Out of Office: Wisconsin to Iowa Road Trip

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Though the SPACES team is safely working from home during the current Covid-19 pandemic, when we are able to travel, we often use SPACES to find art environments at or around our destinations. (See the map here!) We'll be sharing highlights of these trips in this new ongoing blog series: Out of Office. For our first installment, our archivist Ann Gappmayer traveled from Sheboygan, Wisconsin, to Iowa City, Iowa: 


We recently had the opportunity to travel across the state of Wisconsin on our way to Iowa.  We purposely steered our trip so we could stop at art environments on the way. Our first stop was at Nick Engelbert’s Grandview in Hollandale, Wisconsin.


Nick Engelbert's Grandview

Nick Engelbert's embellished home in Hollandale, WI.


In this sculpture by Engelbert, Uncle Sam attempts to rein in the elephant and a donkey, representing the major US political parties. The sculptures are painted concrete - and these were underwent preservation last year - hence the vibrant paint!

The grounds are open all year, and the museum is open by appointment. After calling ahead and following the directions given, we were able to visit both the grounds and the museum. The house/museum was a delight as we witnessed Nick’s thought process in embellishing his home and grounds with his creations. Another great thing to see is that Grandview also has a place for education classes and workshops during the summer.  



See more of Engelbert's art environment here! 


Dickeyville Grotto

Our next stop was Mathias Wernerus’ Holy Ghost Park, also known as the Dickeyville Grotto, in Dickeyville, Wisconsin. It is evident that Nick Engelbert and others have been influenced by the work done at the Dickeyville Grotto. Many art environment builders cite the Dickeyville Grotto as an inspiration: both because of the scale and because of the variety of materials used. 


This is the Patriotic Shrine, with Christopher Columbus at the center. There are 70 glass flowers in the design to commemorate the number of days Columbus "sailed the ocean blue."

The Grotto is beautiful with many elaborately embellished concrete structures, walkways, fences, and grottoes. The use of different materials–glass, shells, stones, etc.–and how they were arranged was well worth the trip.  It is inspiring to see the vision and creativity artists will work towards to express their beliefs and convictions. 

Learn more about the Dickeyville Grotto here!


Our Mother of Sorrows Grotto

On his quest to build the shrine, Lightner travelled more than forty thousand miles throughout the United States and Mexico looking for building materials.

Our last stop was at Our Mother of Sorrows Grotto on the campus of Mount Mercy University by William Lightner in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. This was a grotto complex also utilizing ornamented concrete. There are just a few structures in this Grotto remaining after the main structure was leveled in 1974. While not of the same scope as the Dickeyville Grotto, it was still enjoyable to see and worth the stop.



Explore more of Lightner's Grotto here!


If your travels take you this way, I would recommend a visit at all three of these environments. It is refreshing to see how each of these artists express themselves through their work.

Ann Gappmayer
Archivist, SPACES


All images courtesy of the photographer, Ann Gappmayer 

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