In the News: Graceland Too has been rescued

Graceland Too, September 2013 – The middle of a new paint job

Here is a very cool news story, one I didn’t expect. In Holly Springs, MS about an hour from Memphis, TN, the legendary home of Graceland One, was a very unique tourist attraction dubbed Graceland Too. This was the home of Paul MacLeod, who sadly passed away in 2014.

In a nutshell – among obsessive Elvis fans, MacLeod may have been the most obsessed. He turned his humble abode into a shrine to the King’s castle, Graceland. The house mirrored Graceland on the outside and was filled, hoarder style, with Elvis memorabilia on the inside. And it was one of America’s most amazing and bizarre tourist attraction. MacLeod gave tours 24/7, literally you could bang on his door at four in the morning and he would get up (fueled by power naps and coca cola) and give you a tour for a measly $5. Holly Springs, MS is not too far from Ole Miss University, so drunk/ stoned college kids would show up at all times and MacLeod was happy to oblige.

MacLeod singing for us to kick off the tour – September 2013

Wifey and I were lucky enough to take the tour in the fall of 2013. MacLeod walked around his house pointing out the insane amount of Presley related ephemera, all the while poking me really hard in the chest, telling Elvis stories, answering Elvis questions and telling us how much his collection was worth.

After he passed away of natural causes (only a few days after he shot a man in his house, a strange story in and of itself), his collection was auctioned off.  Well at this point it would have been safe to assume that the Graceland Too experience was over. Paul was Graceland Too.

But, and this is really cool news, his house went up for auction and was purchased by the non-profit The Friends of Graceland Too, for $5,500. It seems they have plans to save MacLeod’s legacy and return the house to being an attraction. I really hope they are able to recapture some of the magic. It will be hard, because MacLeod was the main event; the Elvis paraphernalia and the house were just the arena in which he could do his stuff.

So check out the article here.

I will try to keep you up to date on when Graceland Too is back up for business.



In the News: Bottle Village needs your help

bottle village
Bottle Village – July 2014

As a feature of this blog I have decided I will start posting shorter art environment related news items.

Hear ye hear ye, – Grandma Prisbrey’s Bottle Village in Simi Valley, just outside of Los Angeles needs money. Preserve Bottle Village, the organization that now cares for the site has started a GoFundMe campaign. Bottle Village is a very significant site for several reasons. First, is that it is one of the few art environments built by a woman, Terresa “Grandma” Prisbrey (1896 – 1988). The site was pretty beat up by the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Bottle Village was eligible for a FEMA grant to help with repairs, but a local politician denied them the funds calling it a waste of tax payers money. Many politicians vastly underestimate the tourism potential that art environments bring to a community and they completely ignore a site’s historical and cultural significance to the area.

Well Bottle Village has set up a GoFundMe campaign to help stabilize the bottle houses that Prisbrey built. This is really great project and they seem to be making some nice progress. So spread the word and if you have a few spare shekels weighing you down consider contributing to Bottle Village and helping to preserve a great and important undervalued piece of Americana.

Click here to go to the GoFundMe campaign

Also, Bottle Village is open to the public a handful of times a year for tours. Check out their website HERE. They usually post upcoming tours several weeks, or months in advance.

If you have news about an art environment, whether it is being repaired, being torn down, needs savings, needs money, is now closed to the public, is now open to the public, etc, please let me know. If there is a site I missed on my big MAP, or I have incorrect or missing info, please let me know.

It’s not a Mirage: The California Desert Art Environment Trail

It is time to start talking about California. The Golden State has a lot of documented art environments, over 20 all told. Probably more than any other state. The vast majority of these places are located in the southern part of the state, which sucks for me, because I live in the northern part. There are a handful of terrific sites in the greater Los Angeles area, but the rest are found east of the city in the desert. Or deserts, plural, including the Mojave (high desert) and Sonoran/ Colorado desert (low desert) and the small towns scattered throughout. Basically, the eastern half of California is mostly either mountains, military bases, mines or meth-labs. In between is mostly a lot of nothing except rattlesnakes and scorpions duking it out in the empty night; meaning a lot of land for people to build whatever strikes their fancy without their neighbors kvetching.

The summers in the desert are brutal, with most days over 100 degrees. The nights not much better. It takes a certain ruggedness to live in these areas (except for perhaps Palm Springs, which is a beautiful resort town with amazing architecture and lots of swimming pools). This area is fan-fuckin’-tastic! I absolutely love this part of the country. I would move here in a heartbeat if we could just dim the Sun a bit in the summer (I am a giant baby when it comes to weather). For as barren as the desert is, it is all that much more spectacular, as the ratio of coolness and weirdness is off the charts.

So, the California desert art environment trail is roughly 250 miles and you could probably comfortably hit all nine spots in a long two to three day weekend. San Diego, Los Angeles, or Palm Springs all make great launching pads. But for the ultimate experience I say shack up in the city of Joshua Tree. There is so much to see and do in the area beyond these nine art environments that that it is probably best to just move out here, buy a yurt and slowly take it all in. Eventually, I will have longer posts to go into more detail about the sites and all the other cool non-art environments in the neighborhood, but for now, here is a little overview.

Starting from the north and heading south.

Elmer’s Bottle Ranch – 24266 National Trails Hwy, Oro Grande, CA

Elmer Long built his bottle tree ranch to showcase the 1000s of bottles that he and his dad had collected for years. This site is located along the Mother Road – Route 66, between Victorville and Barstow. Bottle Trees are long metal poles with shafts sticking out, with a beer or soda pop bottle resting on the metal branch. I initially was not all that excited to visit the ranch as I have seen bottle trees before, but man-o-manoshevitz, this place is great. There are a few hundred bottle trees, creating a dense glass forest. There are no set hours and from what I have read, it is open if the gate is open, but I get the impression it is open pretty regularly. There is a donation box.

CAdesert3Noah Purifoy’s Joshua Tree Outdoor Museum – Joshua Tree, CA (email the foundation for the exact address)

In the late 1980s Noah Purifoy (1917-2004), moved to the town of Joshua Tree in the high desert to create his masterpiece. Purifoy would not fall into the “self-taught” category. He was a working artist, who had exhibited his assemblage artworks at museums and was actually a founding director at the Watts Tower Art Center in Los Angeles, making him no stranger to art environments. His museum covers several acres and is chock full of various sculptures made from found materials either from around the area or brought to him by visitors. This is a great site. It is open 24/7, but the foundation that cares for the site does ask that you make an appointment. Check out their website and shoot them a quick email and they will send you the exact address.

