Let's Go To…(May 2011)

Sculpture Gardens at PepsiCo

“I don’t want to learn anything!” my 8-year-old angrily informs me, as my husband and I hustle her, her older brother and her younger sister into the minivan for a visit to the Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens in Purchase. It is the weekend and it is warm – two good reasons, as far as she’s concerned, to avoid any place with a suspiciously museum-like name. But, just as we hoped, her mood lightens when we catch sight of the sprawling, beautifully manicured grounds of PepsiCo World Headquarters, where this sculpture collection is housed.

We walk on a path that cuts through deep woods, making us feel like we’re in rural Maine, as opposed to just minutes from major thoroughfares like Rte. 287. Soon, we reach a modest, shack-like information booth, where a smiling guide hands us a brochure and points out the restrooms and vending machines selling – what else? – Pepsi© products. We take a few more steps and the tree-lined path ends. Suddenly, a vast, lush, green lawn, ringed by a walkway, emerges before our eyes.

Lunch First!

Our first thought is to tour the grounds sequentially, beginning to our right. But, we change our minds when we see that the picnic grove is on our left. We’re hungry! My kids rush to this clearing, where several rustic picnic tables await them, and I hurry after, reading aloud from the map: “Hey, this place is named after the former chairman and CEO of PepsiCo. It’s been around since 1965 – isn’t that cool?” My husband smiles sympathetically. The kids aren’t listening; they’ve already unloaded my backpack and are enthusiastically chowing down their turkey sandwiches and cantaloupe chunks. I have to admit, lunch tastes delicious in this sunny, pristine setting.

But, if my kids aren’t so interested in the history, they’re certainly delighted by the place itself. They point at David Wynne’s huge “Grizzly Bear,” which stands guard at the pond, and dash across the grass to gape at Robert Davidson’s “Totems,” a group of three soaring totem poles that make even my 10-year-old look like a Lilliputian. We pose one kid next to each pole, for a truly laugh-out-loud photo.

Learning Anyone?

I can see that the kids are enthralled and may now be ready for more information. “Want to know what this one is called?” I ask, pointing to Bret Price’s long, bent tubular piece, after having referred to the map to identify it. “Big Scoop.” They laugh because it really does look like a big scoop!

Eventually, the children figure out that somewhere near each sculpture is a marker identifying its name and sculptor, and they soon invent a game to see who can spot each marker first. When my husband and I get tired, the game changes – to which kid can spot the marker, then rush back first to report the sculpture’s name to the winded parents happily resting on a shaded bench.

They begin bringing their own perspectives to the pieces. “This one looks like E.T.!” my 8-year-old exclaims, after zigzagging around the elegant lily ponds to investigate Joan Miró’s “Personnage.” She’s right! And the figures in George Segal’s “Three People on Four Benches” look so realistic, the kids feel compelled to have conversations with them, while my husband and I call out conversation-starters such as “Ask when the next bus comes!”

More than three hours after we arrived, we’re back at the car, totally spent. And, as my kids relax, and my 5-year-old actually falls asleep, I smile at all my 8-year-old ended up learning. She learned that sculptures can be totally engaging; she learned that sculpture titles add to the fun; she learned that art can be very big; and, she learned that a little education on a Sunday is not such a bad thing!

Barbara Josselsohn is a Westchester-based freelance writer.

When You Go …

The Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens PepsiCo World Headquarters

700 Anderson Hill Road, Purchase



Open daily, year-round

7am-7pm Memorial Day to Labor Day

9am-5pm other days

Admission and Parking



Picnics are allowed in the picnic grove. Vending machines near the information booth sell Pepsi© and other PepsiCo-manufactured drinks. Bathroom facilities are located nearby. Running and other sports are prohibited. Strollers are welcome. The walkway is stroller-friendly. Children may not climb on the sculptures.