Wisconsin Artist Fred Smith

There are some places in this world that not only demand our full attention but command our full imagination

The sculptural work of Wisconsin artist Fred Smith is commemorated at his ‘Wisconsin Concrete Park’ (listed in the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior) which is such a place.

Alongside a remote highway in Phillips, Wisconsin ghostly-white figures of hand-sculpted concrete are emblazoned with organically broken chunks of colored glass, then positioned throughout the courtyard of the outdoor ‘gallery’ making the atmosphere gush incoherent whispers from a formal procession that is eternally about to begin.

Did you hear that? I could swear I heard voices …

 The photograph below shows Fred himself near the original wood and glass information display, installed on this stone and concrete marker. Photograph by Robert Amft, circa:1960s.


Is this a time-warped scene from the future? Or might it be a materialized amalgam of lifetime memories from the past? Both probably. Eternalized in the present, Fred’s work resides in the fray, untouchable by fashion, hype or trend. A crystalline attestation to a life rich in expression, gratitude and vision not only ‘lived’ but celebrated in the wonder-filled wood that is Wisconsin.

      Fred Smith’s sculptures commemorate the settlement and development of this region, the history that occurred here, and the individuals who made it happen. Smith built monuments that meticulously capture a timeless myriad of subjects that touched his soul, including:

       – Native Americans

       – Immigrants and Regional Settlers

       – Local Myths and Legends

       – Figures and Animals

       – Events of National and Local Significance 

       – Events of Deeply Personal Significance 

      The text that follows is a small excerpt verbatim posted at the site itself:

      “Nobody knows why I made them, not even me. This work just came to me naturally. I started one day in 1948 and have been doing a few a year ever since … I put in so many hours daylight to dark … I figured I didn’t have much time to do all that work … Ya gotta get the work done … I welcome visitors. I like to watch their reactions. But I never sell any ‘cause it might spoil it for others …”

The Finishing Touch

        Glass was first used by Fred Smith to help repel rain from the sculptures. However, he liked how the light danced on the glass and felt that his work was not complete without it.

       “… I just like it and could get it for nothing. I liked it together. Otherwise your work is too dead. The mirror shines … You find things and find a use for them. Don’t cost a cent. People ask me if I need things from all over the country …”

Visit Fred’s creation. He made it for us all, so that his spirit that he instilled ever so diligently and deeply into this ethereal body of work can visit with you and enjoy your company while he and his sculptures thrill and entertain in a way that is far beyond this world.

Thank YOU, Fred!

– John




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