"If a man can't be happy on a little farm in Wisconsin, he hasn't the makings of happiness in his soul." That's according to self-taught artist and dairy farmer Nick Engelbert, but of course there aren't many little farms like Grandview, Engelbert's home and life's work.
You could say that the makings of Nick Engelbert's happiness are on display in his front yard -- sculptures of concrete and embedded rock representing his family, its heritage, and a tremendous sense of whimsy.
After a sprained ankle kept him from his chores sometime in the mid-1930's, Engelbert set about creating a home and gardens using techniques adopted from the nearby Dickeyville Grotto. Like Dickeyville's Father Matthias Wernerus, Engelbert was an immigrant as were his wife and neighbors. Engelbert referenced his own background with an Austro-Hungarian eagle, his wife's Swiss heritage with patriots around a Swiss flag, and Norwegian neighbors with a Viking.
Englebert's family are depicted as monkeys in a "family" tree. At the tree's base is a hobo, many of whom were welcome at the Engelbert's once they found their way there from the railroad that ran through nearby Hollandale. Engelbert also, over many years, completely encased his wooden farmhouse in decorated concrete.
You can visit Grandview yourself, virtually, through a Quicktime panoramic tour of the home and grounds. The scenic farm underwent a long fall into disrepair after Engelbert's 1962 death but has been saved through the efforts of the Kohler Foundation. The Pecatonica Charitable Foundation now maintains the site and has turned the site into a center for art education.
"We knew we wanted something more than a tourist site" said the Pecatonica Educational Foundation's Rick Rolfsmeyer, "We wanted to do what Nick did."
That do-it-yourself spirit that Engelbert brought to his creations lives on in art classes for the community taught by local people on the farm. "Nick was a rural man and a self-taught man," notes Rolfsmeyer. "Rural people tend to do more for themselves than possibly their urban counterparts....We wanted to celebrate rural people teaching rural people." And it all happens in a beautiful setting you can see here.