Historically, the Red Mountain Garden Club Memorial Garden has been central to the ongoing act of welcoming visitors to the Museum. For many years, the garden formed the scenic path leading to the main entrance and the masterpieces awaiting within. Today it remains a peaceful oasis downtown, an intersection of the art of nature and man.
As visitors enter the Sculpture Garden they step into the Red Mountain Garden Club Memorial Garden, set apart by the beautiful Blue Pools Courtyard with reflecting pools created by artist Valerie Jaudon, as well as figural art created by Auguste Rodin, Fernando Botero, and Alabama folk artist Charlie Lucas, among others. While the Sculpture Garden is divided into three parts, it is fitting that the first part of it visitors see is the Red Mountain Garden Club Memorial Garden. That garden, site of many a social gathering, and afternoons of quiet contemplation, is the site of the Museum's original garden, which was designed, built and maintained by the members of the Red Mountain Garden Club.
In 1957, members of the Garden Club came together to contribute toward the Museum, which was to transition from its original site in City Hall, to the space which we now occupy. The Red Mountain Garden Club Memorial Garden opened with the Museum in 1959, and serves as a living reminder of the contributions to the city's cultural heritage made by members of the Club over the years.
Even when the Museum was expanded and renovated in 1993, incorporating the site of the original garden into the larger Charles Ireland Sculpture Garden, the Red Mountain Garden Club remained involved in the planning of the new space. They have remained intimately involved in the maintenance of the Red Mountain Garden Club Memorial Garden in the years since. Each year, the Club contributes funds and other resources to maintain and enhance the beauty of the memorial garden, including proceeds from their annual greenery sale, which raises money both for our garden and for the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.
The Sculpture Garden is the site of several significant sculptures, exhibitions, and events, including the Museum’s annual Art On The Rocks concert series. While all parts of the sculpture garden attract visitors for various reasons, clearly the serene greenspace of the Red Mountain Memorial Garden, with its tree-lined walk and shaded benches, attracts the most visitors, who sit for quiet contemplation, for conversation, and for a respite from the hustle and bustle outside.
“Our sculpture garden is not only the legacy of great museum supporters, but also a very active, inviting space, an oasis which we’re happy to see serving visitors from all over the community and from all over the world,” says Gail Andrews, director of the Museum.
Largely because of the beauty of the Memorial Garden, the Sculpture Garden was recently designated one of the Great Spaces In America for 2010 by the American Planning Association. It is an honor for the Museum and a tribute to all who had a hand in planning this inviting space. "The Ireland Sculpture Garden, developed through the long-term efforts of the Red Mountain Garden Club, as well as through Museum planning committees and the vision of a team of landscape designers and architects, shows how successful public spaces can reflect collaboration and forethought,” says Mayor William Bell “It remains an excellent example of the way forward for future projects that respect their surroundings and impel pleasant interactions between people and public art."