CAdesert91Desert Christ Park – 56200 Sunnyslope Drive, Yucca Valley, CA

Next to a church, the sculptures, as the name implies, are all biblical. Frank Antone Martin created them in the 1950s. Created from concrete and steel, covering various scenes from the good book, this site is open daily from dawn to dusk and is only about a 20-minute drive from Noah Purifoy’s museum. These two sites and Samuelson’s rocks are in the same general area, the high desert. Check out their website here.

CAdesert96Samuelson’s Rocks – Located in Joshua Tree National Park

John Samuelson, a Swedish immigrant, lived and worked in the desert in the 1920s  in what is now Joshua Tree National Park. Samuelson carved his political/ philosophical ramblings on eight boulders around his homestead, which at the time was in the middle of nowheresville. This place is a true joy to visit, first off, it is a about 1.5 miles off any roads in the park so you have to hoof it (over pretty flat ground, but nonetheless). Then you find a little hill covered in boulders (if you don’t get lost and fall in quicksand first) and then you have to wander around looking for all eight carved rocks. I am typically not the outdoorsy type, but I absolutely love Joshua Tree Park. The Park is open 24/7. The rocks are a bit tricky to find. Bring lots of water, a compass, and some chupacabra repellent.

Next week I plan to write a longer entry about Samuelson’s Rocks and will include directions, so please be patient.

CAdesert93Cabot’s Pueblo – 67616 Desert View Ave, Desert Hot Springs, CA

From Samuelson’s Rocks, you head south into the low desert (or “down below” as residents of Joshua Tree/ Yucca Valley call it). Here, in Desert Hot Springs, just north of Palm Springs, Cabot Yerxa, staring in 1941, built his home in the manner of a Hopi-inspired pueblo. One thing, which I will jaw on about in a future post, is a that a lot of early folk art environment academia (which basically started in the late 1960s) dealt with art environments that were actually unique homes, hand-built built by a single person. I think the days of the folk art architect are over. Building codes are just too strict and you can’t really get away with just constructing a house whatever way you see fit. Almost all the art environments built in the later part of the 20th century up to now are typically sculptures crafted outside the house. Sometimes rooms are gussied up, but I think the days of an untrained builder with no blueprints creating their personal domicile are over. Cabot’s Pueblo is open to the public for tours, check out their website for hours.

CAdesert97Robolights – 1077 E Granvia Valmonte, Palm Springs, CA

Located in an affluent neighborhood in Palm Springs, Kenny Irwin now in his early 40s has been building amazing robots in his parent’s yard for decades – since he was a kid. What is most shocking about Irwin’s art is its location. Most art environments are found in the boonies, or if they are in a city, they are usually in more impoverished neighborhoods. Irwin’s yard is in a really nice part of town, only a block from what was once Frank Sinatra’s desert retreat/orgy pit.

This is a true fantasy world. Walking into his yard you are surrounded by giant monochromatic robots and assorted space creatures cohabitating peacefully in a winter/ Christmas themed universe. This place is awesome, fascinating, chaotic, totally unreal and unexpected!

Annually, Irwin opens his yard evenings around Christmas time for a holiday themed robot lightshow, thus the name Robolights, open during the Christmas season. Also, you can visit the site throughout the year with an appointment by calling 760-320-1500. When I texted him he replied the same day inviting me over. He does ask for a meager $5 donation to help with upkeep. As always, be respectful this is private property.

Update: July 2016, Kenny is having major issues with the city of Palm Springs and currently they are not allowing him to have visitors and the annual Robolights show may stalled out. The best source of info seems to be his Facebook page, which you can reach here. So check out his site before rushing over there.

CAdesert7Galetta Meadows- Sculptures by Ricardo Breceda – Located throughout Borego Springs, CA

Sculptor Ricardo Breceda was commissioned by Galetta Meadow’s landowners to create these pieces and thus to me it does not exactly conform to the art environment definition. However, other people do list this site alongside other art environments, so who am I to argue. There are over 130 sculptures littering the sand over a rough 10-mile area. This is another great one folks, (I fear that I am being overly gushy in this post, but seriously half of these desert sites are my among my absolute favorite art environments/ places in this world). The town of Borrego Springs is completely surrounded by Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. An attraction does not have to be remote to be cool, but it helps and it is pretty awesome to drive for miles through the desert void to then stumble across a metal zoo. Once you get here be prepared to be amazed. Breceda’s statues are mostly of critters that you can find in the desert today (horses, scorpions), or critters from desert days past (dinosaurs, woolly mammoths, dragons).

There is a map on the official website, showing the location of all the sculptures. You can also purchase guides and maps in town, or on before you hop on your pack mule. Most of the pieces are found off Borrego Springs road.

CAdesert2Salvation Mountain – Niland CA

Salvation Mountain is perhaps one of the most famous of America’s art environments and it is easily the most crowded one I have ever visited. The acclaim is deserved; it is one of the world’s greatest visionary art environments.  Leonard Knight (1931-2014), literally built a rainbow mountain out of hay, adobe and thousands upon thousands of gallons of paint in no-man’s land, not far from the Salton Sea (a very strange part of the country). It is unique, upbeat and positive. While it is overwhelmingly Christian, with a large cross and the words, “God is Love” emblazoned on the mountain, Knight was non-denominational in his beliefs. No dogma. Churches and other religious groups had tried to buy or co-opt the site and Knight always turned them down, as he felt that the site is his own personal beliefs and is meant to be viewed, shared and enjoyed by everyone. Knight passed away in 2014 and now volunteers and a non-profit organization have kept the thing going against all odds. It is free to visit, but donations are appreciated. Open daily, from dawn to dusk.

CAdesert99Desert View Tower and Boulder Park – In-Ko-Pah Rd, Jacumba, CA

Here you get a twofer. First, a classic tourist attraction/ rest stop, the Tower, built between 1922 and 1928 developed by Bert Vaughn, built along the interstate route between San Diego and Phoenix, AZ. The Tower is an old school attraction and gift shop where the selling point is the amazing view from the top. And next to that is an art environment, the Boulder Park, which was built in 1933 by an itinerant out of work engineer named Merle Ratliff, who carved several of the boulders to look like animals and skulls. You pay your admission at the Tower and then you can go scrambling about through Boulders. There is a small charge, but it is well worth it. The Tower is open most days, but I recommend calling (619) 766-4612 to confirm they will be open.

So take care, polar bears. Time to get some sun.

Prepping for the Rapture: Prophet Isaiah Robertson’s house

New York is a really big state. A few weeks ago I blogged about several sites along the Hudson River in the southeast corner of the state, so for no really good reason this week I have decided to yap about a really colorful site, with a really interesting mythology, in the northwest corner of the state – Prophet Isaiah Roberston’s house.

