The Roads Scholarship Fund for Research and Travel 2018 recipients


The Roads Scholarship Fund for Research and Travel supports the advancement of scholarship in the rich genre of art environments, explored in Better Homes & Gardens: Vernacular Art Environments, an Art History course at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, taught by Lisa Stone. Students who complete the course submit proposals to experience a site or sites in the genre of vernacular art environments. The 2018 Roads Scholarship recipients have been annouced! 


2018 Roads Scholarship recipients:

Miseon Kim will visit art environments in Wisconsin, and spend a few days in Valton, at Ernest Hüpeden’s The Painted Forest.  “When I was introduced about the Painted Forest, I was shocked because I have…never seen anything like that. Even from photographs, I could feel life of the artist and the time he existed…I believe that paintings are living creatures and I have to meet them in person to really experience the energy. With my art practice, I ask a question, “what is life?” …I have a feeling that experiencing Hüpeden’s work and life in Valton would give me the answer to the question.


Sophie Leddick will travel to Halifax to visit the Nova Scotia Art Gallery to see Maud Lewis’ house; to Digby, to see the replica; and to Cape Forchu and other locales to film places Lewis painted. “In my work I explore the relationship between the internal and the external. I am drawn to places of liminality, landscapes that breath, break, and fragment the way memory does. A friend of mine who lived in Nova Scotia described it as a place that has a “death memory.” I’m thinking about what is lodged in the materiality of landscape and how it influenced Maud Lewis’s life and work.”


Jeremy Sublewski will travel to Niagara Falls, New York, to the home of Prophet Isaiah Robertson “and begin a discourse regarding the power one has to develop biblical text into an original dogma that transcends the traditions set by large religious institutions. We will also discuss the relationship his work has to the homes of Latinx people in the Midwest, and how one goes about developing domestic settings of worship and ritual. I will document my encounter with Prophet Isaiah by recording audio and by taking photographs.”


Jane Thompson will travel to Mary Nohl’s house (Fox Point, WI) and Noah Purifoy’s Desert Museum (Joshua Tree, CA). “I envision Noah Purifoy and Mary Nohl as spiritual siblings in the extended family of non-traditional artists, each building and curating with materials on hand as a response to their environment. Both adopted lifestyles that defied the cultural norms for black men or white women. While their deepest making impulses seemed similar, their environments and modes of activism differed.”



The Roads Scholarship Fund for Research and Travel  has awarded 59 scholarships since 2002.

Watts Towers needs our help again!

Posted in Take Action, Threatened Environments

Please join us in demonstrating to official Los Angeles and their Department of Cultural Affairs the depth and breadth of support that the Watts Towers and its Arts Center continues to maintain among supporters worldwide.


On April 9, Arts Center Director Rosie Lee Hooks was put on a three-week work suspension, effective immediately, punishment for the petty infraction of having a mural of jazz great Charles Mingus (raised in Watts) painted on the very building named after him at the Watts Towers Art Center.


The entire Arts Center staff has signed and sent a reasoned and detailed letter to Mayor Garcetti’s office protesting this injustice.


We have also learned that Cultural Affairs plans to contract out the production of the Watts Towers Day of the Drum Festival and the Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festival.


Please help us impress upon the representatives of the Los Angeles City government the importance of open communication with the staff of the Watts Towers Arts Center and the support groups who have worked together over years with the community out of which Rodia’s Towers grew.  We ask you to put your name to the letter we have prepared below and to send it to everyone on the “Mail to:” list beneath the letter. 


Make whatever changes in the letter you feel will best reflect your perspective. Then, send the letter to the first address on the list (Danielle Brazell, General Manager, Department of Cultural Affairs) and cc all the following names.


Please help us to protect the Watts Towers Arts Center, its director and its staff, so they can continue to work for the betterment of the people of Watts and the city of Los Angeles.


Thank you!


On behalf of

The Watts Towers Community Action Council

The Friends of the Watts Towers Arts Center

The Parents of the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus

The Watts Towers Arts Center Youth Board


Learn more about the Watts Towers here:


Dear Ms. Brazell,


I am writing to express my shock and dismay at the shortsightedness of the Department of Cultural Affairs for putting the Director of the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus on an immediate three-week suspension. 


