Prairie Moon

Field review by the editors.

Cochrane, Wisconsin

The Prairie Moon Folk Art site is just 5 miles up Hwy. 35 from Fountain City's Rock in the House. Prairie Moon is one of those places that sounds like it was great thirty years ago, before the guy who built it died and everything he'd collected was sold off.

Herman Rusch.

Herman Rusch was that guy, a farmer turned folk artist who began his foray when he hit his seventies. In 1952, after retiring and looking for something to occupy his time, he rented and then bought the Prairie Moon Dance Pavilion in Cochrane, intent on turning it into a museum.

Around the property, he built nearly 40 sculptures, carving and cobbling together the usual folk artist bric-a-brac of glass and pottery shards, found objects, concrete and stone. It's colorful stuff, ranging from a castle turret to decorative fences and arches to a glum self-portrait bust. There are also a couple of sculptures by artist Halvor Landsverk mixed into the works, such as a bleeding man battling a bear.

The museum included a washing machine powered by a goat and other unusual items Rusch collected or built.

Bear fight.

Rusch died six days shy of his 100th birthday in 1985, and although all his cool stuff was auctioned in 1979, his outdoor sculptures have been repaired and preserved by the Kohler Foundation, thoughtful rescuers of other Wisconsin area folk art. They've since donated the park to the nearby town of Milton to be maintained as a public art site.

Now the lawn is mowed and Herman's statues glisten with a fresh coat of paint -- but all the foundation money in world can't hide that Herman built his museum next to river wetlands, and the air is filled with swarming, bloodthirsty bugs.

Prairie Moon

52727 Prairie Moon Rd, Cochrane, WI
Hwy 35 five miles north of Fountain City. First left after Cochrane-Fountain City School onto Prairie Moon Rd.
Daylight, Museum open Su afternoons May-Oct. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
RA Rates:
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Nearby Offbeat Places

Viking Statue with No FeetViking Statue with No Feet, Buffalo City, WI - 4 mi.
The Rock in the HouseThe Rock in the House, Fountain City, WI - 6 mi.
Grave Shaped Like Fort TiconderogaGrave Shaped Like Fort Ticonderoga, Winona, MN - 13 mi.
In the region:
Ski Fence, Pepin, WI - 24 mi.

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October 22, 2020

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