’s sculptures.

“I told Bill about the crazy idea for a sculpture garden,” Jarosh said. “He got excited” about the project. Jauquet likes to work big, and a sculpture garden would provide him with the opportunity to display more of his work. The courtyard had offered space for only one or two pieces.

During the winter of 2007-08 Jauquet took his work in a different direction. “He worked in steel with bronze accents,” Jarosh explained, “and with the additional room for his work, he redefined himself and has become our most successful artist because of the sculpture garden pieces.”

Visitors often make a connection with the garden. “People seem to feel comfortable in the space,” Jarosh said, “and sometimes call it a serenity garden.” Last August a couple had their marriage ceremony performed there, with Jarosh and his wife Nell as witnesses.

Jarosh was touched by the fact that “of any place in the world, they chose this one to start their married lives together.”

Occasionally people take a part of the garden home with them by selecting aspects of the design to incorporate into their own spaces, “a compliment!” Jarosh said.

When customers purchase a piece, they take advantage of Jarosh’s artistic expertise as he installs the work for them. The morning of his conversation for this article he had delivered a sculpture to Green Bay. “I pruned a tree to create a sightline for the piece I installed,” he said.

Photo by Dan Eggert.

Blurring the boundaries between the gallery and garden at Edgewood Orchard Galleries was one of Jarosh’s objectives in designing the sculpture garden. “I let people know they can do that at home” on their property, he explained.

The bricked outdoor courtyard at the entrance to the indoor gallery opens onto a meandering path that leads around the front of the barn and into the woods on the other side of the driveway, leading back to the parking lot and courtyard. The effect is one of gallery transitions rather than entrances and exits.

Another of Jarosh’s goals was to integrate the sculpture garden into the setting of the complex that has become the Edgewood Orchard Galleries, “promoting an overall sense of place and continuity on the property.

“Nell’s grandmother Irene bought the 80 acres of land,” Jarosh explained, “and loved to walk through the trees. I tried to respect and give space to the trees, tried to stack [stones] around trees, as the land and trees were here before the garden. We didn’t clear cut but respected what was here for a more natural and peaceful feeling.”

Photo by Dan Eggert.

When Jarosh implemented the original design that he drew that sleepless night, he ran a sightline string from the center of the courtyard to the heart of the garden, his intent to draw visitors into it, to “pique interest as to what’s back there.”

The next step was to lay out paths. “I looked to see where my eyes would fall,” he explained, “and used spray paint to mark X’s where the sculptures would be, so that each turn would bring a new experience, a new image to look at, like turning pages in a book.”

He did not want an out-and-back, he said, but rather a circular route, the winding paths like the circulatory system of the garden.

And he has tried to take advantage of the “mystery with the trees,” and “to use natural boundaries and territorial growth” with the end result that visitors will “immerse themselves in the garden and the art.” As the sun moves during the day and the light changes, a piece can have a completely different feel, he noted.

Yet another of Jarosh’s intents was to make the garden interactive, “sounds, smells, things blooming, tactile things for people to do.” To this end, the low dry stone walls that border the paths are periodically capped with flat stones that invite visitors to sit and listen to a fountain and bird song and the breeze in the trees as they view a sculpture. And he has left groups of smooth beach pebbles at different locations with an implied invitation for visitors to stack miniature cairnes.

The stones used in the sculpture garden at Edgewood Orchard all came from the property, piles of rocks that had accumulated in the past when land was being prepared for the planting of fruit trees. “The age of the stones is nice,” he said, “decades of weathering,” some rocks with lichens and moss. “I’ve honored theses stones by putting them on the outside of walls to give the appearance of having been there for a long time.” At the same time he has respected the stone fences that remain at Edgewood Orchard by leaving them untouched.

In addition to installing the stone walls, Jarosh, who is a Master Gardener, designed and planted the beds that appear throughout the grounds.

The sculptures that are featured in the garden range from traditional figurative pieces to abstract works. A number of the sculptures are large, human height or taller.

Some pieces are functional; these works include benches, birdbaths, fountains, and bells.

And others are whimsical, whirligigs, for example, or garden tiles.

David Valentine, an architect from Sturgeon Bay who has won awards for his designs, has sculptures in the garden that “reflect his architectural mind” with the “geometry in his design,” Jarosh said.

The Jaroshes received one of Jacksonport artist Amy Zachariasen’s tile benches for a wedding gift and knew they wanted to represent her. Zachariasen’s wooden benches and clay birdbaths appear throughout the garden.

When J.R. Jarosh, sleepless-night design in hand, began the stone work for his sculpture garden in the fall of 2007, he was under the gun as he had committed the gallery to opening the garden on May 3, 2008. Snow fell on December 1, halting his work. “I mentally stacked walls dozens of times in my head” that winter, Jarosh laughed, “knowing I had about four weeks to do the work before the grand opening.”

He met his deadline.

“I laid it out,” Jarosh said, “so that I could eventually add another loop in the garden, if we have enough quality art work and the demand for it. The possibility intrigues me!”

Walk through the Sculpture Garden at Edgewood Orchard Galleries at 4140 Peninsula Players Road from 10 am – 5 pm daily through October 31.