Rosie Lee Hooks is an internationally honored community arts administrator and educator who has served the City of Los Angeles and the Watts community for decades. How is it that she is being punished for approving the painting of a mural portrait of the jazz giant Charles Mingus – who grew up in Watts – on the Charles Mingus Youth Arts Center, named for him when it was built more than ten years ago? The department’s action is not only an affront to Ms. Hooks but to the cultural legacy of the community itself.


Ms. Hooks has followed in the tradition of all past directors of the Arts Center to bring attention to the artistic heritage of Watts. They have all initiated the murals and mosaics adorning the buildings of the Campus with community artists. None of them were required to seek department approval for such Campus improvements and none of them ever received even so much as a reprimand. 


The department’s disproportionate reaction in Ms. Hooks’ case also takes her away from the Campus when she has to plan and organize the Watts Towers Day of the Drum Festival and the Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festival, scheduled for the end of September.  By effectively shortening the time Ms. Hooks has available to present these world famous events at the level of quality she has for almost 20 years, your department will bear the responsibility for undercutting their success. You must also be aware that if the department attempts to contract out the production of the Festival, this will likewise be regarded as a serious affront not only to the Watts community but to the music community that has participated in the Festivals and the Arts Center’s Jazz Mentorship Program over the years.


I stand by Rosie Lee Hooks, the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus staff, and the Watts community support groups. I urge you to reverse Ms. Hooks’ suspension immediately. She must be allowed to work for the betterment of the Campus and the community as she has always done – in the spirit of open communication and mutual cooperation. That is the value of community arts in a healthy society.


I ask as well that you help the Campus obtain the support of the City Councilmember to whose district the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus has brought world-class arts exhibitions, and professional arts and music education for over 50 years.       


Rodia’s Towers, the Watts Towers Arts Center, and the Charles Mingus Youth Arts Center inspire all who visit with the spirit of freedom, initiative, and multi-ethnic harmony.  The City of Los Angeles cannot afford to have such powerful symbols of peace and community be lost in these troubled times.


Sincerely yours,



In support of

The Watts Towers Community Action Council

The Friends of the Watts Towers Arts Center

The Parents of the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus

The Watts Towers Arts Center Youth Board     


Mail to:





Raise your voice in support of Philadelphia's Painted Bride!

Posted in Take Action, Threatened Environments


Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens seeks to protect important mosaic mural.


Postcard for the “Skin of the Bride” exhibition, 9/19/1993. Don Camera, 1993.Postcard for the “Skin of the Bride” exhibition, 9/19/1993. Don Camera, 1993.

OLD CITY, PHILADELPHIA:  When it was announced in December that the Painted Bride Art Center was going up for sale, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens (PMG) immediately recognized the risk that this posed to the roughly 7,000 square foot mosaic mural on the building’s façade.  PMG’s mission is to preserve, interpret, and provide access to Isaiah Zagar’s unique mosaic environment and his public murals. Zagar’s mural at the Painted Bride, located at 230-36 Vine Street, is one of his most iconic works.

In the early 1990s Zagar was invited to work on the façade of the Painted Bride building, formerly the Eastern Elevator Co. It provided one of the largest canvases to date for Zagar’s work and was the first time he created a full sidewalk to roof mosaic mural.

The decision to choose Zagar was apt, since both the artist and the Painted Bride began on South Street in the late 1960s and both were artistically, socially, and politically active in the South Street community. Today, their collaboration on the mosaic façade in Old City commemorates their shared history and dedication to the arts in Philadelphia.

In his 1993 article in the Philadelphia Daily News, Ron Avery wrote: “From sidewalk to roof every inch is colorfully painted and decorated in wild, imaginative detail. There are swirls, circles, seashells, Chinese writing and bits and pieces of ceramic birds, butterflies, flowers, human figures, and ceramic feet. ‘Isaiah took a simple industrial building with no character and made it fascinating,’ says Gerry Givnish, executive director of the Painted Bride. Zagar’s weird art has given the Painted Bride near landmark status.”