Prophet 1

Prophet Isaiah Robertson was born in Jamaica and after living in Canada moved to Niagara Falls, NY in 2004. A few years later he started building a true “visionary” art environment surrounding the exterior of his humble abode. In interviews Robertson, a self-trained artist, has said that this environment is the work of god and not of man, and that prophecy guided his hand. As you can see from the photos, the site is very colorfully painted and includes some really terrific and intricate woodwork. Prophet 2

What at first, looks simply like a rainbow of painted crosses, opens up into a myriad world of symbolism. Wifey and I were taking photos and talking to the Prophet’s neighbors, who happened to love the site, when Robertson drove up in his big black pickup truck. He was extremely friendly and gave us a little background on the site and also went into depth explaining the symbols that he crafted into his house’s vivid facade. There are, as to be expected a lot of crosses, but also identifiable iconography from other religions besides Christianity, including Stars of David and Islamic symbols.

In a video interview, Robertson points to his house and says, “So everything here my brother is a reading of the old testament prophecy and the new testament prophesy.” And it is all in there, from the seven seals, to the Ark of the Covenant to the crucifixion. For a self-trained artist, who is motivated by vision to create, he has crafted a site rich in conceptual metaphors.

Educator, photographer and fellow folk art environment enthusiast Fred Scruton has done an amazing job of documenting the Prophet’s site over the years and all the symbols. Please check out his website, for a really detailed and thorough overview of the place.

Prophet 3Robertson is the first “prophet” I have ever met and this title stems from a fascinating and dense mythology (prophecy) that he has weaved through his environment. He foretells that during the end times, all souls will pass his house on their way to the Falls, which will be turned into a pit of fire. Here , your soul will be judged. On Goat Island, a small island on the American side of the Falls and part of the State Park, god will separate the sheep (baaaa) – the followers, from the goats – the rest of us. The goats will be tossed into the burning pit (booooo). Although he figuratively spouts fire and brimstone while touring the house, he does it in a friendly, matter of fact way. I would probably fall into the goat category, yet at no time did I feel unwelcome, or uncomfortable. Just the opposite, Robertson was kind, welcoming and very pleased at being able to share his artistic creation, his prophesy and his ideology.

Prophet 7
The cross that all souls will go by during Ragnarok

Of note, Robertson prophesized that the end of the world was going to take place in 2014… Woopsie. But just in case he is on to something, I recommend visiting his house while Niagara Falls is still a beautiful series of waterfalls and not waiting till Armageddon, when your soul will fly by the site on its way to judgement. At that point, you will probably be too preoccupied to take nice photos. This is a good one folks, it has really beautiful craftsmanship and a great story, so don’t skip it.

Prophet 4
If it’s good enough for this guy, it is good enough for me

How to visit:

The Prophet’s house is located at 1308 Ontario Ave., Niagara Falls, NY. The environment is completely viewable from the sidewalk. Prophet Isaiah does enjoy sharing his stories and his art with people so feel free to knock and see if he is around. As always, this is private property so be respectful.

Niagara Falls is about thirty minutes from Buffalo and an hour and a half drive from Toronto, Canada. It is about four hours from Detroit, MI (you have to drive through Canada) and is actually farther, over six hours, from New York City.

In the Area:

There is a giant waterfall about three miles down the road.

While in no way is the waterfall a lost wonder, or the type of place I babble on about on this site, it is rather magnificent. There is city of Niagara Falls in Canada and another in USA, divided by their namesake Falls. It is funny, because Americans are typically known for being gaudy, obnoxious and loud and the Canadians are shy, pleasant, every day people who live in harmony with moose and bear. But at Niagara Falls the script is flipped and the Canadian side is a big flashy tourist trap and the American side is a well groomed, understated state park. That’s right Canada, SHOVE IT UP YOUR DUMB MAPLE LOVING BUTTS. America has out-pleasanted you!

On the American side –

I recommend checking out the state park. Both the Maid of the Mist boat tour, where you wear a cheap raincoat and go almost under the large Horseshoe Falls and the Cave of the Winds, where you walk along a set of wood stairs almost directly under the American Falls, are fantastic. The namesake cave is long gone, but Wooden Stairs of the Wind does not sound as cool. Both have been tourist attractions for over a century and both give you free rain ponchos (a rare treat for poncho collectors).

Niagara 2
Cave of the Winds

On the Canadian Side-

They also have the same boat trip under the falls, but it is operated by a different company. While they do not have Cave of the Winds, they have a similar attraction named Journey Behind the Falls.

The attractions at the Falls (either side) are about as touristy as you can get without there being a giant Mouse strolling about, but don’t let that deter you, this is a pretty amazing area. You’re not too cool to enjoy a giant perma-rainbowed roaring waterfall, are you?

On the Canadian side there is an area called Clifton Hill – several square blocks of wax museums, fun houses and Tim Horton’s doughnut shops. This is the area that really gives the Canada side the bad rep as being Americanish. But wax museums are cool by me, so check the area out. A little museum history: before museums got into actually trying to be educational collecting institutions many were what were called “dime museums.” These dime museums were composed of freak-shows, cabinets of curiosities, wax museums and also they put on simplistic morality plays (about subjects like the dangers of alcohol and women getting the vote). I see wax museums as a link to the old, weird America (even when in Canada). Sadly, many of Clifton Hill’s wax museums have gone out of business in the last decade. Support your local wax museum.

Niagara 1
Daredevil Exhibit

People for years have been making containers, getting in them and going over the side of the falls. Some die, others get a modicum of fame that is worthless in this internet era. You can see a handful of these crafts at the Niagara Daredevil Exhibit. Although small, I highly recommended this place for fans of spectacle.

Buffalo –

Niagara Falls is only twenty to thirty minutes away from Buffalo, NY, which is a pretty rust belt city with some cool things to do. Having grown up in the Detroit area, I can really appreciate a city like Buffalo. This is a city that was once a major industrial boomtown that went to seed and is now slowly going through a rebuilding phase.

As far as attractions go, they have a history museum, car museum, an art museum and a nice Frank Lloyd Wright house, but there are two stops I highly recommend.

First off, City Hall in downtown Buffalo is a beautiful art deco building (I am a sucker for art deco, so you may have to endure me yapping about it from time to time). Guided one-hour tours are available every weekday at noon.

Also, I am a sucker for World’s Fair and Buffalo had a big exposition (fancy way of Niagara 4saying World’s Fair) in 1901. In fact President McKinley was assassinated at the fair by an anarchist (which I was surprised to learn was not a punk rock kid from the mid 1980’s who wore combat boots, listened to the Exploited and drew scratchy letter A’s in their trapper-keepers). The Buffalo History Museum has a nice exhibit about the expo, they even display the gun that was used to shoot the president. But, and here’s the catch, the exhibit is not located in the normal museum, it is located a mile away in their Resource Center. You have to make an appointment to view the exhibit, but people work there during normal business hours, so just give them a call a few days, to a week ahead.

