Do you still experience wonderment as an adult?
I wouldn’t say it is routine for me, but every once in awhile that feeling of wonderment, awe and admiration all bundled together, hits me and it is like all my senses light up!
That’s what I experienced when I visited Opus 40 near Saugerties, New York.
What is Opus 40?
Opus 40 is an 6.5-acre earthwork sculpture park. Visitors can walk up, down, and all over this man-made sculpture. Its highest point is a monolith that rises 16-feet above ground and its lowest point is 3-stories below ground.
Opus 40 was created by ONE PERSON, actor and sculptor, Harvey Fite, who bought an abandoned rock quarry in 1938. Fite was inspired by the Mayans and over the course of 37 years he used dry-key stone masonry techniques to construct the bluestone sculpture.
Fite originally intended the sculpture park to be the backdrop for his own stone sculptures, but over time the park became the sculpture itself with its stairs, ramps, pools, fountains and a 9-ton monolith. Fite’s stone sculptures are still on display, as well.
There is much more to this story, including how the project evolved over time, and you can read about it in detail here.
Can You Imagine?
Can you imagine being so consumed by a project like this that you stick with it for 37 years? What kind of passion, dedication and vision does that take? More than I can even comprehend.
Can you imagine if your husband was building a giant sculpture park in your backyard? For 37 years? That’s right. Fite built his home on this quarry land and the sculpture park is just a few steps out his backdoor.
The home is still there and is occupied by members of the Fite family who care for the property. On the day we visited, part of the house (Fite’s original studio) was open with antiques and jewelry for sale.
What You’ll See at Opus 40
The sculpture itself is a bit like a labyrinth that you won’t get lost in. There are steps that go up and down and around. There are paths around pools and fountains. There are stone sculptures made by Fite in various places. There is also a section where you can stack rocks to make your own sculpture. My kids especially liked this area.
My kids also liked that they found a frog, a salamander and a snake hanging out around the pools.
Museum and Visitor Center
The museum and visitor center is located in a barn on the property. There is a video to give you an overview of Fite’s creation. The museum is really a collection of the tools that Fite used to build Opus 40. There aren’t labels on the tools, but they are displayed in an artistic way.
If You Visit
Opus 40 is located in Saugerties, New York, and is about 100 miles from New York City. You definitely need a car to get there. You might be able to drive there without taking a toll road, but it will take you a lot longer.
There are signs for the last few turns to get to Opus 40, but the last section will feel like you are driving down someone’s driveway. In essence, you probably are.
The park is only open from Memorial Day to Columbus Day and you need to check their website before you visit. They often close the park for private events like weddings and I’ve noticed these closure announcements only pop up on their website a few days in advance.
Wear sturdy shoes. This is a sculpture made out of rocks, so you don’t want to be wearing high heels. While the rocks are dry-fitted amazingly well, it is still an uneven surface. There are no handrails on the steps within the sculpture, so take care and hold on to your kids’ hands.
Take a picnic! There are picnic areas at the park and that’s what we would have done had we timed it right. It’s a gorgeous setting that makes you want to linger.
Let’s Put a Bow On This
Was it worth the 2-hour drive from New Jersey to visit Opus 40 in New York? Keep in mind that we were dragging along two kids, ages 9 and 12, who have a flare for whining about this type of “forced family fun.”
We all loved it. My 9-year-old even asked to go back and walk the sculpture a second time because it was unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. He didn’t have to twist our arms!
The only way it could have been better for him was if they allowed parkour.
We talk to our kids a lot about finding something to do in life that brings them joy. We talk about grit, perseverance and learning new skills. We talk about how art comes in all different shapes and forms. We talk about how much we can learn from history and the skills and techniques used by ancient civilizations. We talk about staying true to yourself. We talk about nature and respecting earth’s natural resources.
All of those thing we talk about as a family? They were all represented in some way, shape or form at Opus 40. I have no idea if that’s what Harvey Fite set out to do or if he realized the impact his sculpture would have on thousands of visitors every year, but I am so happy that his creation is now shared with the world.
Opus 40 made an impact on us and I’m sure you will enjoy it too.
If you want to visit Opus 40, please check out their website.
I love discovering new places to visit and experience. If you do too, you might enjoy one of these posts!
Travel: Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania – Straight from a movie – except it is the real thing
Travel: Fort Pulaski, Georgia – Amazing architecture for a building designed to be hit by cannonballs
Travel: Belfast with Kids – This is where the Titanic was built!