This spring, Stone Quarry Hill Art Park (SQHAP) is once again giving the public the opportunity to camp among the sculptures and enjoy the park at night.
Located at 3883 Stone Quarry Road in Cazenovia, SQHAP offers a unique environment for artists to create and exhibit their work in natural and gallery settings. It also provides space for the community to explore and appreciate the natural world and interact with art and artists.
Reservations for “Camping at the Art Park” are now open for every weekend in June.
Campsite reservations include Friday and Saturday nights and cost $50/weekend. Up to two tents and six people are permitted per campsite (no RVs or campers).
Camping at the Art Park was first proposed by SQHAP visiting artist Martin Hogue in June 2017 as a temporary installation to broaden the range of experiences available to visitors.
With the park already open 365 days a year from dawn to dusk, Hogue saw the addition of camping as a unique way for visitors to spend 48 uninterrupted hours within the park landscape. Additionally, as they tend to their campsites and interact with fellow campers, the campers themselves become part of the art on display for other visitors to experience.
“Camping at the Art Park is part performance, part sculpture, part outdoor adventure, and at its core, it’s a lot of fun,” said SQHAP CEO Emily Zaengle. “It makes visible the practices and customs so inherent to camping. Campsites and the way each camper arranges their tent and gear become part of the art at the park.”
Hogue is an associate professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture at Cornell University.
Trained as an architect and landscape architect, Hogue has been researching the topic of camping for several years.
His most recent work, which centers around camping culture in the US, examines the discrepancies between the American ideal of ruggedness and independence and the desire for an increasingly sophisticated range of utilities and conveniences.
Hogue said his interest in camping goes back to the summer of 2000, when he first camped near the Badlands of South Dakota, equipped with a tent and a sleeping bag lent to him by a friend.
“When I saw the KOA sign looming in the distance, I decided to check it out,” he recalled. “I had expected to be let loose on the grounds to claim a quiet, shady spot on my own, but instead a destination was prescribed for me by the campground’s attendant, who carefully circled the location of my campsite on a printed map. I’m an architect by training and interested in the spatial planning of places — not only buildings, but larger landscapes too. The map indicated there were numbered RV sites and tent sites, bathrooms, a swimming pool, a miniature golf area, an off-leash dog area. It even showed streets with names. This all felt and looked like a small village. I was admittedly a little surprised, but also intrigued. Were all campgrounds like this?”
Since that experience, Hogue has been attempting to understand the history of recreational camping in the US, and in the process connecting the experiences of early recreational campers in the Adirondacks at the turn of the 19th century with the densely packed campgrounds now common in state and national parks.
His research and drawings have been displayed in solo exhibits at over 25 venues across the United States. His book “Thirtyfour Campgrounds” was published by The MIT Press in 2016. His next book, “Making Camp,” will be published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2023.
Camping at the Art Park was Hogue’s first opportunity to propose and design his own campground.
When developing the project, he carefully selected four secluded campsites — Secret Garden, Ash Tree, Sugar Bush, and Paperbark Maple Tree — that highlighted “unique spatial opportunities” such as a meadow and a wooded area for example and were in proximity of key sculptures or dramatic vistas. Each site was marked by a bright blue table with a small sign.
According to Zaengle, the campsites will be in the same spots this year.
“The sculptures around these sites have changed a bit over time, but the location of the four campsites is the same,” she said.
The sites are all situated within a few minutes walking distance of a main hilltop service hub featuring a parking area, restrooms, drinking water, wheelbarrows to transport equipment/gear, trash disposal, and a communal campfire surrounded by Adirondack chairs.
In addition to considering optimal campsite locations, Hogue also addressed the challenges of “scale and legibility” when designing his campsite.
“Given the scale of the 104-acre site, can this intimate campground be read within the larger landscape of the Art Park?” he asked. “I have used picnic tables to mark the individual sites and painted all related infrastructure of the campground — tables, chairs, map, signage, flashlights, wheelbarrow, garbage cans, information pamphlets, even t-shirts — in the same bright shade of cyan to enhance their legibility as a system inside the park. With its numbered campsites and many icons, the [map] hints at the typical graphics of campground maps nationwide; it provides a way to take in the entire project at a single glance, and [it] is the first document handed to visitors to orient them to the project when they check in on Friday night.”
Following the inaugural Camping at the Art Park, SQHAP offered the initiative again in June 2018 and June 2019.
“We did not offer it in 2020 or 2021 due to the uncertainty of the pandemic,” noted Zaengle. “In 2020, Camping at the Art Park received a design award from the American Society of Landscape Architects Upstate New York Chapter.”
Zaengle added that the event has also received positive feedback from campers each year and that people appreciate the opportunity to be in the park at night, enjoy the stars, and meet fellow campers around the campfire.
“We have had a lot of people tell us they used Camping at the Art Park as a way to try out camping and ease into the idea of sleeping outdoors in a tent,” she said. “We find that families really enjoy the event as well. We typically book all the campsites every weekend.”
According to Zaengle, Hogue returns to SQHAP as a visiting artist every year that camping is offered to replace, repair, and/or repaint the tables and chairs and update the event brochure.
Each weekend is facilitated by an assigned host who is an experienced Camping at the Art Park participant and is responsible for answering questions and starting the shared campfire every morning and evening.
“Martin helps host and also helps find other people to host,” said Zaengle. “Martin invests his visiting artist stipend into the materials and promotions for this event.”
Campsites can be reserved at sqhap.org/happenings/camping-at-the-art-park.
At the end of the month of June, the communal fire pit will be dismantled, the picnic tables will be returned to the top of the hill, and apart from the outlines of tents in the grass, very little evidence of the campground will remain.
Hogue explained that one of his objectives was to ensure that the project can be installed and uninstalled quickly with modest means and minimal impact on the park.