Comprising 237 embellished concrete and mixed-media sculptures built by Fred Smith (1886–1976), the Wisconsin Concrete Park is a vista of life-size and larger tableaux. The Phillips, Wisconsin, site, now managed by Price County, is populated with depictions of people, animals, and events from local and national history, regional lore, and from Smith’s imagination.
In 1948, Smith retired from the lumber camps and began building bas-relief plaques and sculptures near his tavern, the Rock Garden Tavern. He created sculptures through 1964, the Budweiser Clydesdale Team being his final and most ambitious work.
The restoration of the Wisconsin Concrete Park in 1977 was the first major project for the Kohler Foundation, Inc., spearheaded by Arts Center Director Emerita Ruth Kohler. Concrete sculptures from the site will be on display, complemented by memories of that pivotal experience narrated by Ruth Kohler and set to animation by Souther Salazar.
Ruth Kohler tells the story of the Arts Center’s initial steps on The Road Less Traveled—the preservation of Fred Smith’s Wisconsin Concrete Park. Animation by Souther Salazar.
Ruth DeYoung Kohler began her career teaching art at several schools in Beloit, then joined the faculty of the University of Alberta-Calgary (now the University of Calgary), Canada, where she founded the printmaking department. In 1968, she was appointed the John Michael Kohler Arts Center's first assistant director. Ruth founded and built the Arts Center's collections of the work of vernacular environment builders and self-taught artists. Ruth is now Director of Strategic Initiatives Director Emerita and is dedicated to the creation of the Art Preserve, the world's first major facility dedicated to the study of art environments and their preservation, conservation, and public presentation.
Scholars, artists, preservationists, educators, activists, art historians, collectors and devotees will delve into the complex subject of artist-built environments during a three-day conference at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center.
Through a variety of performances, panels, and workshops, attendees will share new ideas and broaden the collective knowledge and appreciation of this unique style of art making that is the focus of a yearlong series of exhibitions at the Arts Center.
The conference, titled The Road Less Traveled, is the third Divine Disorder program of the National Park Service’s National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT). In addition to the Arts Center and NCPTT, Kohler Foundation Inc. is a hosting partner for the conference.
Sep. 27, 2017 - Sep. 29, 2017Register
This exhibition is supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Funding was also provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Kohler Trust for the Arts and Education, Kohler Foundation, Inc. and Sargento Foods, Inc. The Arts Center thanks its many members for their support of exhibitions and programs through the year. The John Michael Kohler Arts Center is a 501(c)(3) (nonprofit) organization; donations are tax deductible.
The Road Less Traveled 50th anniversary program was conceived by Amy Horst, deputy director for programming. The exhibitions series was organized and curated by Arts Center Curator Karen Patterson. Special thanks to Emily Schlemowitz, assistant curator, for the curation of Driftless: Nick Engelbert & Ernest Hüpeden and Folk & Fable: Levi Fisher Ames & Albert Zahn, and Amy Chaloupka, guest curator of The World in a Garden: Nek Chand and Volumes: Stella Waitzkin.