Thursday, May 22, 2008

Fred will never die!

For those of you who don't already know me. I live in the beautiful state of Wisconsin, I love concrete, and I love the crazy environments that people create with it. One such person was Fred Smith of Phillips, WI. Fred was born in 1886, and spent his working life as a north woodsman. He built the Rock Garden Tavern in 1936.

Self taught Fred had no formal schooling, he was asked later in life if he had been hindered by his inability to read or write, and he replied, “Hell no, I can do things other people can’t do.” This was no exaggeration. His education was experience. In was 1950, at age 65, that Smith began crafting his unique entourage of cowboys, miners, Indians, and soldiers. All Crafted from boards, wire, cement, broken bottles and whatever else struck his fancy. Built on his homestead farm Fred created a fanciful yet powerful outdoor sculpture environment he named “Wisconsin Concrete Park.” Fred suffered a stroke in 1964 and was no longer able to work, but dreamed of adding more figures. In his 14 years of sculpting he created over 200 figures. When asked why, he replied "It was in me".

Fred's collection of characters include not only famous folks like the Lincolns but local legends like Paul Bunyun and regular folks that lived nearby. All of this was preserved after his death by the Kolher Foundation. In 1977 the Wisconsin Arts Board undertook restoration, that although was hindered by a storm was completed in 1978 and the property was gifted to Price county for use as a public Art Park. So you see Fred will never die and I am sure that he is smiling down as visitors pass through and I know he is waiting for you to stop by.


Cynthia said...

Kim, I dont see a place to email you - I would like to send you pictures of my stuff and my blog address - I post other things, not just about mosaics, but I do post pics of what I'm working on. Please write me at
I love your stuff - I was on your site last week looking at the spirit totems.

13moons said...

I love this post.

I am a mosaic artist, and I really enjoy looking at and reading about all the wild and imaginative environments that artists and craftsmen make, but this moved me especially. In our time and society, we often think that everyone has to learn the same, acheive the same and test the much so that individual differences and skills are not valued. What this guy said about not being bothered by his illiteracy, because he could do things others couldn't really affected fact, I teared up at the end of the article.



13moons said...

Hi Kim,

I finally wrote the blog entry with the part about Fred Smith and the link back to your blog article. The intro ideas that I wrote first ran so long that it became an entry of its own, so this one is kind of the second part.

Thanks so much!