By: Elise Phillips Margulis
Wayne residents Dorothy and John Knippenberg owned a 30-acre rhododendron and azalea nursery across the street from their home in the Pine Lake area of Wayne in the 1930s and 1940s. They donated the nursery property to the town of Wayne with the intention of transforming Laurelwood Gardens (the nursery) into an arboretum to create a horticulture preserve open to the public in Wayne Township.
The Knippenbergs were renown for developing hybrid rhododendrons and azaleas as well as their philanthropy in the community.
The arboretum became part of the park system after John passed away. Friends of Laurelwood Arboretum, a grassroots group that had formed to preserve the arboretum, and the Township of Wayne created a partnership in 2006 when Dorothy died. Friends of Laurelwood Arboretum took over maintenance of the property.
Friends of Laurelwood Arboretum operates and creates programs for the Arboretum offering art shows, a Mommy and Me Walking Group, Chair Yoga, Meditation Walks, Nature Education Programs, tours, a Fairy and Elf party for children and more. They strive to continue the work and legacy of the Knippenbergs by sharing the gorgeous gardens and providing educational nature programs for the public.
The arboretum’s five gardens include the Native Plant Demonstration Garden, Azalea Way, the Sensory Garden, South Rock Garden and Hybrid Rhododendron Collection. The gardens are self-explanatory in that the Native Plant Demonstration Garden showcases native horticulture and teaches visitors about them; Azalea Way features beautiful azaleas; the Sensory Garden offers an interactive experience; South Rock Garden has rock gardens and the Hybrid Rhododendron Garden harkens back to the Rhododendrons of the Knippenberg’s nursery.
In nearby Boonton, Scott Broadfoot, owner of Broadfoot & Broadfoot Gallery, sells fine art. As fate would have it, his clients Stuart and Leslie Reiser are board members of Laurelwood Arboretum. They invited him to see the arboretum and to discuss his ideas about integrating a sculpture park into it.
Broadfoot laughed as he reminisced about his first visit to Laurelwood. “We toured the 30 acres in a golf cart in the pouring rain.” Despite the soggy expedition, Broadfoot loved the arboretum and developed a plan to curate a beautiful sculpture garden ensconced between the elegant flowers, towering trees and ponds.
Broadfoot will be selecting fifteen sculptures to display in the arboretum. The pieces will be added individually to the property. A GoFundMe page is to be set up for donations to the project.
Contributions will be accepted from companies and individuals. Laurelwood will not incur any cost from the creation of the sculpture garden. The sculpture garden will have no admission fee, although most do. It will also be pet friendly so Rover’s welcome.
Broadfoot revealed, “We’ll be creating a map. As people wander through the arboretum a sign will say ‘turn corner and see another piece.’” He also wants visitors to learn about the sculptures so they can appreciate the meaning and inspiration behind each one as well as enjoying their aesthetics. He has conducted many art seminars and lectures and believes that people need background information of art to truly appreciate it.
Broadfoot hosts a different artist each month at his gallery so people can learn about their pieces before and after they purchase them. The artist reveals how and why the pieces were created and a discussion follows.
Sculpture gardens are one of Broadfoot’s passions, and he visits them around the country and the world. Two breathtaking sculpture gardens in our vicinity are Storm King Art Center and Grounds for Sculpture. Broadfoot’s favorite, Storm King, overlooks the Hudson Valley in New York and has spectacular views as well as dramatic sculptures. Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey, boasts a marvelous collection of sculptures that spill into the town. Laurelwood’s sculpture garden will be located approximately halfway between Storm King and Grounds for Sculpture.
The sculpture park is scheduled to open in 2020. Broadfoot will have a display on a wall in his gallery that depicts the configuration of the sculptures in the park with descriptions explaining why each sculpture was chosen for its spot in the arboretum. An 8- by 10-inch photo of each piece will accompany each description.
All of the sculptures will be for sale. The prices will range from affordable (hundreds of dollars) to expensive (thousands). The first piece that will be installed is a Robert Koch sculpture.
Broadfoot relayed an example of how acquisitions of sculpture can be an adventure. He works with a sculptor who lives in a Soho apartment. Broadfoot recalled, “Extracting a large sculpture from his apartment involved the artist creating the sculpture in three sections knowing that a crane would pull each part out of the apartment after several windows were removed. It was assembled when it reached its destination.”
Broadfoot is no stranger to large art curation projects. He curated fine art installations at Natirar and Ninety Acres in Peapack.
He is currently selecting art for Bedminster Farms, luxury custom-built homes in the planning stage in Bedminster. He’s also designed sculpture gardens for many private homes. Broadfoot is very excited about the Laurelwood curation.
Broadfoot has loved sculpture since his childhood and opened his gallery in 1992. The inventory includes contemporary and abstract art from 27 artists who work in oil, acrylic, color photography, watercolor and pen and ink. Sculptures range from tabletop to large pieces that are meant to be displayed outdoors. Broadfoot & Broadfoot sculptures are found in residential homes as well as corporate settings.
Their current exhibit features Peter Reginato, Patti Davis Ganek and Robert Koch. Broadfoot & Broadfoot has offices in New York City and the United Kingdom as well as Boonton.