Interesting Ideas

Roadside Art Online: Environments

Wisconsin 1K GIF
Fred Smith figure 6K JPG
Fred Smith
The Roadside Genius State
14K JPG of  Nohl yard sculptures
Mary Nohl
Wegner boat 6K JPG
The Wegner Grotto
Nick Engelbert's Grandview folk art environment in Wisconsin
Grandview

Wisconsin doesn't have a lock on spectacular roadside visionary creations. Places like Watts Towers in L.A. or the Garden of Eden in Kansas see to that. But per square mile, the quality and number of its art environments are unmatched. The grottos, sculpture gardens and personal statements run the length of the state and the gamut, from the grand religious messages of Holy Ghost Park in southwestern Dickeyville to Fred Smith's patriotic masterwork in north-central Phillips.

It's to Wisconsin's credit that many of these places are actually being treated as a heritage to be preserved, with the Kohler Foundation working to conserve several of them.

You can visit a handful of sites from this page. You also can see Fred Smith's Concrete Park and the Dickeyville Grotto at other locations, and most of the state's major environments are featured in Lisa Stone and Jim Zanzi's book, Sacred Spaces and Other Places, a guide to midwestern environments published by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Farmers Retirement Home 10K JPG
Not all the state's environment's are monumental: A bit of land and some old farm junk are forged into a message on Wisconsin Highway 54 west of New London.

Fishing Hall of Fame 6/36K JPG
The Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward is in a different class from these environments; it's a tourist rather than an outsider classic. But it's both weird and Wisconsin enough to deserve inclusion on this page. Not only can you walk into the mouth of the big fish, but the museum part of the place is every bit as weird and interesting as the architecture.

Gyros | Environments | Signs | Junk | Ruins | Vistas |
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