On my adventure to Griffis Sculpture Park, my anticipation grew every mile I got closer. I was lost in thought, mulling over the reviews I had heard from family and friends, suppressing my excitement to focus on the road. I was so lost in my thoughts that I actually passed the entrance to the park and had to turn around. Through the lush forest on both sides of Mill Valley Road pokes out a white sign indicating that I reached my destination: the Mill Valley Road site. Griffis Sculpture Park has another location at Rohr Hill Road, which is home to some of the larger, towering sculptures from local, national and international artists.
As I drove up the dirt road to the parking area, I knew I was in the right place when I was greeted by a goose sculpture. I parked and grabbed my pack, moving to one of the many picnic tables to grab a bite before beginning my journey. As I sat there, I admired the large wooden sculpture on the outskirts of a large field, oddly reminiscent of the cornucopia from the lately released Hunger Games movie. I hadn’t been there for more than 10 minutes before another car came up the drive and released a handful of children who were quickly climbing on this masterpiece, discovering all its angles and crevices. It was fantastic watching them learn and study this piece of artwork by interacting with it, which I discovered was the idea behind the Griffis Sculpture Park.
Larry Griffis, Jr., the visionary and founder of the sculpture park was inspired by a trip to Rome, where he watched his children explore the ruins of Hadrian’s Villa. He wanted to recreate this interaction with artwork and the ever-changing natural settings that often inspire the artwork. On his return to Buffalo, he began searching for the right piece of land which he found in Ashford Hollow, between Springville and Ellicottville. This also sparked the creation of the Ashford Hollow Foundation, founded in 1966, and the Essex Art Center, created in 1969.
With this is mind, I continued on to see what else the park had in store for me. I packed away my garbage, dropped off my admission fee in the honor box and headed in. From colorfully painted sculptures, to heavy-looking bronze ones, each sculpture is captivating and truly unique. The best part of the art is it feels as if it were meant to be there; it’s part of the environment instead of an intruder of the natural setting. In addition to the man-made beauty of this park, there are countless natural wonders that took my breath away on more than one occasion.
After many breaks and a lot of water, I made it to the top of the park. The view of the surrounding landscape was fantastic, and definitely one I will return to in the fall before the park closes in October. At the two ponds I chose to sit by, I saw everything from frogs to fish. The open fields were adorned with wild flowers, which gave me a pleasant distraction in between sculptures.
Let me warn you, this isn’t a hike for the faint of heart, but it is definitely possible for novice hikers who are smart about how they plan for the trek. Don’t wear sandals, don’t be afraid to rest and just take it one step at a time.
Words do not do this location any justice; it is truly something you have to see to believe. Check out my pictures from Griffis on our Facebook page. Better yet, use our Go Outside Map to plan your visit there!