Sid Boyum Home
237 Waubesa Street, Madison, Wisconsin, 53704, United States
About the Artist/Site
Sid Boyum was an artist who lived and worked on the east side of the city of Madison, WI. During his lifetime, this Schenk-Atwood-Starkweather-Yahara neighborhood was a blue-collar community, although it is now more gentrified. Sid was an integral character in the neighborhood; he drew pictures for many of the local business owners to display (and as a way of paying off his bar tabs), he created advertising posters for others, and he endlessly photographed life in his community.
In the early 1970s Sid began to fill his yard with an array of structures and sculptures. By his death in 1991, the backyard, side yards and front yard were entirely filled with an amazing diversity of concrete sculptures. In the early 2000s, Sid's son Steve donated a dozen of the sculptures to the city of Madison, and they were moved to various public locations in Sid's old neighborhood. Since then, the house and yard were abandoned, the sculptures falling into disrepair. A local nonprofit organization, the Friends of Sid Boyum, formed in 2015 to ensure the long term protection and maintenance of all of his art work, and to build awareness of his artistic legacy. In September, 2016 this group purchased the home and are beginning the process of assessing, cataloging and restoring the artworks.
While today Sid is best known for the fantastic array of concrete sculptures found in parks, school yards and private home gardens in the neighborhood (all relocated from the original home site), he also ornamented the interior of his home. Every room had a different theme and was adorned in a different way.
Visitors may view a selection of Sid Boyum’s artworks around the neighborhood in which his house is located; at present the home itself and the dozens of sculptures in his back yard are not available for public viewing.
Additional entry: In addition to sculpture, Sid worked in other media, and he was also a collector of the work of others; all of this was stored, piled and stashed away in every room of his house. For example, Sid was a good friend of Alex Jordan Jr., the founder of the House on the Rock; acting as Artistic Director during the formative years of that attraction, Sid worked with Alex in creating, planning and acquiring pieces for display. Tom Every, later known as Doctor Evermor, also worked with Sid and Alex during this time. All three admired one another’s skills and talents, and collaborated on several projects.
After several visits to the house by Wisconsin Historical Society staff, it was determined that the material most relevant for the WHS’s collection were Sid Boyum’s photographic material, original paper art, and films. We concentrated on gathering his work as photographer and graphic artist at Gisholt Machine Company, work for neighborhood businesses (Martin Glass, Union Tavern, Cecil’s Sandals, and Virginia Dane Company), and the political and satirical cartoons that he made for the Ice Chippers and Ducks Unlimited. We left behind Sid’s oil paintings and preliminary sketches, as we felt these art works were less suitable to the collections at WHS, and we couldn’t save everything. Some material had deteriorated too much, due to the severe conditions and fluctuating temperatures; many di-acetate photographic film negatives stored in the second story of the non-air conditioned house had completely deteriorated due to the extreme heat; other material, damaged from sitting in water from the leaking roof, also had to be discarded.
We retrieved several thousand 4 x 5” black and white negatives, several hundred 35mm color slides and negatives, and hundreds of photographic prints. We also gathered many hundreds of drawings and prints, including greeting cards, advertising and slogans for local businesses, graphics for Gisholt Machine Company, political signage, and opening day fishing posters.
The Opening Day of Fishing Season artwork was created as a commemorative poster every April from 1963-1989 for The Wisconsin State Journal and the Capital Times’ sports section. During those years, Sid planned, created, staged, rehearsed, and finally drew an imaginary story for annual publication in the newspapers. Arguably his best and most unique work, these masterful fish tales called out his skill as an artist, his tactical skill and planning, his wild imagination, and his famous ability to lie and creatively expand the truth.
In 1976, Sid proudly received the Brulington Liar’s Club Award with a classic lie: “During a recent cold snap, I saw a nightcrawler steal the fur coat off a caterpillar and crawl back in his hole.” This became a graphic element in his fishing poster for 1987. In exchange for the use of his artwork, the newspapers gave Sid offset lithographic prints of his artwork to distribute as he wished. The drawings depict fantastic, fanciful scenes relating to fishing lore and fishing iconography. Sid’s fishing poster artwork was scattered throughout the house, but we found only one original pen and ink drawing of the opening day series, from 1973. Other formats including a variety of reproduction processes were discovered for many of the other years, but a few are missing entirely. We assume that during the years that the local papers were on strike, 1977-1979, Sid did not produce the fishing poster. Sid used many of his black-and-white photographs to help provide content and visual inspiration for the pen-and-ink drawings.
In 1968, Sid’s neighborhood friend Gene Coffman developed a washable make-up paint that he patented under the name of Disguise Stix©, He produced it through his company, Gratco Corporation. Gene asked Sid to provide the artistry to demonstrate the capabilities of this new product. Together they made a series of photographs of nude women that Sid painted using the Disguise Stix©. Several color prints and slides found in the collection depict these experiments. Gratco Corporation later evolved into Graftobian, a professional make-up company based in Madison, Wisconsin.
Photographs of Sid were found throughout the material salvaged from the house. Several dozen of these images could be classified as self-portraits, and it has become obvious that Sid took these photographs with a clear purpose in mind. Self-portraits of Sid posing with props in staged settings, for example, served as models for some longer-term projects that might show up in a fishing drawing or a greeting card. His self-portraits appear more the work of a serious, planning, tactician than a personal or social benchmark created for enjoyment.
Sid Boyum’s flat artwork is available to be viewed at the Wisconsin Historical Society, www.wisconsinhistory.org.
~Andy Kraushaar and Dave Erickson for the Friends of Sid Boyum
Map & Site Information
237 Waubesa Street
Madison, Wisconsin, 53704 us
Latitude/Longitude: 43.0952277 / -89.3432414
New Glarus, WI
North Freedom, WI
Mineral Point, Wisconsin