Niagara 3
Anchor Bar

Buffalo is a killer regional food/ road food stop. Their main claim to fame is their Buffalo wings, which were invented at the Anchor Bar. While it may be a tourist trap the wings at the Anchor Bar were great and there is a ton of history. There are bunch of other places known for their Buffalo Wings in town, one of the more popular is Duffs. True Buffaloeans (is that right?) also love their grilled hot dogs at Ted’s, and an item I am partial too, a sandwich called beef on weck. Beef is roast beef, weck is a salty roll, and together they make for a delicious sandwich (just add a little horseradish). The two most popular places are Schwabl’s (awesome old-school ambiance) and Charlie the Butcher’s.

Go get saved in Niagara.




Here be Dragons : I have added maps

There will be no new environments this week, instead I am letting you know I have gone back and added maps to all my posts as well as a big overall art environment map up top (in the pages section). As I have mentioned in my past ramblings one of the main reasons I have started this blog is to promote art environments and other unusual attractions to those seeking cool new places to check out. In order to facilitate people heading off the beaten path I feel it helps to create a beatable path.

The maps at the bottom of each post will highlight all the art environments, museums, restaurants and other attractions I babble on about in that post. To keep things simple the maps will stay regional, for example, the map associated with all Wisconsin environments will be the same. I will keep adding places to the map when I talk about them in the blog posts. That means you have to check back often and tell all your friends about the blog or your life will be meaningless…or more likely you may miss something.

Also, I have added my personal all encompassing Art Environments of the USA to the pages section. This big map will not include restaurants and non-art environment museums. It is a work in progress now with over 175 places.

There Must be Something in the Water: The Hudson River Valley Art Environment Trail

Some areas are ripe with art environments. I’ve already mentioned in previous posts that Wisconsin, the California desert and Kansas all have a sizable population of known, established art environments. Keep in mind that four or five art environments over a 200 mile range is a veritable bonanza. Many states, including Nebraska, Utah, Idaho and Kentucky have only one or two existing, documented, environments in the whole state. Of course, there may be a few more lurking about, just not well documented. This is why it is so exciting that in just over 100 miles, as the crow flies, in New York State, there are at least six art environments in small communities neighboring the Hudson River. It is really beyond me why there are so many environments in such a small area of the New York countryside.

The Hudson River runs through Eastern New York, roughly from the Adirondack Mountains down to NYC. If you start in the big apple and head north, you hit one small town after another and the area is really breathtakingly beautiful. Be prepared to be overwhelmed by quaintness, fudge shops and trees. This trail would make for a killer one or two day road trip from either NYC or the New England area. If you turn this into a trail and hit all six sites, you will cross the Hudson a few times and the majority of the drive is on curvy country roads, off the interstate, so you really get a great view of the surroundings.

I plan to go into more detail for each environment at some point and pinpointing other cool stops along the way, but for now here is the short of it, starting in the south and heading north.

Hudson2Easter Island on the Hudson – 14 Riverside Ave, Haverstraw, NY

Located roughly 40 miles north of Manhattan, you find Easter Island on the Hudson. As the name implies this environment butts up right to the Hudson river and like its namesake in the Pacific, it is chock full of giant stone heads. This site was created by Ted Ludwiczak (born in Poland in 1927). His front and back yard are swimming with faces carved into large boulders. This is private property and not a museum or tourist attraction. Be respectful. We knocked and Ludwiczak was super friendly and gave us permission to wander around his yard.

Hudson3Wing’s Castle – 717 Bangall Rd, Millbrook, NY

65 miles northeast of Haverstraw, crossing the mighty Hudson, you will find Wing’s Castle.

A terrific homemade castle built by Peter Wing and his family. Sadly, Peter Wing passed away in 2014; however, his wife and son are still working on the castle. They offer tours of the place seasonally and also run it as a bed and breakfast.

Check their website for hours.

The next two sites are about 45 minutes away, nearish to the town of Woodstock. A little trivia for ya – the famous Woodstock hippie-sex-fest was not actually located in Woodstock, but was 45 miles away in Bethel, NY. This does not mean that you will not see old people wearing colorful wizard garb wandering the streets of downtown Woodstock – plan accordingly.

Opus 40 – 50 Fite Rd, Saugerties, NY

Opus 40 was built over a 37-year period by artist Harvey Fites starting in 1939. This place is incredible and has quickly found a spot on my top ten art environment list. It falls somewhere between folk art environment and land-art/ earthwork (basically, it is a little “artsier” than the typical environment). It is not made up of a bunch of little sculptures, but is really just one super giant, understated sculpture that you can walk on. This place is not to be missed, it is really like nothing else. Opus 40 operates as a museum, with posted hours, gift shop and admission fees. They do close for the winter, so check their website for the latest times.

Hudson6Steve Heller’s Fabulous Furniture – 3930 NY-28, Boiceville, NY

About 20 minutes west of Opus 40, you find Steve Heller’s Fabulous Furniture, a  furniture store with a gaggle of whimsical sculptures made out of welded reclaimed materials out front. Heller’s sculptures include robots and giant strange vehicles. The store is open 9-5, but you can easily see all the statues on the front lawn anytime during daylight hours. We happened by early in the morning before they opened. Check out their website.

Hudson9Taconic Sculpture Park – Stever Hill Rd, Chatham, NY 12037 (some places the address shows up as Spencertown, NY)

About a one hour drive northeast of Opus 40 you cross the Hudson again and make your way to Stever Hill Road in Spencertown. At the end of a dirt road is the residence of artist Roy Kanwit, who has covered the front yard and hilly side of his property with some really terrific and strange sculptures made out of marble and cement. The site is open on weekends seasonally and is located on private property. This place is a little tricky to find so make sure to use the google map at the bottom of this page to help plot out a path.

Hudson9bThe Circle Museum – 10985 Route 22, Austerlitz, NY

Only a ten-minute drive from the Taconic Sculpture Park you will find Bijan Mahmoodi’s Circle Museum. Mahmoodi has slowly been filling up his property over 25 years with welded abstract sculptures. Technically open year round, if the gate is open during day light hours you can venture inside. There is a donation box by the gate and if he is around Mahmoodi may invite you into his studio to see his paintings.

All in all, this is a cool art trail through the New York countryside. I have just covered the art environments in the area and have not even begun to detail all the other interesting museums and old, dead rich people mansions/castles, that you can explore in the area.

