Sunday in the Park

A sneak peek at the Lynden Sculpture Garden

By - May 28th, 2010 04:00 am
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Picture a dream-like lawn where the beauty of art merges with the beauty of nature, a perfect refuge from strip malls and traffic. Such a place exists in a Milwaukee gem that has been around for decades in sequestered privacy but is about to take on a new and very public life: The Lynden Sculpture Garden.

This 40 acre plot is home to important, large-scale Modernist sculpture in steel, aluminum and copper. Peg Bradley, the fashionable, art-savvy woman of the house from 1927 until her death in 1978, collected the work. She was especially active in the 1960s and 70s, when she commissioned artists from around the world.  The garden frames her 50 monumental sculptures, by the likes of Alexander Archipenko, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Clement Meadmore, Marta Pan, Tony Smith and Mark di Suvero. They stand among century-old elms and oaks.

Insiders knew the place at 2145 W. Brown Deer Road in River Hills as the Bradley Sculpture Garden, the domain of a 20th century industrialist family. For decades, it was open to the public just one day per year. Starting Sunday, May 30, it will keep regular hours and behave more like a museum than like a private collection.

Peg and Harry Bradley bought the land, then a farm, in 1927. The farm was a country getaway for the Bradleys — as in Allen-Bradley — and their friends. Peg (nee Sullivan) married Harry, younger brother of Allen-Bradley founder Lynde Bradley, in 1926. By then Allen-Bradley was a thriving concern, and Harry held 49 percent of the stock (Lynde held 51 percent). Peg, Harry and their friends and family skated and swam on the man-made ponds in River Hills and partied and dined there. Decades later, after Peg had stocked the place with art, occasional busloads of children toured the grounds.

The Bradley Family Foundation owns the land, the sculpture, the much-expanded farmhouse— which houses a considerable library and painting collection —and the barn. The foundation made the decision open the place to the public and to upgrade the facilities to handle the visitors. David Uihlein is president of the foundation’s board. His firm, Uihlein-Wilson Architecture, did the design work for the extensive renovations.

The footprint of the house changed little. Visitors can stand on the same brick terrace where Peg Bradley took breakfast and gazed out at the misty grounds and Marta Pan’s floating “Sculpture Number 3,” as it turned in the wind and bobbed on the surface of the pond.

Interior designers for the project have been able to draw from the wealth of historical objects original to the home, including period toilets, light fixtures and glass doorknobs. Peg Bradley’s tiled lap pool now stores water for the fire sprinkler system. Polly Morris, the executive director, said that the materials in the renovation were 75 percent recycled.

David Uihlein is Peg Bradley’s grandson. He has sought to preserve the feeling and integrity of the place while expanding its use. Music and dance performances are in its future— Wild Space has already slated a site-specific outdoor dance there for the fall— as are temporary gallery exhibitions and educational programs. Already this summer, the Lynden will offer an  extensive line up of pre-college and youth activities. The Lynden will also be a one-of-a-kind conference location and picnic destination.

Uihlein tried to bring some of the ingenuity and efficiency that made Lynde Bradley a great engineer to bear upon the renovations. Uihlein aimed for “a contemporary sustainable suburban ecology.”

The facility gets 68 percent of its heating energy geothermally, from pipes that dive 300 feet into the earth. The new small road and a 50-car parking lot are made of pervious pavement, an efficient material that allows rainwater to percolate into the ground rather than run off into storm sewers. A water garden, in addition to being beautiful, will control runoff and serve as habitat for birds and other creatures. Deer, turtles, turkeys and roving coyotes already call the Lynden home.

Soon, artists will too. Painters, musicians and writers will be eligible to occupy an artist suite — a full apartment and studio — under a new residency program.

Uihlein expects Lynden to become a resource for the community and a place that people will return to frequently, as exhibitions change and as the seasons change and throw new light on the outdoor work.

The public is welcome to the Grand Opening, noon-5 p.m. on Sunday, May 30. Admission is $5 and children under 6 are free. Festivities include performances by the El Duo Sabio (Catherine Kolb, violin, and Julie Slightam, cello) at 12:15 and 1:15 p.m. on the patio. Tours and eco-building informational sessions will occur throughout the afternoon. Hands-on activities include Invisible Paintings, in which the image magically reveals itself when sprayed with natural pigments made from red cabbage, apple skins, and grapes; and Coffee Ground Clay (coffee grounds make a great natural pigment).  Make your own eco-friendly colored clay and then make a sculpture!

For normal hours, tours, membership and admission information, visit the Lynden Sculpture Garden website. In the meantime, check out a lovely photo gallery from TCD’s Photo Editor Brian Jacobson.

0 thoughts on “Sunday in the Park: A sneak peek at the Lynden Sculpture Garden”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Well done, you two. I love the pix, Brian. Thanks. — Tom

  2. Anonymous says:

    I always wondered what this garden of sculpture really looked like. Now, I want to see it live and walk around every piece. How exciting.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Nice story. Nice pictures. Nice place!

    As I said in my recent blog (
    I feel very fortunate to have been able to visit many times over the years and I’m delighted that everyone can now do it, too.

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