In 2020, the world, and Hopewell Valley, lost one of its most beloved and well-known artists, J. Seward Johnson II.  Seward was an internationally renowned sculptor and embodied the Johnson family’s long tradition of philanthropy and exploration in his specific area of interest – the arts. Seward was an influential mentor to many local artists, and the founder of Grounds for Sculpture and The Johnson Atelier in Hamilton, NJ.

The Hopewell Valley Arts Council and The Johnson Atelier are partnering to host a year-long celebration of Seward Johnson’s amazing life and the things that he loved.

The focal point of the celebration will be the installation of a 70-foot wide monumental sculpture by Seward, The Awakening, at the D&R Greenway’s St. Michaels Farm Preserve in Hopewell Township in May 2023. With support from the Atlantic Foundation, a family foundation, the Johnson Atelier received a generous grant for the installation of The Awakening. The Johnson Family is thrilled to be part of this celebration.

In addition, the HV Arts Council aspires to bring some of Seward’s life-sized sculptures to Hopewell Valley for a special six-month exhibition. The funding for the sculptures will be crowd-sourced from corporate and local businesses, and the community. If fundraising permits, 14 high-visibility locations for the sculptures have been chosen in Hopewell Valley – Hopewell Township, Hopewell Borough, Pennington, and Titusville – including one at each school campus in Hopewell Valley Regional School District. A full-celebration would include concerts & sing-alongs; poetry readings; guest speaker talks; tours; art workshops; and local business-hosted activities. Fundraising for the project has begun and will continue through April 2023.

Seward Johnson, The Awakening, ©1981 The Seward Johnson Atelier, Inc.

Why we’re excited:

    • Community pride: We love this community. It’s a wonderful place to live and/or work, and we look forward to tightening the community bonds between the towns and neighborhoods of Hopewell Valley.  
    • Art engagement: Seward’s everyday life sculptures are typically placed in cultural and historic context, creating an opportunity for creative exploration and conversation. It is a wonderful way to celebrate this remarkable person and artist who delighted in creating a sense of wandering and discovery as part of experiencing his sculpture. 
    • Tourism: This project will attract visitors/tourists from outside our area offering an opportunity to share with visitors/tourists ALL that Hopewell Valley has to offer and drive awareness of our local businesses.


Evening at the Atelier (Photo credit: John Clarke)

We are welcoming participants from the community and local businesses. Please contact us to host an upcoming event!

  • Evening at the Atelier (Photo Credit: Ted and Eve Inoue)
  • Evening at the Atelier (Photo Credit: Ted and Eve Inoue)
  • Photo credit: John Clarke
    Evening at the Atelier (Photo credit: John Clarke)
  • Bond of Inspiration, Opening (Photo credit: Mary Galioto)
  • Community Info Session (Photo credit: Mary Galioto)
  • Evening at the Atelier (Photo credit: John Clarke)
  • Evening at the Atelier (Photo Credit: Ted and Eve Inoue)
  • Evening at the Atelier (Photo Credit: Ted and Eve Inoue)


Seward Johnson was a visionary, artist and philanthropist that established an international community of artists with the Johnson Atelier in Hamilton, NJ, later going on to create Grounds For Sculpture, a 42-acre nonprofit sculpture park, museum, and arboretum on the site of the former New Jersey State Fairgrounds. A wondrous place for interdisciplinary engagement with art, nature, music and dance. A recipient of the International Sculpture Center’s 2019 Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award, Seward passed away at the age of 89 in March of 2020, but the Atelier continues his legacy.

Johnson founded the Johnson Atelier Technical Institute of Sculpture in 1974 to help sculptors overcome two problems. The first was to help sculptors retain control over their artwork. The second was to open access to previously guarded information on production techniques. The Johnson Atelier rapidly became an incubator for the advancement of art technique and technology. From all over the world, artists gathered at the Johnson Atelier to collectively advance all phases of production. This gathering of artists provided a stimulating and sometimes unorthodox environment in which everyone’s artistic practice could bloom through collaboration, dialogue and discovery.

A spirit of exploration stems directly from Seward’s passion to discover innovative methods or materials in the pursuit of making art. Today, the Johnson Atelier works to expand the capacity of artists through immersive making and creative collaboration – producing and preserving works of art and design, as well as offering ever-evolving opportunities for onsite workshops and creating cultural experiences to enrich communities and inspire engagement.

Seward Johnson in Times Square, NY with Embracing Peace – Seward 

Our first goal is to raise $17,500 for five (5) sculptures to be placed at each Hopewell Valley Regional School District public school – Bear Tavern Elementary, Hopewell Elementary, Stony Brook Elementary, Tollgate Elementary, and the Timberlane/Central High School campus. Although donations are now being accepted for other locations in Hopewell Valley, making sure there is a sculpture at each Hopewell Valley school is a top priority. Sculptures will remain at their locations for six months and will be paired with activities and events.

Every little bit helps! Let’s make this a celebration to remember.


To make this all happen, we’re looking for people to run events and activities as well as individuals who are available to volunteer. Interested in being part of Seward Johnson: Celebrating the Everyday? Please email us at info@hvartscouncil.org.