Go buy a new car, you have a lot of driving to do.


Wisconsin Part 4: The Wegners build a grotto

We are back to the land of badgers and dairy cows to tackle another spot on the Wandering Wisconsin art environment trail. This week I present to you – The Paul and Matilda Wegner Grotto.

Wegner 2

After visiting the Dickeyville Grotto in 1929, and being impressed and inspired by what they saw, Paul and Matilda Wegner, said, “I can do that.” They then went back to their farm in Cataract, WI and started building.  At this stage in the game, they were retired and while neither had been artists by trade, they really took to transforming their land into a unique personal monument.

Wegner 4The Wegners lived long enough to see their humble yard turned into a popular tourist attraction. Paul passed away in 1937 and Matilda five years later in 1942. When they were alive, they would not let travelers take photos of their mosaic statues. Instead, they made them buy a real-photo postcard. However, since they passed away over 70 years ago they are no longer able to stop you from clicking away (even if they came back as scary ghosts they will probably not understand digital technology and presumably will not haunt you…in case that is a concern of yours).

Wegner 3
The Glass Church

They built several nice pieces, including what at the time was dubbed the “glass church.” A mini chapel encrusted with broken glass mosaics. When Paul passed away, they held his service here.

Most of the statues around the yard are concrete with glass and pottery mosaic shards. Besides the glass church, the Wegner’s built a fence, an American Flag, a Wegner 6reproduction of their 50th wedding anniversary cake, a replica of a popular ocean liner named the Bremen and several other pieces.

The Wegner Grotto is perhaps the smallest site on the Wandering Wisconsin trail, but that does not mean it should be skipped, it has some really nice mosaic work and is nicely isolated in the middle of nowhere. And like the Dickeyville Grotto that inspired it, it hearkens back to a time when God (in this case Christianity) and adopted country (the Wegners, like Father Mathius Wernerus who built the Dickeyville Grotto, were German immigrants) were common and important components of everyday life. Many of these older sites are uniquely stuck in the past and make for a fun time traveling trip to a different era.

Wegner 9
Anniversary Cake and Bremen

How to Visit:

The Wegner Grotto is located in Cataract, WI, off Highway 71, about half a mile west of Highway 27. There is no real address to plug into your GPS; however, you can plug in the coordinates 44.061224, -90.867672. It is officially open during daylight hours between Memorial Day and Labor Day, but it can be accessed year round. There are some informative plaques set up around the environment. The site is unmanned, but tours can be set up through the Monroe County Local History Room & Museum, who are the grotto’s caretakers. You can visit the history museum a few minutes away for more information. The history room is located at 200 West Main St. Sparta, WI. Also, contact the museum if you wish to have your wedding at the Wegner Grotto.

The Grotto is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. It is about two hours northwest of Madison, WI and two and a half hours southeast of Minneapolis.

In the Area:

There are a few really interesting travel opportunities nearby.

Only about a fifteen-mile drive away in Sparta WI, there is the Fast Corporation Fiberglass Mold Graveyard. Fast is a company that makes large fiberglass statues that are used all across the country, often for advertising. In the large yard around their factory, they scatter their molds and other assorted half-finished projects, so they can be used again later on. There is row after row of giant cool animal and character molds. People are free to wander around the yard. It is a ton of fun to peruse (and it’s free).  It is located at 14177 Co Hwy Q, Sparta, WI 54656.

If you like space memorabilia and bike riding you could not be in better luck. Because upstairs from the Monroe County Local History Room, and I did not make this up, is the Deke Slayton Space & Bicycle Museum. Two totally random museums in one. Old bikes on the right hand wall, space stuff on the left. Deke Slayton was a member of the Mercury 7, the first American astronauts to fly into space. The museum is located at 200 West Main St. Sparta, WI.

I can’t vouch for the next stop on the itinerary because they were closed the day I was in the area, but about 20 minutes north of the Wegner Grotto is the Jackson County Historical Society Museum in Black River Falls, WI. Now most county history museums are sort of big snooze fests, but this one looks really interesting. They have a permanent exhibit that I think could be very cool to fans of the old, weird America. I am really bummed I missed out. In 1973, Michael Lesy wrote a cult favorite book named Wisconsin Death Trip. The book has excerpts from violent and strange news stories found in late 1800s rural Wisconsin newspapers. Stories include suicides, disease, murder, arson and as crazy as it is to see in a local newspaper – ghost sightings. These stories are co-mingled with photos by Charles Van Schaick, a rural Wisconsin photographer of that time. The odd assortment of news clippings mixed with the old photos makes for a haunting, strange and slightly surreal book. Well, the Jackson County Museum has local boy Van Schaick’s photos on exhibit. The museum is located at 321 Main St, Black River Falls, WI. Check their website or Facebook page for hours.

Dismaland is Completely Sold Out: But don’t worry the Heidelberg Project is open

The other day I was conversing with a friend who is a big fan of street art. Street art is honestly something I know very little about, but it is definitely something I can appreciate and respect. We were talking about the similarities between his thing – street art and my thing – art environments, and noticed a lot of differences, but also a few similarities. Por ejemplo, art environments are more often rural, whereas street art is typically urban. Art environment builders are often older, whereas I would guess, without doing any research into the topic beyond watching 1980s break-dancing movies and the Banksy documentary Exit Through the Giftshop, that the street artists are typically younger. You could go deeper into the surface differences – art environments are built on the owner’s property, street art’s canvas is either public property or places actually owned by someone else who may not want art on it. Art environments take years to build, street art minutes or hours. Both are ephemeral, and their lifespan is left at the mercy of those with giant cans of white paint, or keys to the county bulldozer.

“Creative Commons Dismaland- 6892” by  Sleeves Rolled Up CC By 2.0

While there are many differences in the form, there are certainly similarities in their spirit. My friend argues that both mediums evade the cookie-cutter normalcy and are not establishment approved. Both have a rebellious spirit to them. I sort of hate using terms like “authentic”, or “genuine” when describing any art as I don’t want to come off as a reverse snobbery-snob, or create an us vs. them mentality against other artists. Both art forms are really generated by individuals that have a need to express themselves, often without monetary compensation, often knowing there will be a fight on their hands.

A few weeks ago, famous street artist Banksy unveiled his latest project to the general public, Dismaland – a bemusement park located in England. Along with several other modern artists and street artists, he has whipped up a large scale parody of amusement parks, namely parodying Anaheim Disneyland (as far as I can tell it is not meant as a parody to its lesser-known brethren, Hamtramck Disneyland).