PMG’s Executive Director Emily Smith remarks, “As community members, I think it’s important to fight for the character of our city. The history and culture of our streets is what makes Philadelphia such a special place to live. What does it mean if we don’t try to keep our art and the history behind it from being destroyed?”

The application for historical designation would protect the outside of the Painted Bride building from being altered or demolished. It will be reviewed at a hearing at 9:00 AM on Wednesday, April 18, at 1515 Arch Street. PMG encourages the public to read the application, and if they support it, voice their opinion and attend the hearing.


Emily Smith | 215-733-0390 ext. 113 |



Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens (PMG) is a nonprofit visionary art environment and community arts center located in Isaiah Zagar’s largest public artwork.

Spanning half a block on Philadelphia’s famous South Street, the museum includes an immersive outdoor art installation and indoor galleries. Zagar created the space using nontraditional materials such as folk art statues, found objects, bicycle wheels, colorful glass bottles, hand-made tiles, and thousands of glittering mirrors. The site is enveloped in visual anecdotes and personal narratives that refer to Zagar’s life, family, and community, as well as references from the wider world such as influential art history figures and other visionary artists and environments.

PMG is a unique Philadelphia destination that inspires creativity and community engagement by providing educational opportunities and diverse public programming to thousands of visitors each year. For more information, visit


If you would like to contribute and write a letter of support for the historical designation for the Painted Bride façade , please send to:

Philadelphia Historical Commission
1515 Arch Street, 13th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19102


Isaiah Zager in front of mosaic. Ted Degener, 2014. Isaiah Zagar in front of one of his vibrant mosaics. Ted Degener, 2014.

Summer Internship Opportunity at the Hartman Rock Garden

Posted in job opportunities

Hartman Rock Garden, 2010

The Hartman Rock Garden (Springfield, Ohio) is offering a paid internship this summer to students enrolled in undergraduate or graduate programs who wish to gain professional experience in the fields of geology, history, art history, conservation, and museum studies. Applications are due April 6.


This intern will work alongside the garden’s strong volunteer base and professional advisors, including art historians, geologists, and art conservators. Tasks will include identifying the types of rocks and minerals that Ben Hartman used in the construction of the garden and attempting to ascertain the sources of those materials. This will include fieldwork in nearby streams and fields. The internship will also include interpreting and writing a “rock tour” of the garden, as well as basic hands-on conservation of rock and mineral art objects. This internship totals approximately 185 hours during the summer term. Schedules are based on the intern’s academic calendar. A $1500 stipend will be awarded at the completion of the internship.


Hartman summer internship 2018 information PDF


Hartman Rock Garden, 2010, Nicolas Lowe.Hartman Rock Garden, 2010, Nicolas Lowe.

Learn more about the Hartman Rock Garden on SPACES here!

See the Hartman Rock Garden website here.

University of Granada in Spain offers course in Art Brut

Posted in Resources

The course Art Brut: Parallel Worlds. Brutality and Sincerity in Art is being offerred at the University of Granada (Spain). 

This course will focus on the interdisciplinary analysis of the work of artists of different nationalities who, without having received a formal education, develop their work outside the commercial circuits of art with their own poetic and creative process, resulting in creations that don’t presribe to all norms of the contemporary artistic world. This is sometimes referred as Outsider Art or Art Brut.

There will be a tour through unique collections such as La Fabuloserie, L’Aracine or the one gathered by Jean Dubuffet in Switzerland, all the result of a different and revolutionary historiographic and artistic approach. 

Two workshops will be carried out: the one proposed by Los Hermanos Oligor and Microscopy and another one of drawing proposed by the director of the course and titular professor of the Department of Drawing of the University of Granada Dª.Asunción Jódar Miñarro.

For further information, contact Pepa Mora Sánchez, at pepamorasanchez (at)

Art Brut: Parallel Worlds. Brutality and Sincerity in Art


Justo Gallego's Cathedral may be saved!

