Lehigh Millennium Folk Arch
A park full of outsider art, created by college students studying outsider art.
There is a rambling, brambly park on the campus of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, full of scruffy, feral, enchanting sculptures.
In 1999 Lehigh University offered a course called “Raw Vision: Creativity and Ecstasy in the World of Shamans, Mystics and Outsider Artists.” It was based on the concepts of art as a means of personal expression, but it wasn’t an art class. It was taught by Professor Norman Girardot (now retired) from the Department of Religion Studies, and was a practical way for students to study the nature of spirituality and mysticism. Knowing a thing or two about shamans and mystics, Professor Girardot also happened to be an expert in outsider art.
The students were tutored and mentored by the well-known outsider artist Mr. Imagination, and they collaborated with the Banana Factory (Bethlehem’s arts center) and even some local middle school kids. Together they formed a motley crew of outsider artists themselves, using concrete and found materials to build a hidden world of their collective “Raw Vision.”
The course was taught for eight sessions, each new group adding to the park’s collection. Some of the pieces were ephemeral, but many—including the Millennium Folk Arch—have become fixtures in this remote corner of the campus. It may not have been called an “art class,” but it connected non-art students to their own inner “outsider artist.”
It’s officially mapped on the University campus as the “Stolfo Sculpture Garden” but most students will know it as the “Millennium Folk Arch and Art Enclave.”
Update as of November 2021: The site has fallen into a state of disrepair. Some sculptures are heavily damaged or have fallen over. While the arch is still standing it has a significant crack.
Know Before You Go
This site is on Lehigh University's campus, so parking on-campus poses some difficulty without a parking pass, and there really aren't any parking areas near the sculpture park anyway. Your best bet is to park at the bottom of campus where there are metered spots, and walk up Upper Sayre Park Road to where it meets Look Out Drive. At that point, there will be a gravel path to your right that leads you to the park. Parking can also be found at South Mountain Park (search for it on Google Maps to find its location in proximity to the sculpture park); from South Mountain Park, turn right on Mountain Drive North and follow it down to Upper Sayre Park Road. Whichever route you walk, be very careful as there is no sidewalk and traffic moves very fast, especially on Mountain Drive North. If you park at the metered spaces at the bottom of the hill you can take a campus shuttle bus to the trail that leads to the garden. There are no parking restriction signs along Upper Sayre Park Rd. You can park at the start of the trail that leads to the garden. Just be sure your car is entirely on the shoulder and that you're not blocking the gate.
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