SPACES is thrilled to share the following Story Map regarding the creation of the Dickeyville Grotto by Dr. Emma Silverman. Emma is a Mellon Public Humanities Fellow in Monuments and Memory with the National Park Service. She is currently developing a book manuscript on the Watts Towers in Los Angeles that examines how the site was built by a self-taught immigrant and claimed by multiple publics including modernist artists and the African American community in Watts. Emma has also collaborated with public partners to preserve cultural sites through research, oral history, and digital mapping projects. She earned her Ph.D. in the History of Art from the University of California, Berkeley and previously taught as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Smith College.
Charles Fowler is the caretaker at Pasaquan, the art environment created by Eddie Owens Martin (aka St. EOM) from 1957 to 1986 in Buena Vista, Georgia. He first began working at the site in 2016 as a preservation intern for the Kohler Foundation. For the past four years, he has been an employee of Columbus State University (the steward organization of Pasaquan) and Chair of the Special Events Committee for the Pasaquan Preservation Society.
For many years, Milton and Florence Walker created a sprawling, terraced rock garden in the yard of their home on a hill in West Seattle.The site included intricately mosaicked rock walls, pathways, towers, and other structures weaving back and forth across the undulating property. After the Walkers passed away, several groups and individuals fought to purchase and protect the residential site, but it remained in the possession of family members until it was razed in early June 2021.
After years of uncertainty regarding the future of David Lee Hoffman’s The Last Resort in Lagunitas, California, it appears that a recent court decision will result in the site being razed.
SPACES is happy to share this guest post from Gabrielle Christiansen on her recent visit to a grotto environment outside of St. Louis, Missouri. Christiansen is a Midwest-based art historian and museum worker who graduated from the Modern and Contemporary Art History Master's program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2020.
In 1932, during the height of the Great Depression, Harry George “Ben” Hartman (1883-1944) began building a rock garden after losing his job as an iron molder. He started small with the creation of a fishing pond, and over the next decade – with time, cement, and thousands and thousands of rocks – Hartman filled his yard in Springfield, Ohio with over fifty fascinating stone and concrete sculptures, diverse plants, and handcrafted figurines. Kevin Rose, curator at the Hartman Rock Garden, took some time to answer questions about his experience with this midwestern art environment, its connection to his community, and what's next for the rock garden.
SPACES Archives recently reached out to Kyle BlackCatTips Brooks, an artist living and working near Atlanta, Georgia, to learn more about his practice and his developing art environment. He took our interview questions and transformed them into an incredible short film, featuring himself and a character he created—The Green Hand—voiced by actor Marcus Hopkins-Turner.
Gregg Blasdel is an artist, curator, and educator. His seminal Art in America article “The Grass Roots Artist” introduced a broad arts audience to artist-built environments in 1968. His curatorial work includes Naives and Visionaries at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in 1974, and his photography has been featured in numerous publications, including Fantastic Architecture and Eccentric Visions (1980) and Jesse Howard and Roger Brown; Now Read On (2006).
William Swislow, a founder and longtime executive at Cars.com, is now a digital media consultant, writer, art collector, and a lecturer at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. He sits on the boards of Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art and the Daily Cardinal Alumni Association. Swislow has written about art for a variety of publications, including The Chicago Tribune, RAW VISION, and Intuit’s Outsider Magazine. He has curated exhibits focused on art made from bottle caps, metal worker Stanley Szwarc, and most recently, on work by lesser-known and anonymous artists from Chicago.
From the Hartman Rock Garden of Springfield, Ohio, to the Christensen Rock Garden of Albert Lea, Minnesota, nearly every concrete sculpture garden in the Midwest includes some form of mosaic rubblework. Fred Smith (1886-1976) of the Wisconsin Concrete Park used broken bottles to decorate his concrete sculptures because he liked the way the color and reflectiveness of the glass colored the otherwise “dead” concrete. Even the Rudolph Grotto Garden and Wonder Cave, where Father Philip Wagner (1882–1959) intentionally hid his cement structures beneath the rocks for a natural appearance, features surface ornamentation using glass from the Kokomo Opalescent Glass Company (Kokomo, Indiana). So, where did they get their ideas? Though each artist had access to different materials, leading to their own signature style, the overall aesthetics are remarkably similar.