Brick by brick, Justo Gallego has been constructing a full-scale cathedral since 1961 in the small city of Mejorada del Campo, located just outside of Madrid, Spain. Building without permits, plans, or permissions, he trusted that his labors would ultimately be rewarded and the cathedral would be finished and used for its intended purpose, despite literally decades of threats from municipal and ecclesiastic authorities that it would be demolished immediately following his death. In February 2018, however, all of the political parties of Mejorada del Campo unanimously approved a resolution to designate the cathedral as a Bien de Interés Cultural - a cultural heritage site – and to begin the process of “legalizing” it and bringing it up to code.

SPACES’s Director Jo Farb Hernández has been working with Don Justo since 2008, and a chapter about his work appears in her book Singular Spaces: From the Eccentric to the Extraordinary in Spanish Art Environments. For further information about the Cathedral and images of the work in process, see


Le gazouillis des éléphants by Bruno Montpied arrives at SPACES Archives

Posted in Resources


In this monumental 900-page book, artist and writer Bruno Montpied explores the art environments of France. Le gazouillis des éléphants (the Chirping of Elephants) digs deeply into over 300 sites scattered across the country in great detail, with photographs and information on each site. Arranged geographically, each section focuses on a different area of France and the beginning of each chapter includes a map of the region with indications of where the sites are located. 


“It seemed to me that it was necessary to gather together all of the sites in a kind of general inventory, as a whole and as completely as possible, including all of the environments or little outdoor museums created by self-taught artists as well as the inventive artwork of non-professionals…” said Montpied of the project. 


A perfect tool for researchers, Le gazouillis des éléphants features statistical information in an index that offers insights not typically examined on such a scale. Sociological statistics like the number of sites per region, the number of female creators, reasons that triggered a site’s creation, and sites newly discovered by the author, among others, empower researchers to gain valuable information for analyzing the phenomenon of artist-built environments across France. 


The publisher’s website sheds some light on the title of the book: Le gazouillis des éléphants is borrowed from an inscription found in the listed site of Alexis Le Breton in Brittany. It refers to a curious aspect of this inventory: the unusual recurrence of representations of elephants, which become a motif throughout the book, as if these animals played the role of mascots for these outstanding creators. 


This book, written in French, is available at the SPACES Archive at the Kohler Foundation, Inc., for researchers and interested parties to review, by appointment. 

Laura Pope Forester home sees bright future ahead!

Posted in Gardens, Preservation News


fullsizeoutput128May 1990

The current owners of the Laura Pope Forester home, also known as Mrs. Pope’s Museum and Garden or Pope Store Museum, have been hard at work with the goal of refurbishing the site’s gardens, sculptures, murals, and other works of art. Laura Pope (1900-1953) had built an extraordinary garden around her antebellum rural residence in Ochlocknee, GA, which included over 200 figurative sculptures. Most were three-dimensional, but others were bas-reliefs or busts set into or topping the walls and the elaborate arched gateway on the periphery of her property. She built her works up on a metal infrastructure composed of found objects such as scrap iron and tin cans, later covering them with concrete. 


Her subjects, mostly “outstanding individuals of fact and fancy” and mostly female, focused on a diverse and wide-ranging group of significant or iconic women, but there were also figures from tales and legend. Other works included a series of seven faces representing the world’s major religions; thought to have been taken from plaster casts, it has been suggested that they were molded from her friends.


fullsizeoutput126May 1990

After Laura Pope’s death, the family maintained the property without making significant changes, and for some time it remained a local tourist attraction and roadside curiosity that was supported, in part, by a civic club and Pelham’s Chamber of Commerce. However, in 1974, her only surviving son sold the site to a mill owner from the nearby town of Meigs. He thought that the sculptures had “passed their days of being useful,” so he dismantled and destroyed most of the freestanding works, leaving only some dozen that had been built into the walls. Most of the rest were destroyed in 1981, yet by 1990 several still remained within the garden walls.


By the time the current owners purchased the property and moved on-site in July 2017, the entire property had been severely neglected. Since then, considerable effort and progress has been made to rebrand both the property and Laura Pope Forester’s work, as well as to restore the structure of the building. A new nonprofit corporation – Pope’s Museum Preservation, Inc.- has been set up, and they are going through the process of preparing an application to add the home and grounds to the National and Georgia Registers of Historic Places under the categories of art, recreation and leisure, and women’s history. 


fullsizeoutput124Image from Popes Museum Preservation

You can follow along with the progress of the restoration through their newly launched website, which includes a blog with behind-the-scenes images of daily discoveries made while working on the site. You can learn more about Laura Pope Forester at SPACES here and see the Pope Store Museum website here.

