About Us

What is SPACES?

SPACES—Saving and Preserving Arts and Cultural Environments—is dedicated to the study, documentation, and preservation of art environments and self-taught artistic activity. It is currently a preservation project of Kohler Foundation. 

SPACES—Saving and Preserving Arts and Cultural Environments

SPACES was incorporated in 1978 for the purposes of identifying, documenting, and advocating for the preservation of large-scale art environments. Founding director Seymour Rosen conceived of SPACES as a national (and, later, an international) organization; currently managed by Kohler Foundation in Kohler, Wis., it boasts an archives of approximately 35,000 photographs as well as numerous books, articles, audio and video tapes/DVDs, and artists’ documents.

“For me the magic has always been in watching people getting turned on to ‘street art’ and then producing their own. Only the most pedantic, egotistical or fearless witnesses to these phenomena have tried to fit them into particular categories. But they defy categorization, and that fact has resulted in an ongoing battle to get institutions to recognize the value of documenting and preserving these forms of expression. Collecting the material has been, of necessity, a labor of love…. But I am told that perhaps the time has come; perhaps a varied and complete record of the most ephemeral events of the American spirit and heritage can finally be assembled for us all to share. Maybe we will even be able to preserve the environments and objects so that people can see them firsthand. SPACES is an attempt to move in that direction, to acknowledge the magic made available to us by those whose work looks best outside of institutional walls—with the hope that we all will take the time to do our own explorations.” 


What Does SPACES Do?

SPACES serves as an international resource to state arts and humanities councils, museums, universities, public radio and television stations, state historic preservation offices, and grass roots organizations in their local and regional efforts to document, research, and preserve the phenomena of art environments. Hundreds of researchers request information annually from SPACES’ archival collections.

SPACES staff have developed materials to help local communities answer the appropriate questions for art historical, humanistic, sociological, and preservation concerns; have written feature articles on the subject for national and international magazines and journals; have spoken at national and international conferences of arts organizations, folklorists, preservationists and museum personnel; have guest-curated exhibitions for museum and university galleries; and have supplied documentation for films, videos, articles, books, and other dissemination projects by independent researchers and scholars.

Contact SPACES with research questions, to request more information or to book a speaker.

What does SPACES Archives consist of?

SPACES has become recognized internationally as the largest and most complete archive on this subject. The databases are generally organized into four components:

  1. The site database, which contains historically-significant and varied information on over 1,400 sites in the United States alone, as well as on numerous sites overseas;
  2. The bibliographic database, which includes almost 2,000 multi-lingual entries citing documents relating to art environments;
  3. The exhibitions and events database, a comprehensive chronological record of thousands of museum/gallery displays, conferences, lectures, panels, and other events which featured these artists and their sites, including documented audience figures for each; and, most importantly,
  4. The archival collection, including some 35,000 photographs, site plans, and primary documents produced by the artists, maps, artifacts, video and audio cassettes and DVDs of artist interviews, and other materials related to self-taught artistic activities. This also includes a clipping file, personal letters and correspondence from artists, scholars, researchers, museum and gallery personnel, arts and history/humanities councils, and governmental agencies.

SPACES also includes fifty state files that detail information on the political organizations of each state, so as to facilitate the nomination of sites to historical landmark status, or to cut through the bureaucratic red tape when trying to save those that are imperiled.

What is an art environment?

Suggest an Art Environment to include in the SPACES Archives


After a multi-year transition, Kohler Foundation is proud to welcome SPACES Archives to Kohler, Wis. Kohler Foundation has been committed to the preservation of art environments since taking on the conservation of Fred Smith’s Wisconsin Concrete Park in 1976 and continues that investment through its newly established preservation of SPACES. The new team is proud to preserve and honor the legacy of SPACES founder Seymour Rosen and fulfill the SPACES mission of identifying, studying, documenting, and advocating for the preservation of art environments all over the world.