Recently I made the journey to Fred Smith’s Concrete Park near Philips, Wisconsin. This is another of the fine folk art environments maintained by the Kohler Foundation and local enthusiasts. There are several places like this in Wisconsin and I am slowly making my way to all of them. It’s a lonely quest! Surprisingly, on a cold November afternoon in Northern Wisconsin, about an hour south of Ashland, the concrete garden had many visitors. Fred was a lumberjack and created his sculpture garden in the 1940s. The figures bring to life aspects of rural life he thought important and there are some fantastical creations too along with the usual patriotic symbols such as the Statue of Liberty. Imagine how restricted he was by local mores and hard-nosed critics… Difficult to be creative in such an environment so there is nothing very scandalous. But it is charming. Now that the photos are up I see how weird it all is and, as with all great art, how the characters he created seem to have a life of their own. Not seem, actually they do have a life that is continuous and evolving long after Fred’s death.
Lots of artists keep finding their way over here. A group of tap dancers came in before their show at the Cowles Center and I continue to see people from the Opera, the Guthrie and just about anyone interested in the arts. I am always surprised by print and painting collectors who like to talk about their latest finds. The Ed Sheeran tour called and had me over to US Bank Stadium so that I d give Ed and the crew a tune up. I have cordless tools and make house calls like this whenever necessary. It is fun to get out of the shop!