Visit a Wisconsin sculpture park and you’ll spend time in refreshing green spaces while appreciating a vibrant array of art – and in this state, that often means quirky creations made by self-trained artists. You’ll find these art gardens are decidedly family-friendly, allowing everyone to move about at their own pace. Here are some of the most photogenic (and Instagram-worthy!) outdoor art collections in Wisconsin.
Nothing captures the imagination like dinosaurs, especially for young kids. Real life monsters? This collection of oxidized metalwork is good fun. Creator Clyde Wynia calls himself an “amateur paleontologist” and has used his retirement years to “excavate” these creatures from nearby McMillan Marsh near Marshfield. Cross the footbridge into a yard filled with creatures great and small – some with wings, many with scales – surrounding the Hobbit House, which is a studio for his wife Nancy’s glass and fiber artwork.
Born to German immigrants in 1886, Fred Smith never learned to read or write, but had a knack for building with rocks. When he wasn’t working hard in the lumber industry, he made a rock garden for his wife and built a stone tavern. When he left the woods at the age of 62, his creativity exploded, and from 1948 to 1964 he created 237 concrete sculptures of regional historical figures, Native Americans, and animals, as well as a final masterpiece, a Budweiser horses display. The 1922 Sears and Roebuck Craftsman-style house is worth seeing as well.
Tellen was born in Houghton, Michigan, adopted at a young age, and raised in Sheboygan. He did decorative detailing for a furniture factory and pursued the arts outside of work. In the 1940 and 50s, Tellen used concrete to create more than 30 realistic human and mythic figures in the woods near his cottage. Some miniature, some life-sized, the characters seem to interact with the forest around them. His “Fallen Log” is a 65-foot-long scene of weathered logs, a bear and her cubs, and a Native American family.
Located on the north side of Milwaukee, this 40-acre park combines art with a wonderful urban green space and a small lake. The former home of Harry and Peg Bradley, the house and land previously functioned as a farm which the owners converted into an English-style country park with trees, flower beds and a collection of more than 50 monumental sculptures. Peg Bradley, an avid art collector, had them carefully arranged throughout the manicured grounds, making this a perfect place to wander or even have a picnic. Guided and self-guided tours are available, and you can visit the house and art gallery as well.
Named for its creator, an award-winning sculptor, this six-acre outdoor gallery shows an array of his imaginative works. From abstract designs and mythical creatures to dreamlike human figures, many of the works show a wide palette of lively colors. The indoor studio is also open by appointment. Items are for sale, so you can start your own backyard sculpture garden.
Tom O. Every had had a fascination with junkyard scrap since childhood, when he’d re-fashion it into useful gadgets. He took on the persona of Dr. Evermor in the 1980’s and began crafting all sorts of critters and creations. His outdoor gallery is a junkyard turned steam-punk science fiction novel. At center is the 300-ton, 50-foot high, 120-foot wide Forevertron, the world’s largest scrap metal sculpture, partly comprised of two 19th-century dynamos from the Henry Ford Museum. Truly a sight to behold.
There's more unexpected oddities to be discovered around Wisconsin – prepare to pull over for these quirky roadside attractions!