ART Brings Nature and its Importance into Focus

By Jenny Zeller

Art has been a core value of Bernheim since its inception in 1929. In addition to recreational and educational purposes, founder I. W. Bernheim’s vision for this land was also to be “a place for the people of Kentucky to further their love of the beautiful in nature and in art.”

Art attaches our hearts to what we deem important and has the power to open doors in ways that are different from science and education.

It is one of the lenses through which Bernheim’s mission of connecting people with nature is fulfilled and clearly sets us apart from similar establishments. For decades, Bernheim has provided a space for experiencing art that often leads people to learning more about nature and asking bigger questions. A core component to the Arts and Nature program is the periodic Sited@Bernheim that brings world renowned artists to Bernheim and the region to create a site–specific piece that inspires our creativity and broadens our horizons. Created on site, each piece becomes a part of an ongoing dialog that connects people with nature in engaging ways.

Bernheim is celebrating its 90th Anniversary in a BIG way with a new Sited@Bernheim project entitled Forest Giants in a Giant Forest by renowned Danish artist Thomas Dambo. Together with his crew, Dambo makes larger than life sculptures from recycled and repurposed materials otherwise slated to be thrown away. Appealing to both children and adults, these whimsical creations are built with the intent to help people understand that trash and waste can be valuable resources. The artist hopes his sculptures will inspire others to not only recycle, but also to think more deeply about the impact that our lifestyle choices have on the planet.


Dambo is experiencing a tremendous moment in his career with offers from around the world and we are very lucky to work with him at Bernheim! Recent projects have taken him to Brazil, Australia, South Korea and Mexico, in addition to the Morton Arboretum in Chicago. Having his work at Bernheim will attract visitors not only from our region, but far beyond, bringing regional, national and international visibility for Bernheim, the region and the state of Kentucky.

Bringing this GIANT project to Bernheim gives us an opportunity to talk about how this land had been farmed, forested and used for mineral extraction. 90 years after it was gifted to the people it has been repurposed into a work of art that is 16,000+ acres or more than 25 square miles. Giant protected forest blocks like Bernheim are extremely important because this protected land allows thousands of plant and wildlife species to flourish while also providing the Greater Louisville region with clean air, clean water and a place of unmatched beauty where people can connect with nature.

Bernheim’s Arts in Nature program was established not only as a lens through which people may connect to nature, but also to help promote positive change for the earth. Art has power and engages people in very deep and personal ways, which inspires change. Bernheim’s commitment to art having a place in nature gives me hope for the future of our natural environment.

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