Banksy has created a fantasy world – an immersive large-scale canvas, brimming with creativity. People all over social media are freaking out about the coolness of Dismaland and yapping about wanting to queue up to fly over to dumb England to check it out. And I don’t blame them, it looks great and strange and perhaps there is a wee bit of, “OK we get it, corporate culture has won our little brains,” but not enough to dissuade me from being a fan. It looks like a really fun, weird experience. But it is already sold out and soon it will go bye bye. So guess what friends, you more than likely will not get to check out Banksy’s statement.

But honestly, this is nothing new, Banksy is not the first person to create a larger than life experiential world. In fact, this very blog is dedicated to the hundreds of unique fantasy worlds that already exist here in the good ole USA. No, most art environments do not have the size, scope or financial investment of Dismaland. However, I would argue that several art environments give it a run for its money. And guess what, they are free, or cheap and have better visiting hours.

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The Heidelberg Project

So, I was trying to think of comparable art environments and I thought of the Heidelberg Project, located in Detroit, MI. Like the street art ethos that Banksy comes from, it is urban, located in the heart of the big city, and at least initially, it covered other people’s property and took up residence in the no-man’s land of public property. It is large, covering a few full city blocks.  It is part guerrilla art and living theater. It is totally rebellious – the city and other naysayers have tried to dismantle it numerous times. However, it is tough and it perseveres. It changes constantly and has points to make and stories to tell – its main tools are creativity and community (and lots of polka dots). And unlike Dismaland, it is completely free to visit and is open 365 days a year. You can go there whenever you want!

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The Heidelberg Project

Starting in 1986 artist Tyree Guyton transformed a few city blocks in a rough shod neighborhood in Detroit into a piece of art. Guyton had lived through the Detroit riots of the 1960s and had seen his city and his neighborhood slide into bedlam.heidelberg 4 Poverty, racism, violence and crack rock had moved in. He had a vision that he could do something and make a difference. Driving around with family members, Guyton started collecting his art supplies – the discarded detritus of a decaying metropolis. Slowly the neighborhood along Heidelberg Street turned to polka dots. Doll parts, old vacuum cleaners, and hundreds of shoes covered the ground, porches, roofs, walls and trees.

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The Heidelberg Project

The vision encroaches all over the area. It is found or assemblage art, using bits and pieces of left over stuff – including paint, used cars, toys, junk, stuffed animals, records, whatever fit Guyton’s fancy. It has gone through many changes and it freely moves with the wind. Some of the changes are due to the artist adding, deleting and adapting the space. These changes come from a positive direction. Other changes though, come from those who don’t get it, and have the weaponry to fuck it up for everyone else.


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The Heidelberg Project

Not everyone likes it, and it has drawn its fair share of criticism. Some people in the community at first saw it as just a big junk heap, an eyesore. Neighbors felt that it was just drawing whites from the suburb to come look at garbage, and that is was not a good representation. But over the years the Project has started to change people’s minds. Some neighborhoods finally started to see the brilliance of the whole ordeal and started Heidelberging up their own house. After three decades, the community is starting to get that it was built for them. It is open to all and in an impoverished neighborhood where the residents don’t always make it to the expensive and imposing beaux arts – think big marble columns – Detroit museums, it has taken on the nickname of the “ghetto Guggenheim.”

heidelberg 8It is a true survivor and has withstood outside aggression. The first large scale attack came from the city of Detroit who drove down Heidelberg Street with demolition equipment and knocked down a few of the abandoned, but artistically embellished houses in 1991. The city bulldozers came back in 1999 and obliterated several more houses. Guyton did not ask for permission and he paid the price for his independence.

The city stopped knocking stuff down after that. But now there is a new enemy, a firebug has been let loose. In 2013 and 2014, arsonists (one or many, no one has been caught), had destroyed about a dozen of the houses. Nevertheless, the Heidelberg Project perseveres and rebuilds. Guyton has turned his little piece of the world into a chaotic, colorful and amazing fantasy world. No, it is not the mid size-budget spectacle of Banksy’s Dismaland (which is not the mega budget spectacle of Disneyland). It is messy, but beautiful. Most every time I visit family in the area, I check it out and it always is a bit different. This is a piece of Americana that truly needs to be celebrated. There is so much to see and take in and you could easily spend hours wandering about. For a fun little exercise, check it out on Google Maps Street View. You can virtually drive down the street and see how it looked in 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015.

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The Heidelberg Project

How to visit:

The Heidelberg Project is located on Heidelberg Street in Detroit. If you are using a GPS or internet map just plug in the address 3600 Heidelberg St., Detroit, MI. The environment is open 24/7 and everyone is welcome. It is completely free to visit, but I away recommend if you have a few spare schekels loading you down, get rid of them here. Guyton is still alive and you may get to meet him or a visiting artist at work. What started as one-man covering the street in crooked smiley faces has become a well oiled non-profit community education machine. They provide scheduled tours and art classes. There is a gift shop on the premises (but no indoor toilet, just a honey bucket). There is plenty of street parking.

In the Area:

There is so much cool stuff to see and do in Detroit.

I would highly recommend visiting Hamtramck Disneyland (not to be confused with the non-existent Hamtramck Dismaland) which is only 4 miles away. Go there while the getting is good (as of this writing its future is unknown).

Outside Mbad’s African Bead Museum

Soon I will write about MBAD’S African Bead Museum, which is about six miles away. This is another cool assemblage art site located in Detroit.

While I would not consider The Henry Ford Museum/ Greenfield Village, or the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA) as lost wonders, they are still must sees.

In the Detroit suburb of Farmington Hills, about 25 miles north of the Heidelberg Project, you will find Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum. This place is greeeeaaaat! It is an arcade of vintage coin operated machines. This includes some very rare oddities, including P.T. Barnum’s Cardiff Giant. To make a long story so short that is probably hard to follow, in the 1800s a farmer in New York buried and then “discovered” the body of a petrified giant. Which was really a just a big sculpture he made. However, the farmer and his giant became a huge sensation and made a ton of money fooling people into thinking a race of giants had previously walked the earth. P.T. Barnum, probably pissed that he didn’t think of it first, built his own version to con the masses. The Farmer’s Museum in New York has the real fake, Marvin’s has Barnum’s fake fake. It is a great relic of the old, weird America. Marvin’s museum/ arcade is filled with amazing things and is a ton of fun to visit.

Competing Coneys

A quick note on Detroit regional delicacies- The Detroit area is most famous for the coney Island hot dog, basically a chili dog with Greek spices. There are figuratively hundreds of coney joints in the area. The two that get the most buzz are the oldest coneys in the city and they are literally right next door to each other, Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island. Both are good, but Lafayette never did any fancy remodels, so it wins.

