Exploring Outdoor Sculpture at the Kimbell

Picnics, cartwheels, and lots of photography! This is what we’ve witnessed between the Kahn Building and Piano Pavilion as visitors have really been taking advantage of the beautiful green spaces around the Kimbell campus. Our outdoor sculptures are also enjoying attention, so we’ve taken the opportunity to host some studio programs focusing on large-scale public art.

Here are a few topics we discussed:

  • What defines sculpture and sets it apart from painting and other art forms? What makes sculpture effective or successful? What are some of the different materials and processes?
  • How do surroundings affect the experience of an outdoor sculpture?
  • What are some of the best locations for large public sculptures? Popular themes? Our favorite locations?

Following up on that last point, the intended location was vitally important to two artists who created sculptures on the Kimbell campus.

The Spanish artist Joan Miró designed his towering sculpture to be placed in a public setting, preferably in front of a museum. From its place of honor outside of the Kahn Building’s east entrance, this playful composite creature welcomes visitors as they approach. 

After a visit to the Kimbell in the mid-1970s, Isamu Noguchi was inspired to create a sculptural ensemble in honor of architect Louis Kahn. The two men had known each other since the 1930s and had collaborated for several years to design a Manhattan playground. Although the project was never realized, Kahn and Noguchi greatly respected each other. Indeed, the prehistoric look of Noguchi’s basalt pieces reminds us that both men were fascinated with the vast stretches of history and humankind’s imagination.  

More on outdoor sculpture at the Kimbell

Download our Outdoor Sculpture: Self-Guided Family Exploration below and come by to enjoy a walk around the Kimbell campus to see works by Miró, Noguchi, Fernand Léger, and Henry Moore.

Art-Making: Model for an Outdoor Sculpture

For an indoor activity, check out these steps for an easy at-home studio-art project (adapted from a lesson plan developed for adults and children who attended a recent Kimbell Kids Drop-In Studio).


1. Wooden skewers
2. Washers
3. Wooden beads or other shapes
4. Toothpicks
5. Paperclips
6. Small paper cups
7. Clothespins
8. Drinking straws
9. Rubber bands
10. Tissue paper
11. Masking tape

Glue mixture *

 * For the glue mixture, pour a small amount of Elmer’s glue into a container and add cornstarch until you get a consistency similar to icing. For best results, apply this glue mix as a thin layer.


  • Think back to some of the sculpture topics listed above.


  • Decide where your sculpture would be located. Will it relate to a nearby structure like a school, civic building, or museum?


  • What forms do you find most interesting or appealing? What colors and types of materials will best relate to the ideas you want to express?


  • How large should your sculpture be, or how small? Does your sculpture have a base or does it stand alone? Is your sculpture one piece or several pieces?


  • Use some or all of the suggested materials to create a small model for an outdoor sculpture designed for your chosen location.


NOTE: We used a cork tile for our sculpture’s landscape, but you could use something you may already have at home—a piece of matboard or a foam meat tray.

  • Almost done! Add some miniature trees, shrubs, or flowers to go around your sculpture.


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