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Art Environments

Collection Series

Herman Rusch, WI

 

Herman Rusch, Prairie Moon Sculpture Garden & Museum (site view, Cochrane, WI), 1952–79. Photo: Robert Mertens, 1987.

Herman Rusch, untitled (Pillar), 1974; concrete, stone, brick, porcelain, paint; 60 x 22 x 22 in. Commissioned by Martin Friedman; gift of Rick and Suzanne Peepin. John Michael Kohler Arts Center Collection.

 Herman Rusch, Prairie Moon Sculpture Garden & Museum (site view, This for the Birds and Arches, Cochrane, Wisc.), 1952–1979. Photo: 2006, Michelle (Shelly) R. Nooyen.

 

1885–1985

On a slice of land between State 35 and a tributary of the Mississippi River, Rusch (1885–1985)—after 40 years of farming—transformed an old dance hall called the Prairie Moon Pavilion into a museum of natural phenomena, curios, unusual machines, and personal mementos. In addition, to combat what Rusch called "old age boredom," he created a series of nearly 40 sculptures of painted concrete and stone, the most striking of which is a 260-foot arched fence that spans the northern perimeter of the site. Supplementing the sculptures and paintings he made himself, Rusch added four sculptures created by an artist he admired, Halvor Landsverk (MN), to the site. Named for the original dance hall, and now known as the Prairie Moon Sculpture Garden and Museum, the colorful fantasy world Rusch built over the course of sixteen years was dedicated to his belief that "beauty creates the will to live."

In 1992, after passing through the hands of private owners, Kohler Foundation, Inc. was able to acquire and preserve Prairie Moon. In 1994 the restored site was gifted to the town of Milton, which continues to care for and program the site today.