Update on The Last Resort Lagunitas

Posted in Threatened Environments


The Last Resort Lagunitas, located in Marin County, California, is an art environment and model of ecological sustainability whose mission is “to discover and perfect sustainable environmental solutions for waste management, water reuse, and food security.” Built by David Hoffman over the last 40 years, there are dozens of buildings and sculptures on this site, most created from recycled materials or harvested from his own property. Many of the hand-crafted structures were inspired by Japanese, Chinese, and Tibetan art and architecture utilizing masonry, stone, and wood. As a young man in his twenties, Hoffman was inspired as he backpacked throughout Asia and beyond, ultimately visiting over 100 countries. In 1973, after settling in Marin County and developing an innovative sonic cleaning method for fragile and ancient textiles, Hoffman moved on to importing artisanal tea culture to the mainstream United States. His work was so innovative that it was chronicled in the 2007 documentary All in This Tea by noted filmmaker Les Blank.  It was during this time that Hoffman began to construct The Last Resort, in order to demonstrate that one could live on the land sustainably and without pollution. 

last resort exterior david briggs 2012The exterior of the Last Resort Lagunitas. David Briggs, 2012.

The site, with its meandering paths and contemplative corners, features over 30 buildings— some functional, others more spiritual—and also boasts a unique “integrated bio-management system” designed for disposing and recycling waste through vermicomposting: utilizing worms, micro-organisms, and carbon-rich leaves to break down grey water and food scraps, prior to being reutilized in Hoffman’s gardens. This is, however, of primary concern of the Board of Supervisors of Marin County, as is Hoffman’s treatment of human waste, which is also broken down with worm composting (compost toilets are prohibited in Marin County). The County has reprimanded Hoffman about his flouting of county codes, and has levied over $200,000 in fines and penalties for his waste treatment systems, for building without permits, and for running his current tea business, the Phoenix Collection, on the site. The County has also called for demolition of the architectural structures within the compound. “I understand their concerns,” Hoffman has stated, “but my concern for the planet is far greater than my fear of breaking the law.” 

last-resort-boat-jfh-nov-2016Full size Monterey fishing boat over cistern and well. Jo Farb Hernandez, November 2016.

On November 17, 2017, a hearing was held to determine whether the site (or how much of it) should be demolished or sold, and whether access restrictions should be imposed. The judge, who had never adjudicated a case of this nature, was impressed by the number of supporters in attendance, as well as the evidence of long-term community support evidenced by petitions and letters to the County in support of David Hoffman and his unique compound. The judge suspended the demolition of any structures or restriction of access until March 2018, when another meeting will be held and the issues at hand will undergo further review. Hoffman and his supporters feel this is a step in the right direction. In the meantime, he has continued to live—and, despite a court mandate, build—on the property. However, as reported by Point Reyes Light, a local news source for Marin County, his fines have continued to mount: he has roughly $350,000 pending on his property tax bill, reflecting the court’s administrative penalties, as well as a $93,000 bank lien on the property to cover the costs of the work of the County-appointed receiver. Mr. Hoffman, who is battling Lyme disease, said the timeline ahead—rearranging his life and work— is daunting. “I always believed that I was working on solutions, not creating a bigger problem. We can’t rely on government and big business to fix the problems in our world; we need people who understand the problem to do our part to make the planet a better place. The laws of nature just conflict with those that politicians make.”

faces at last resort lagunitasJo Farb Hernandez, November 2016.

 See more about The Last Resort Lagunitas on SPACES and visit The Last Resort Lagunitas website here.



fullsizeoutput103Gugger Petter, 2012.fullsizeoutput100Jo Farb Hernandez, November 2016.

