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 were 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.
Join Ruth Kohler in this documented video of our Panel Discussion about THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED.
Read a special Q & A from the responder, Ruth Kohler, in our gallery handout.
Dig deeper into conference sessions, view panelist bios and abstracts, read session descriptions, and continue the conversation in session forums by visiting The Road Less Traveled conference portal.
Through this web portal, you will be able to share new ideas and broaden the collective knowledge and appreciation of this unique style of art making that was the focus of a yearlong series of exhibitions at the Arts Center.Learn More
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., Herzfeld Foundation 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.