Detroit also has their own form of deep-dish pizza. The pizza is square and the cheese is melted/burnt/ delicious all along the edges. My two favorite spots as a kid were Shield’s and Buddy’s. Suck it, Chicago!

However, my absolute favorite Detroit regional delicacy is a dish found at most, if not all, Chinese restaurants in the metropolitan area – Almond Boneless Chicken. It is a holdover dish from when Chinese restaurants became Chop Suey houses trying to appease white America’s palate. It is a deep fried breaded chicken breast covered in gooey brown gravy, with maybe like three or four almond slices thrown on top. I know that sounds gross, I am not a food writer, but it is so good. Go shove some in your pie hole.


Connecting the Dots: Tyree Guyton’s Heidelberg Project. (2007). Detroit: Wayne State University Press.


Wisconsin Part 3: A walk in the woods

On a quiet country road, a few miles outside of Sheboygan WI, James Tellen turned the property surrounding his summer cottage into a mystical fantasy world that integrates beautifully with the setting. Unlike some other sites like last week’s Glenn Stark Yard, which has a claustrophobic cluttered feel, Tellen’s 30 odd pieces are spread out over a larger area, creating a very peaceful serene feeling.

Miniature tavern scene

James Tellen crafted his site, dubbed the Woodland Sculpture Garden, between 1942 and 1957. He got the idea at the age of 62 to start building while sick in the hospital. He was inspired while looking out his hospital room window at the statues at the Catholic grotto across the street. Over the next 15 years, he built the statues on the grounds around the summer home and along the windy path through the woods behind the house.

The path behind the house

There is not a cohesive theme to the concrete sculptures. Some are painted, some tellen 5left raw. Around the house on the large front lawn there are fantastical creatures like tree elves and musical dwarfs in mid-silent concert, as well as less fantastical creatures like Abraham Lincoln. There is also a tableau of miniature people at a tavern, various full size people not at a tavern and along the front of the street, there is a group of three Native Americans straddling a log fence. Many of the pieces blend in seamlessly with the wooded area. The long concrete fence looks just like a mangled fallen tree.

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Log fence along the street front

Behind the house the statues get more religious. On a meandering trail through the woods, you will find characters out of the bible including Jesus, the Virgin of Fatima and St. Peter. tellen 6

The Woodland Sculpture Garden is one of the stops on the Wandering Wisconsin trail. I talk all about the trail in a previous post. This art environment is a real gem and while not as heavily populated with sculptures as some other sites this is actually a benefit as it gives the place a calm, mystical serenity, almost like something out of a fairy tale.

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How to visit:

James Tellen’s Woodland Sculpture Garden is located at 5634 Evergreen Drive
Town of Wilson, WI, on the outskirts of Sheboygan. If you are using Google Maps type in Sheboygan instead of Town of Wilson. Sheboygan is about one hour drive north of Milwaukee. The environment is open to the public during day light hours year round and is totally free. There is a parking lot next to the house. Tellen has a couple of cabins on the property that are only open during special events. This site is very popular with mosquitoes who appreciate the realism and level of detail Tellen has instilled in his sculptures, and/ or just being in the woods. Come prepared.

There is no gift shop and no bathrooms (depending on how comfortable you are peeing in the woods). But I highly recommend you hold it in till you get to your next stop, the John Michael Kohler Art Center….

In the Area:

Carl Peterson
A piece from Carl Peterson’s no longer existing art environment

Tellen’s site is less than five miles away from another spot on the Wandering Wisconsin route, the John Michael Kohler Art Center, who incidentally are the caretakers of the Woodland Sculpture Garden.

The museum has an amazing collection of outsider/self taught/folk/ vernacular art including pieces from various art environments across the country. If you are a fan of environments then you have to go to the museum. In front of the building are the relocated statues from the Carl Peterson Rock Garden. Peterson was a Swedish immigrant who had built several miniature buildings in front of his house in Minnesota. While Kohler was unable to save the site in situ – on the premises -they were at least able to save some of his statues.

My only gripe with the art center is that I wish it were bigger because they do not have their permanent collection on exhibit. They have really interesting and offbeat temporary exhibits, but I kept reading about all these great things that the center is supposed to have and when I got there none of it was on display, it was all in dumb storage (booo).

Kohler toilet2Hopefully, they have a cool exhibit when you are there. Also, they have great bathrooms. Remember, this is the same Kohler family that made your kitchen sink, so it is only pipe fitting that the museum has artsy toilets. Every bathroom in the place is cool.

I suggest that you go to the museum with a member of the opposite sex. That way you can have have your fellow traveler check their corresponding restroom out and give you the all clear when it’s empty, and then you can see how the other half lives. I am a brilliant strategist.

The museum is free. For the most up to date info for hours and upcoming exhibits at the John Michael Kohler Art Center click here.

I am also a sucker for regional classic food. If a town is known for their special variety of barbecue, pizza, burgers or hot dogs you will find me eating there. When in Sheboygan you have to eat a Sheboygan bratwurst.  It is a delicious, greasy German sausage served with pickles, onions and mustard on a heavily buttered roll. Two places in town known for their brats include The Charcoal Inn, which has two locations and Gosses. I had the double brat at the south side Charcoal Inn. The sandwich was dripping in butter and was delicious in a horrifying, embarrassing way. Make sure to get a few cheap Wisconsin beers and one or two of their famous tortes for desert and then go spend the rest of the night sitting quietly in your hotel room while holding your belly and rocking back and forth.

Keep wandering


The Life, Death and Rebirth of a Kansas Grassroots Art Environment: Glenn Stark’s Yard

I am going to take a little break from Wisconsin this week because I just found out the fate of a small, relatively unknown environment in Kansas that wifey and I visited in May 2014.

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Glenn Stark’s Yard

Some art environments are better known than others. There are easily less than 50 places that I would call “major” environments. Sites like the Watts Tower, the Heidelberg Project, Salvation Mountain, the Grotto of the Redemption, the Forevertron, the Dickeyville Grotto, S.P. Dinsmoor’s Garden of Eden, the Orange Show, the Coral Castle and Howard Finster’s Paradise Gardens, are mentioned regularly in books, magazines, indie documentaries, news articles and on the web. If you haven’t heard of any of the places I just mentioned that just goes further to show how obscure a topic this is, as those are seriously probably ten of the most well known established American sites. Most of these environments have endured for decades as tourist attractions and are supported with money and some sort of management infrastructure. Plus, they all have really intriguing cool names either given to them by the creator, or visitors. You have strange mountains, towers, castles and esoteric gardens; places where people traditionally go to defeat an evil wizard or fight off the impending goblin horde (thanks Obama!), not look at art. Places with names that make you want to visit them.

