Graham Kilmer

Exhibit Captures Olmsted’s Huge Legacy

Villa Terrace offers maps, plans, posters, photographs dramatizing the impact of famed landscape architect in Milwaukee.

By - Aug 24th, 2022 12:47 pm
Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum.

Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum.

This year is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Law Olmsted, the famed landscape architect who designed New York City’s Central Park as well as several of Milwaukee County’s most popular parks.

To mark this occasion, organizations around the country have hosted celebrations of Olmsted’s legacy. The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors even got in on it, renaming a boulevard in Washington Park for Olmsted.

Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum, 2220 N Terrace Ave., has been hosting an exhibition all summer called In the Park with Frederick Law Olmsted: A Vision for Milwaukee. There’s still one more month to take it in, as it runs until Sept. 25.

The exhibition is curated by Annemarie Sawkins and Martha Chaiklin. Sawkins is an independent curator and art historian who previously served as architectural historian and advisor for Historic Milwaukee Inc., and since 2014 has served as the Honorary Consul for Denmark in Wisconsin. Chaiklin is also a historian and an independent curator.

“To convey Olmsted’s remarkable and rich history, the exhibition includes striking historic and contemporary images, along with a wide variety of maps, plans, posters, paintings, photographs, and videos,” according to a description of the exhibition.

Olmsted is often called the ‘Father of American Landscape Architecture’ and in Milwaukee he designed Lake Park, Riverside, Washington Park and E. Newberry Boulevard. He was hired by the City of Milwaukee Parks board in the late 19th century to design the parks, which were later acquired from the city by the county

“While the legacy of Frederick Law Olmsted can be experienced all over America, the exhibition’s focus on Milwaukee affords the opportunity to take a closer look at both the history and evolution of the county in context, and in relation to cultural and societal change, and to assess our local success and the challenges in maintaining our parks as democratic spaces for all communities to enjoy,” the museum said in a description of the exhibition.

There is also a 69-page exhibition catalogue with images of the artworks in the exhibits, as well as historical texts, maps and vintage postcards. The catalogue is also curated by Sawkins and Chaiklin and features contributions from them, as well as Michael Carriere, Lee Hall and Virginia Small.

The exhibition has also been a part of Olmsted 200, a yearlong celebration of Olmsted organized by the National Association of Olmsted Parks, which describes Olmsted 200 as “a coordinated national and local celebration, engaging wide and inclusive audiences in examining the foundational principles of Olmsted’s democratic vision, values, and resilient designs.”

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One thought on “Exhibit Captures Olmsted’s Huge Legacy”

  1. RetiredResident says:

    Enjoy our parks while you can, they could be gone tomorrow. Chris Abele had Alberta Darling slip in a change to state law that allows the Milwaukee County Executive to sell any county asset (i.e. a park, golf course, or even the airport) on the Exec’s signature alone with no input or veto power by the Board.

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