Nick’s Grandview and the Pecatonica Educational Charitable Foundation
By Megan Larsen, UW-Stevens Point arts management student and Arts Wisconsin intern
The Pecatonica Educational Charitable (PEC) Foundation in Hollandale, WI is a volunteer group comprised of local residents and community leaders. Along with fostering partnerships with local schools, providing grants, awarding scholarships and conducting arts workshops, the PEC Foundation operates and maintains Grandview.
Grandview, a concrete sculpture park created by Austrian immigrant Nick Engelbert from the 1930s through the 1950s, is a historic site, a tourist attraction, an educational institution and a space that cultivates an arts environment. Wisconsin has a significant number of unique arts centers (also called “outsider art sites” or “naive artist sites”) created by self-taught artists. (Click here for a map of some of those centers.) The Kohler Foundation, based in Kohler, WI, has been instrumental in curating and restoring these “art environments” for public use, education and enjoyment. After Engelbert passed away in 1962, his property, decorated with over 40 sculptures, fell to ruin. In the 1990s, the Foundation acquired Grandview and gifted it to the PEC Foundation (an organization specifically created in 1997 to receive and operate Grandview).
Over the past 18 years, both the PEC Foundation and Grandview have grown to serve residents and visitors to Wisconsin’s southwest region with a continually expanding roster of arts, education and community programs, including artists-in-residence, community festivals, and exhibits.
Long time Hollandale resident and community activist Rick Rolfsmeyer serves on the Board of Directors and is one of the founding members of the PEC Foundation. For Rick, working with the PEC Foundation and Grandview directly ties into his personal interests. “I’m a rura l community developer,” Rick said when asked why he continues to volunteer his time to the PEC Foundation after 18 years as a board member. “To me, many places like Grandview really show the heart and soul of rural Wisconsin.”
“I love that a dairy farmer expressed himself through the arts. Engelbert was a common immigrant but arts became so important to him so he created a community site that allowed him to express his heart and soul,” he added.
Grandview is viewed as one of the most important “outsider art” sites in the state. The upkeep of Engelbert’s creative community site is an ongoing effort for the PEC Foundation, which has some paid staff but relies primarily on the participation and good workof volunteers. At Grandview, 60% of Engelbert’s original statues have been restored, with 40% waiting to be restored. In the past, Grandview has hired accredited conservators to take care of sculpture restoration and maintenance. Hiring qualified conservators can get costly, so Grandview restoration efforts progress at a slower pace than what the sculptures’ durability demand. A majority of Grandview’s art is located outside and faces huge temperature changes, nasty storms and brutal winters.
For example, Grandview’s Snow White sculpture has lost two of her seven dwarves. Fortunately, the PEC Foundation’s latest fundraising effort raised enough money to cover restoration costs and the project to restore the two dwarves will commence soon.
Looking to the future, Grandview continues to offer services to the community through the fostering of an inclusive arts environment. On February 17, 2015, Grandview will be dedicating a statue to a community elementary school through a residency by Madison artist Dan Slick.
For more information on Grandview and PEC Foundation programs, visit www.nicksgrandview.com.