Sculpture gardens on Long Island

SNAKE TREE is a mixed-media sculptural installation by

SNAKE TREE is a mixed-media sculptural installation by Niki de Saint Phalle in the sculpture garden of the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn. (March 10, 2013) (Credit: Barbara Alper)

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You expect to see artwork in a museum or gallery -- but how about outdoors? Visit sculpture gardens on Long Island and you'll see striking works nestled in a grove of trees or peeking playfully out of a patch of tulips.

"We don't have a brick and mortar space," says Eliz Alahverdian, a curator at Adelphi University in Garden City. "We want people to live with the art, see it in different seasons and different times of the day."

Although sculptures are supposed to be hands off, Alahverdian understands the urge to touch. "I do sometimes get a little scared when there's a game of Frisbee a little too close to one of them," she says.

By contrast, the towering steel structures at Nova's Ark Project in Bridgehampton, which showcases the work of the late Nova Mihai Popa, are designed to draw viewers closer. Visitors often are seen touching or even climbing on the sturdy structures, some of which tower 30 feet high.

Here are a few places where art is part of the landscape.

Adelphi University

1 South Ave., Garden City

INFO 516-237-8660, adelphi.edu

ADMISSION None

NUMBER OF WORKS 20

The lawn area next to the University Center is home to 10 oversize sculptures. Only a few steps separate each piece, allowing visitors to contemplate and compare works of the various artists featured.

MUST-SEES John Clement's "Duke" is a large, red spiral of welded steel that weighs more than 3,000 pounds; Miggy Buck's "Accountability," is a large pointing hand made of environmentally friendly Aqua-Resin.

"It is designed to make you think of anything and everything you could be accountable for," Alahverdian explains.

The art is part of Adelphi's Outdoor Sculpture Biennial, which runs through May 2014, when new installations will be on display.

Hofstra University

Hempstead Turnpike, Hempstead

INFO 516-463-5672, hofstra.edu

ADMISSION None

NUMBER OF WORKS Nearly 60

Wear comfortable walking shoes -- the stroll to see this massive collection spans the 240-acre campus. Well positioned, the pieces are complemented by the surrounding landscape.

MUST-SEES Vinnie Bagwell's life-size bronze of Frederick Douglass; Mihail Chemiakin's "Plato Having a Dialogue With Socrates" even has a built-in seat if you want to join the conversation.

If you have time, visit the Emily Lowe Gallery and pick up a backpack with maps, discussion cards and children's crafts.

Nassau County Museum of Art

1 Museum Dr., Roslyn Harbor

INFO 516-484-9337, nassaumuseum.com/sculpture

ADMISSION Free for sculpture garden; $2 parking weekends

NUMBER OF WORKS more than 40

The grounds outside the art museum are awash with sculptures positioned along walking trails. Pick up or download a map that shows works on the museum's 145 acres.

MUST-SEES Niki de Saint Phalle's 18-foot-tall "Snake Tree" is colorfully true to its name; Allen Bertoldi's "Redbank 31 -- Nassau Variation, 1978" is a series of walk-through rectangles that is 10 feet high and 89 feet long.

Nova's Ark Project

30-60 Millstone Rd., Water Mill

INFO 631-537-0004, thearkproject.com

ADMISSION $15-$30

NUMBER OF WORKS 30-plus

Massive sculptures are positioned in sheep meadows and horse pastures on the grounds of this private residence -- it's quite a contrast to see horses grazing or running past sharply angled and spherical steel structures.

The project, founded by Nova Mihai, is open to the public on select dates in the spring and summer. Visitors can walk the 95-acre property or take a guided wagon tour of the sculptures.

MUST-SEES "Embrace of the Sun," which is a large orb surrounded by smaller ones that often is surrounded by grazing sheep; "Astronauts" involves 22-foot-tall figures that act as sentries, welcoming people into the sculpture fields.

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