The Great Poor Farm Experiment, The Poor Farm, Manawa, WI


Open House: August 7-9, 2009
Fall 2009 – Spring 2010

The Great Poor Farm Experiment is a series of works (performance, installation, sculpture, painting) installed and presented in and around the Poor Farm during the renovation of the main exhibition building. A three day open-house will inaugurate these projects during the weekend of August 7 – 9, 2009. Additional projects will be presented throughout 2009 and 2010.

Participating Artists:
David Robbins (Milwaukee)
Shane Aslan Selzer (Brooklyn)
Milwaukee International (Milwaukee)
Olivier Mosset (NYC / Santa Fe)
Philip Vanderhyden (NYC)
Zach Buchner (Chicago)
Stephen Berens (Los Angeles)
Zachary Cahill (Chicago)
Amy Park (NYC)
Cindy Loehr (NYC)
Cip Contreras (Nashville)
Stephanie Barber (Baltimore)
Matthew Girson (Chicago)
Aaron Van Dyke (St. Paul)
Shane Huffman (Chicago)
Jacob Goudreault (Chicago)
Robert Snowden (Los Angeles)
Mark Klassen (Beloit) and Andrea Zittel (Los Angeles)
Paul Druecke (Milwaukee)
Pedro Velez (Chicago)
Yogi Proctor (Chicago)
Heather Mekkelson (Chicago)
Sabina Ott (Chicago)
Forrest Nash (Chicago)
Nick Lucking (Japan) and Tim Ivison (Los Angeles)
Nicholas Frank (Milwaukee)

The Suburban
Michelle Grabner and Brad Killam founded The Suburban ( in 1999 because we wanted to host contemporary art and its orbiting conversations from our domestic Oak Park location. It is built into the economics and daily life of a working household. To date we have initiated more than 125 projects.

Ten Years Later: The Poor Farm
This year marks The Suburban’s tenth year as well as the beginnings of two new projects for us: The Poor Farm and Poor Farm Press. Located among the farmlands, wetlands, and small rivers of Waupaca County in central Wisconsin, the Poor Farm will take on the role of The Suburban’s much larger rural cousin. Long-term installations will be presented there in 8,000+ square feet of exhibition space. Coming in August 2010 the Poor Farm’s inaugural shows will include projects by Lesley Vance, David Robbins, Brad Kahlhamer, Guillaume Lebion, Nicholas Frank, Joe Pflieger and others. Poor Farm Press will originate catalogs and other printed matter not commonly contracted by established publishing firms. The Poor Farm property also hosts a dormitory building were artists and writers can be in residence for extended lengths of time.

A product of the nineteenth-century American Poor Farm System (a social establishment modeled after the English almshouses), the Waupaca County Poor Farm was erected in 1876. Historically county government–supported institutions, as an alternative to indentured labor these working farms were populated with the region’s destitute. Poor farm residents were assigned inmate status and required to work under strict conditions for minimal living accommodations. (The Poor Farm has a jail in the basement and a cemetery in the back cornfield, underscoring the social and economic complex encompassing the poor farm system.) When the Social Security Act was established in 1935, the American Poor Farm system went into decline and, ultimately, dissolution.

This year the Waupaca County poor farm will be christened with a new use. Like The Suburban, The Poor Farm will be dedicated to artists. In this vast stone and brick structure situated in the rural heartland we will further negotiate our beliefs, share resources, and widen a space for artists and other curious minds. Additionally, The Poor Farm will have its own historian and archivist: Annika Marie, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Art History, Art + Design Department, Columbia College Chicago.

We delight in and value our mid-western, middle class, middle-age life with mortgages and three kids, voila: The Suburban, The Poor Farm and Poor Farm Press.

Join Us!
The weekend of August 7, 8, and 9th we will host a Poor Farm open house. Although still in the construction stage we have invited many artists to engage ThePoor Farm’s many spaces, indoors and out. Visitors are also invited to enjoy Little Wolf River tubing, fishing, golfing, conversation, camping, canoeing, a Saturday evening BBQ and more. Bring a tent and join in on this summer jamboree art weekend, the beginning of an annual event marking year-long exhibitions and residency.

The Poor Farm
E6325 County Highway BB
Manawa, WI 54949
708 305 2657 (please call Michelle Grabner if you have questions)