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.
Myron Thomas (M.T.) Liggett (1930–2017) was well known for creating metal totems and whirligigs and has been called a folk artist, provocateur, activist, a “poker”, and more. With the upcoming opening of a new visitors center in his name, his expressive artworks–and the sometimes heated conversations they inspired–will continue on.M.T. Ligget in his workshop. Photo: Arden Bradshaw
7 Steps Toward Completing a Successful National Register of Historic Places NominationEmma Mooney is an art and architectural historian currently pursuing a Master of Preservation Studies degree at Tulane University. She first realized her interest in the built environment during an internship with the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in 2014 and since then has researched art environments such as Joe Minter’s African Village in America and Clementine Hunter’s African House Murals. Before becoming involved in historic preservation, she worked in museum collections management, most recently at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and the American Folk Art Museum.
The Mary Nohl Art Environment is on the National Register of Historic Places. See the full nomination through the NRHP.
The entrance for the 2017 exhibition Things Are What We Encounter, could be seen down a long hallway-like gallery and, beyond, a line of Dr. Charles Smith’s sculptures on pedestals awaited your arrival.
While Seymour Rosen is most known for his advocacy and photography of art environments, a major portion of his catholic creative practice included capturing street celebrations in the communities surrounding him. From music festivals to state fairs, jazz musicians to body builders, Rosen's perspective of the vibrant and diverse cultures in Los Angeles tells a fascinating story of the art in the everyday and the joy of community.
The Art Preserve is an experimental space built for the John Michael Kohler Arts Center’s collection of over thirty-five artist-built environments. Designed to be a cohesive space for housing and displaying art, it provides an opportunity for continued discovery into art environments and their creators and the mission of the Arts Center as steward. Laura Bickford is associate curator at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center where her responsibilities include overseeing and executing the curatorial vision of the Art Preserve and related exhibitions at the Arts Center. She has had a lifelong love of all things handmade, embellished, encrusted, fried, miniature, and oversized, which has led to her professional pursuit of the vernacular, the extraordinary every day, and objects created on the margins of culture.
Though, like the rest of you, we spent much more time safe at home than out in the field this past year, the SPACES team still had the great privilege to discover and engage with dynamic art environments and their advocates around the world. Here’s a summary of what we were up to in 2020!
DAS BUNTESHAUS: Courtesy of artist, Silja Coutsicos
Part of the Ellsworth Rock Garden’s (ERG) allure is its unlikely setting in Minnesota’s Voyageurs National Park. The enormous waterway park is at the southern fringe of the northern boreal forest, consisting of islands and backcountry trails which connect Lakes Namakan, Rainy, and Kabetogama. The latter is the only Voyageurs lake that doesn’t share boundary waters with Canada and is the location of “the Showplace of Lake Kabetogama” as the ERG is locally known. Humans have long capitalized on the area’s natural resources such as the fur trade, logging, mining, and world-class fishing. We saw bald eagles everywhere while canoeing from campsite to campsite and had a few close encounters with black bears.