Worth the Drive: Outdoor Art 

During a season of social distancing, outdoor activities take on a whole new level of importance. Exploring outdoor art pieces, both public and private, is a great way to safely spend a summer day. 

Art in Public Spaces, Sheboygan

P.E.A.R.L. installation at night

Anyone with an admiration for large sculptures and murals would benefit from a day trip to downtown Sheboygan. The Art in Public Spaces project, an initiative of the John Michael Kohler Art Center, generated a creative dialogue between artists and the Sheboygan community, particularly the Latinx community. The artists-in-residence who took part in the project designed four public art works that took into account the community’s interests while partnering with local businesses and organizations. For example, “Threading a Dream” is a mural which recreates a scene of downtown Sheboygan with warm energy. Located on the south side of Mead Public Library, “Threading a Dream” was created by Venezuelan aunt/niece artist team Nancy Saleme and Patricia Cazorla, who came to Sheboygan during the spring of 2018 on a research visit. After meeting with the Latinx community, they felt strongly inspired to create a mural that would communicate positive messages of hope and new beginnings. Another interactive art installation located next to Meade Public Library is P.E.A.R.L., an acronym for prism, emitting, abstracted, radiant and light. Artist Michael Moore drew inspiration from Sheboygan citizens’ interactions with wild animals. Moore’s sculpture is both intimate and magical, mirroring the feelings that community members explained they felt when interacting with wild animals. A bilingual walking map of the pieces is available on John Michael Kohler Art Center’s website.

Murals, Downtown Manitowoc

Courtesy of Erin LaBonte

Manitowoc has become a mural mecca – over 16 murals have been established throughout the community since the first mural was painted in 2009. The murals center around the city’s substantial maritime history as well as local corporations and community culture. Erin LaBonte, an associate professor of art at Holy Family College, participated in creating these murals by collaborating with other artists, the Rahr-West Art Museum, non-profit organizations, private donors, paint stores and, of course, the city itself. To engage local citizens, several of these murals were “paint-by-number” pieces completed by community members. LaBonte believes that now more than ever it is crucial to take an appreciation for public art. “I think it is important to invest in our outside spaces, to make them engaging and beautiful, places where people want to be and can take pride,” LaBonte says. LaBonte participated in creating Manitowoc’s Red Arrow mural, which was inspired by a photo of Robert Doyle, a journalist from Milwaukee who was sent to the 32nd infantry division, also known as the “Red Arrow” division. This dramatic scene portrays Doyle with a distant gaze. The mural was strategically placed so that Doyle appeared to be looking out upon Lake Michigan. LaBonte will collaborate with artists Don Krumpos, Becca Jabs, and David Carpenter this summer through the creation of two additional murals. A map of Manitowoc’s murals is available online at

Rudolph Grotto Gardens & Wonder Cave

Religion and art have been intertwined for centuries. Just 20 minutes west of Stevens Point, the Rudolph Grotto Gardens and Wonder Cave offers more than five acres of land rich in faith-inspired art, history and beauty. Plan to spend two to three hours exploring the site in order to view all its features including St. Jude’s Chapel, the Grotto Museum and gift shop. Father Philip Wagner, the founder of Rudolph Grotto Gardens, built the shrine as a devotion to Mary after his health was restored from a failing state. Despite having no experience in landscaping, Father Wagner began constructing the first shrine in 1927, planting trees and flowers and later, piling stones and rocks. Construction projects were ongoing until the grotto’s finalization in 1983. The Wonder Cave comprises a one-fifth mile-long cave where all 26 shrines are located. The gardens are open year round, but the gift shop, cave and museum are open seasonally Memorial Day through September 6. 

Wolf River Art League Murals, New London

If you take a walk through downtown New London, you will be welcomed by brightly colored murals with uplifting messages. The murals in New London are created by the Wolf River Art League, a community volunteer art group. The Wolf River Art League’s current goal is to create 40 murals for the community of New London. Currently, 22 of these murals have been completed. These murals all vary in size and location; some are located in store windows, some take up entire sides of buildings, and some are in clusters throughout downtown. With most located downtown, nearly all of the murals are within walking distance of one another. This summer, the league’s artists will continue to create murals with hopes of reaching their goal of 40 by the end of the 2020 season. Lori Schneider, the president of Wolf River Art League, has voiced optimism over past and upcoming projects. “Community support has been fantastic, people are encouraging and we are looking forward to people coming to New London to see our new art,” Schneider says. A mural map is available on Wolf River Art League’s Facebook page, which gives the exact location of each mural and is updated weekly.


Sculpture Garden at Edgewood Orchard Galleries, Fish Creek 

Located in the picturesque town of Fish Creek on the Door County peninsula, Edgewood Orchard Galleries and Sculpture Garden offers its guests plenty of artistic stimulation. What makes Edgewood Orchard Galleries special is the variety of artwork that guests can view, including sculpture, paintings, furniture and jewelry, to name a few. The galleries date back to 1969 when Irene Pamperin Haberland converted her fruit barn into a gallery following her husband’s death. The 100-year-old barn was updated with carved doors and leaded glass windows and has attracted the attention of reputable artists wanting to display their work. The outdoor sculpture garden on the gallery grounds is a main attraction. After nearly a year of construction, the sculpture garden opened in 2008, just in time for the gallery’s 40th anniversary. This year, the sculpture garden features new pieces made by William Jauquet, an artist internationally-renowned for his bronze horse sculptures. In light of COVID-19, Edgewood Orchard Galleries has adapted social distancing protocols, including allowing no more than five people in each gallery at a time. The 3,600-square-foot barn has plenty of room to enjoy the artwork while maintaining distance from one another. Additionally, the 10-acre sculpture garden provides enough room for guests to roam at a distance. The galleries and sculpture garden are open by appointment on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for immunocompromised guests only. Thursday through Monday, the galleries and the sculpture garden are open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Edgewood Orchard Galleries 2020 season runs from May 12 to November 1. 

Walldogs Murals, Algoma

Over a decade ago, the town of Algoma in Kewaunee County was given national attention as its streets were transformed through the creation of ornate, colorful murals. Over the course of two days, a traveling group of artists called The Walldogs painted murals on 10 of Algoma’s historic buildings. This was accomplished with over 100 artists who were part of the Walldog Wave, all of whom painted historical depictions of Algoma, from industrial scenes to local marine life. The Walldogs’ project was organized by the Algoma Main Street Program as a method of resuming its historic preservation efforts. The goal of the artists was to preserve the historic atmosphere of Algoma by creating murals that look as if they were painted a century ago. In fact, two of the murals painted by The Walldogs are known as ghost signs, which are faded murals that already exist on the side of buildings, but are restored to their original glory. The new murals were created by Walldogs from all over the U.S. Muralists Bill and Jan Diaz, who created the Ahnapee and Western Railroad mural, were from Pontiac, Illinois. Cameron Bortz-Pawcatuck traveled all the way from Connecticut to create the Kohlbeck and Sons Fine Tailors mural. A walking map that shows the background on each mural and their locations is available online at

Bookmark this post.
Arts & Culture, Worth the Drive

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.