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Radio Chipstone: Saving Sid's Stuff

Ron Wiecki
The house of artist Sid Boyum has been empty since his death in 1991, and will be put up for auction by the city. A group of people in Madison are trying to save the art left behind.

When a visual artist dies, his or her works usually find a home. Some of it may already be in museums or private collections, and others parceled out to friends and family. But what happens when the art in question is the artist’s physical environment – his or her house and land? How should we preserve it and its contents?

In Milwaukee, there is a battle over the disposition of the Mary Nohl house. In Madison, it’s the Sid Boyum house. The east side house has been empty since the folk artist’s death in 1991 and the city is about to auction it and its contents off for more than $18,000 in back taxes. But a group of people have gotten together to try to stay the auction and preserve the house and the many paintings, sculptures, drawings, and photographs stored in it.

Material culture contributor Gianofer Fields got to wondering who should be saving this art environment, and spoke with Andy Krauhaar, the Visual Materials Curator at the Wisconsin Historical Society, and Melanie Herzog an Art Historian and teacher at Edgewood College:

*As of September 4th, Dane County Treasurer Adam Gallagher agreed to delay the auction of the Sid Boyum property until fall of 2016 in exchange for volunteers to care for the outside of the property on a regular basis.


The property belonging to  folk artist Sid Boyum has been given a reprieve from the auction block. 

All the while the controversy has been going on, community members have been busy cleaning, sorting, and documenting all of the objects in the house. And Sid wasn't the only one who lived there. After his death, his son Steven took up residence for a couple of years, adding confusion to the mix. 

Gretta Wing Miller is a filmmaker who's been documenting the Boyum Home and its contents. Miller gives material contributor Gianofer Fields a rundown of what still lives in the house:

Gianofer Fields with filmmaker Gretta Wing Miller


For the past few weeks, Radio Chipstone contributor gianofer fields has been keeping us abreast of a community project focused on saving a home in Madison. The home belonged to artist Sid Boyum and fell into disrepair after his death.

In a conversation with Brian Standing, President of the Friends of Sid Boyum, Fields catches us up on the current state of the house and the effort to save it and its contents:

Gianofer Fields with President of the Friends of Sid Boyum - Brian Standing

Gianofer Fields studies material culture at UW-Madison and is the curator of "Radio Chipstone" - a project funded by the Chipstone Foundation, a decorative arts foundation whose mission is preserving and interpreting their collection, as well as stimulating research and education in the decorative arts.