Radio Chipstone: 'Among The Wonders Of The Dells'

Jul 11, 2019

Just over a year ago the Museum of Wisconsin Art hired Tyler Friedman as an associate curator of c0ntemporary art. His first exhibit — called "Among the Wonders of the Dells: Photography, Place, Tourism" — is now on view.

The photography exhibit tells the story of the Wisconsin Dells from its early untouched beauty 160 years ago to the fully developed amusement destination it is today. The exhibit starts with the work of Leroy J. Gates, the first to photograph the Dells, and H.H. Bennett, known as the man who made the Wisconsin Dells famous. It ends with a contemporary view of the area with photos by Tom Jones, Mark Brautigam and others.

"Information Booth" (2018). Archival pigment print; 24 x 32 in.
Credit Mark Brautigam / MOWA

READ: The Wisconsin Dells Are More Than Just Water Parks & Gift Shops

"The Dells were close to Milwaukee, Chicago, Minneapolis: hop on a train and you can be there in a couple of hours. But it still had the feel of the Wild West, and that appealed to people," notes Friedman.

While the Dells is designed to delight its visitors, the photos tell a sometimes problematic truth. In this edition of Radio Chipstone, Friedman tells contributor Gianofer Fields how the area — founded in 1857 as Kilbourn City and known for its lumber and lead mines — became what we now know as the Wisconsin Dells: