Posted March 31, 2021

Cool Stories: Concrete sculpture gardens showcase Wisconsin's outsider artists

From the 1930s to the 1960s, homegrown concrete artists flourished across the midwest.

Editor's note: This story caught my eye because as a kid in the 1960s, I lived next door to a local "eccentric" concrete artist whose statuary, "perpetual motion" water fountains and other works awed and inspired me. Sadly, virtually all of his works were later destroyed.

The Dickeyville Grotto and Shrines. Wordshore (CC BY-NC-ND)"It's like walking into a gem."

That's how Cortney Anderson Kramer described the texture of the space at Wisconsin's Dickeyville Grotto.

"When you go there, it's built up at a Catholic church. It is a monument to patriotism as well as Catholicism. And it is a sort of architectural grotto shrine, that is encrusted with everything from geodes and rocks, to what is recorded to be a Ford gear shift knob," Anderson Kramer told WPR's "Central Time" host Rob Ferrett.

Anderson Kramer is a Ph.D. candidate with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Art History, where she focuses on concrete sculpture gardens in the Midwest.

WPR turned to Anderson Kramer after receiving an audience question about this type of monumental artwork from Chris Murphy in Madison. He asked: "Why are there a higher concentration of outsider artist environments in Wisconsin than anywhere else in the U.S.?"

Click here to read the entire story and see photos.