Jack Barker's Metal Art Sculpture Garden – Essex, Illinois - Atlas Obscura
Jack Barker's Metal Art Sculpture Garden is permanently closed.

AO Edited

Jack Barker's Metal Art Sculpture Garden

Essex, Illinois

Moving, mind-blowing metal sculpture work of an outsider artist. 


For about 50 years, Jack Barker has been spending his days in his workshop, crafting incredible works of art out of scrap metal, plastic, and any bits of “trash” or “junk” he can collect. The result is an acre of mind-blowing creative interpretations of everyday figures as well as inspired original works. Impossible to miss as you drive by, Barker’s garden begs visitors to risk sensory overload and slowly traipse through, marveling at each piece as not only a sum of its parts but as a conglomeration of easily overlooked “crap.”

If you call ahead or are lucky enough to catch Jack while he’s at work, he will be more than happy to give you a tour of his massive workshop (which is just as impressive as the creations that come from it), answer any and all of your questions, show off the tools he has handcrafted as part of his creative process to suit his needs, and walk you around the garden.

A mild-mannered, sweet man who simply enjoys what he does in the shop, Jack does not boast about his work but about his family. He will recount stories of his wife, children, and grandchildren as he walks you through the labyrinth of his workshop, showing off landmarks of his family’s life.

A visit to Jack Barker’s Sculpture Garden is not just a walk through some cool junk, it’s an aesthetic and spirit-lifting experience. Going on a windy day is advised as some of his pieces come to life with the breeze.

Update: According to online sources, it seems that Jack has passed away and the sculptures are now gone.

Update as of March 2021: A selection of sculptures have been moved to a display in Braidwood, IL on Route 66 across from the Polka Dot Drive-In.


In partnership with KAYAK

Plan Your Trip

From Around the Web