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Art Environments

Collection Series

Fred Smith, WI

 

Fred Smith, End of the Road tableau (site view, Wisconsin Concrete Park, Phillips, WI), 1948–64.

 

1886–1976

Logger, farmer, tavern keeper, and artist, Fred Smith (1886–1976) has joined the cast of legendary Northwoods characters that so inspired him during his lifetime. The witty and magical art environment he made over a period of fifteen years in Phillips brings together myth, legend, local flavor, and history. At the same time, it draws on regional traditions such as religious grottos, so-called "museum bars," and roadside attractions.

Smith began to build his Wisconsin Concrete Park around 1950, eventually producing over 200 inlaid concrete sculptures on three acres of land. His subjects included life-size teams of horses and other domestic and wild animals; European settlers and American Indians; heroic and legendary figures; and events of national, local, and personal importance. Smith intentionally located his park along State 13 in the hope that the surprising sight of his sculptural wonderland would entice people to stop, look around, and be amazed.

In 1976, the Arts Center, Kohler Foundation Inc., the Wisconsin Arts Board, and a team of volunteers combined efforts for the first time in preserving an outdoor art environment. Today, the Arts Center cares for several of Smith's sculptures indoors while the majority of his park is cared for on its original location by The Friends of Fred Smith.