Association des Amis de Chomo unveils new website


The Association des Amis de Chomo has unveiled their new website! Filled with amazing pictures, videos, and more of the Village d’art préludien by Roger Chomeaux, known as Chomo (1907-1999), the website is a wonderful resource for those interested in the documentation of and advocacy for art environments.


chomo website screenshotThe homepage for the new website

Since his first meeting with Chomo in 1975, Laurent Danchin, a beloved SPACES board member who passed away in 2017, was instrumental in the preservation of and advocacy for Chomo’s Village d’art préludien environment in France, organizing conservation efforts and thoroughly documenting the various stages of the artist’s transformation of his property. 


Chomo was an artist, painter, sculptor, musician, poet, filmmaker, and environment builder who lived for forty years as a hermit tucked away in the woods of Fontainebleau, France, on land purchased by his wife during the Second World War.

may-2014-hh9Jo Farb Hernandez, May 2014.

Even as a young man Roger Chomeaux had a passion for art. He attended art school in Valenciennes and the École des Beaux Arts in Paris (1926-1928), but, to earn his living, worked in the Paris area as a carpet decorator. During World War II, he was taken prisoner and deported to Poland. After the war, back in France, he continued to actively create art work in such media as gouache and ceramics, and he even experimented with film. It was at this time that he began using the name Chomo.


Eventually, Chomo and his family moved to a country house located in Achères-la-Forêt, in a forested region south of Paris. In the following years he began transforming this site into an art environment, creating a variety of constructions and buildings with the use of recycled materials. Among the works were l´Église des Pauvres (The Church of the Poor), le Sanctuaire des Bois Brûlés (The Shrine of the Burned Woods) and le Refuge (the Shelter).

le-ruge-the-shelter-at-night-2009le Ruge (the shelter) at night. Laurent Danchin, 2009.

In the mid-sixties Chomo moved permanently to this wooded site, expanding the art environment while at the same time continuing with a variety of other artistic projects as well, including painting, sculpting, weaving carpets, writing poetry, playing music, and making films. He preferred the solitude and simple life in the woods, as he felt it helped him to preserve his artistic freedom. His work, however, was becoming known, and beginning in the 1970s visitors would come to see what he had begun to call his Village d’art préludien [Village of Preludian Art]. He taught them his conception of art and his critical vision of contemporary society. At his death, he left his children (now in their 80s and without heirs of their own) a series of buildings constructed from plaster, grills, bottles, and recycled lumber or branches. He lived in a small prefab house without heating or water. 

may-2014-jfhl´Église des Pauvres (the Church of the Poor) Jo Farb Hernandez, May 2014.

Laurent Danchin met Chomo while living near Achères-la-Forêt in 1975, and he became president of the Chomo Friends Association and one of Chomo’s closest friends and collaborators. He wrote extensively on Chomo and his creations, and worked tirelessly to promote the site through visits, conferences, and presentations. The Association, while focusing on Chomo’s work, intends to broaden their reach in the defense of all art environments and the memory of their authors.


Vist and learn more about Chomo on SPACES here

Browse Blog Archives by Month

Raise your voice in support of Philadelphia's Painted Bride!
Take Action, Threatened Environments

Association des Amis de Chomo unveils new website

Gabriel Albert Sculpture Garden Undergoes Restoration
Gardens, Preservation News, Self-Taught Arts in the News

Act Now: Save The Last Resort - A Working Model of Sustainability in Marin County, CA
Take Action, Threatened Environments

Conservator-in-Residence Position, Hartman Rock Garden - Ohio
Preservation News

SPACES Honors Watts Towers Committee Founding Member Jeanne Smith Morgan on her 90th Birthday!
Preservation News, SPACES News

Remembering Josep Pujiula i Vila (1937-2016)
Self-Taught Arts in the News

Dispatch from the Field: Jo Farb Hernández in Spain

Materializing the Bible. by James S. Bielo (Miami University)
Gardens, Religious, Devotional & Spiritual

Call to Action: Preserve Grandma Prisbrey's Bottle Village in California
Threatened Environments

The SPACES website allows you to save your favorite art environments and share them with your friends or colleagues. Create your own portfolio of your favorites from environments in the online collection.

Send them to your friends, post them on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and tag #spacesarchives 

Look for this button on pages that can be saved:

Add Page to my spaces