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Jesus carved from a tree stump

For every well known art environment, there are tens, if not hundreds of  obscure ones. These are the sites typically located on personal property that may be too new or geographically isolated, thus remaining obscure. They may be ignored or misunderstood by the local community, or may be not aesthetically pleasing enough to receive as much buzz from writers. It is hard to find the history, or latest information, on them. Often, there is not a website and if there is any visitor info, it is certainly not current. I once tried calling the phone number of an obscure Wisconsin art environment that I found in an old travel book. I wanted to see if I could come take photos of the place. A woman answered the phone and not knowing exactly how to phrase my question, I asked her if she had a museum in her front yard. Without hesitation, she said no, there was no museum in her front yard.  She did not take the time to double check. She probably thought it was a set up for a prank call. Is your refrigerator running (better go catch it)? Do you have Prince Albert in Can (better let him out)?  Do you have a museum in your front yard (better develop a collections management policy and clear it with the board of directors)?

Besides two well-known environments (“well-known” is a relative term), the Sign Field and the Stark 5Garden of Eden, Kansas seems to be rock chalk full of obscure environments. In the future, I will write a post or two about art environment mecca Lucas, KS, as well as the Sign Field and the great works of the now defunct Grassroots Art Association. But for now. suffice it to say, like California and Wisconsin, Kansans have a yen to use their lawn as a giant canvas. Today we are dealing with Glenn Stark’s Yard and what becomes of these little-known out of the way places.

Stark 1Glenn Stark’s house is located in Kingman, KS, a small town of around 3,000 people. In May 2014, my old lady and I were on a Kansas art environment excursion. I had seen photos of Stark’s house on a few websites and it looked interesting, but there was very little information to go on. I had an address plugged into the GPS but it was a bit out of our way and I wasn’t sure I wanted to take the risk. A few times I had planned to visit a site and once I got there the owners were not around, or a fence was up and “NO TRESPASSING” signs were placed around the perimeter. The only official website for Stark’s art was built by his stepson years ago and hadn’t been updated since 2006. There were no mentions on Yelp or TripAdvisor. Makes sense this wasn’t a tourist attraction, just some guy’s house. I had tried calling a phone number I found on a Kansas travel site but it was disconnected. All I knew was that Stark was supposedly very friendly and that he was in his late 90s. Was Glenn still alive, were the statues still there, would he mind visitors? If they were still there would I be allowed on the property? (I do realize that the fact that photos from my visit are littering this post kills any suspense for the reader).Stark 6

We arrived at his house on a rainy afternoon. The house and concrete statues that Stark built were still there crowding his front yard. We hesitantly knocked and Glenn’s wife Mary Stark came to the door. I asked if we could take photos of the yard. She was so gracious and nice, she revealed that Glenn was actually in the house, but he was in hospice care. This ended up turning into one of those really unique and special experiences.

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Big Foot

Mary came out to give us a tour. The love and admiration for her husband were readily apparent. She showed us around the yard telling us the story behind several pieces and even insisted we climb on some of the statues for photo ops. Glenn, a retired Baptist preacher, had been crafting his statues for decades for himself and his friends and neighbors. Several of the pieces he made for others ended up back in his yard. Stark had a keen sense of humor and his concrete statues included various people from real life and folklore, totem poles and native and non-native Kansas critters – including  giraffes, a big foot, Hagar the Horrible, a bear chasing a guy up a tree and a dinosaur in the midst of eating a human. Everything was a cartoon character come full size.

One of the true joys of visiting different sites have been the time I’ve met the artist. Mary was such a great woman, a true inspiration, she had so much spirit and verve and was so delighted to share her husband’s work with total strangers. While I never got to meet Glenn, as he was too sick, meeting Mary was a pure joy. At the time, she did not know what was going to happen to her husband’s works when he passed.

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How I last saw the site May 2014

And this is definitely an issue for these less treaded sites. There are only so many art and community organizations able or willing to shell out the money to protect them. Is an art museum going to purchase a house in the middle of nowhere Kansas so the small community and small handful of art environment pilgrims make it out to see them? Sometimes. This is not one of the more prestigious or well-known art environments. To be an obscure version of an obscure artistic medium does not help with conversation issues. Hell, no one ever even took the time to give Stark’s yard a catchy name.

Every month or so after visiting the Stark’s yard I would check online to see if there was any news. Sadly, Glenn did finally pass away in September 2014 at 97 years of age. I still kept checking to see the fate of his statues. I feared for the worse.

Finally, last week I found the answer.

So, the best case scenario is that the yard would be protected and conserved in perpetuity (forever and ever), worst case scenario is that the sculptures were mowed down. What we got was good, not perfect, but good. The majority of sculptures were removed by the city of Kingman and relocated to a park in town. Here visitors can still appreciate them and the statues don’t have to leave the community or get lost in a museum’s storage space.

Here is how they look now in their new home in downtown Kingman.

image from net
Photo by Keith Stokes

Their new placement seems to be a bit haphazard and lacks the charm of the original, but at least they are still around for the community and travelers to appreciate.

How to visit:

Glenn Stark’s statues have been moved to a park at the corner of Main Street and Sherman Street in Kingman, KS at the tail end of the downtown area. It is free and open 24/7. Kingman is not really near any major cities. The closest is Wichita, KS, which is about 45 minutes away. It is over three hours from either Tulsa, Oklahoma City or Kansas City.

Stark Outside KingmanAlso, about a mile east of town on US-400, look out your car window for Stark placed a couple of bison statues on the hillside there.

Things to do in the area:

Although, it is not near any major cities there are still some pretty cool travel opportunities.

It is only 45 minutes southwest from Hutchinson, KS, where you will find the Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center. The Cosmosphere is considered one of the very best space museums in the country and has to win some award, maybe runner up to Crystal Bridges, for most important cultural collection located in the middle of nowhere – suck it D.C. They have a great collection of artifacts detailing the Space Race between us and those dirty Ruskies. They actually have the authentic Apollo 13 command module, the one that Tom Hanks used to fly around in (poorly).

Stark’s statues are a little over one hour drive due east on US 400 from a truly terrific grassroots art environment, M.T. Liggett’s Sign Field. Liggett’s welded signs line the fence outside his home/ studio. They are great, funny and often hostile. Whereas Stark’s concrete statues are silly, light and cartoonish, Liggett’s signs skewer everyone from politicians – federal, state and local – as well as neighbors, friends and people who have done him wrong. One of the reasons I love art environments so much is the because of their variety and you don’t get a much better dichotomy then these two sites.

Start your engines

I want to thank Keith Stokes for giving me permission me to use his photo of the relocated statues. His site, Kansas Travel, was a great resource that I used for planning my 2014 Kansas road-trip.