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Fred Smith’s Wisconsin Concrete Park

Fred Smith’s Wisconsin Concrete Park
Phillips, Wisconsin

Fred Smith (1886-1976) was unschooled and worked mainly as a lumberjack, until arthritis led him to retire in 1948 at age 62. Over the next fifteen years, Smith created over 200 concrete sculptures on the Wisconsin homestead where he had built his home. These works, often larger than life, include mythic figures like Paul Bunyan, as well as historic ones such as Sacajawea, Abraham Lincoln, and the founder of the Republic of China Sun Yat-sen. Having strong feelings about inequality between whites and Native Americans, Smith did some of his finest work depicting Native peoples. He also recorded regional history, current events, and wildlife in enormous tableaus which he embellished with bottles, mirrors, and other found objects.

After Smith’s death the Wisconsin Concrete Park was acquired by the Kohler Foundation. A wind storm caused significant damage to the site in 1977, but after restoration efforts it was reopened as a public park.

Smith’s name appears in the ceiling of the Middle Gallery at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens.

Resources:
Biography and photos
Video guided tour by John Michael Kohler Arts Center (17 minutes; 2011)
Book The Art of Fred Smith: The Wisconsin Concrete Park: A Brief History and Self-guided Tour by Lisa Stone and Jim Zanzi (1997)