By Connor Dahlin —
Every once in a while, it’s advantageous to look back into the forgotten past and rediscover what we might think were easier times, perhaps better times. In the past, specifically in the early ‘60s, the University of Wisconsin–Stout was beginning to usher in a different approach to its unique take on education. Prior to this, UW–Stout had long been largely focused on professions and majors that were highly pragmatic. Although this is respectable, the likes of Arts and Humanities does something to bring new life into such an elaborate learning community.
When the psychedelic and outlandish funk of the early ‘60s began to bloom, UW–Stout was right alongside it and started to develop its now promising Applied Arts department. These early art majors were strongly concerned with bending cultural norms and doing so in new and uncharted ways.
With this comes the introduction of “The Fence.” It was created outside of the second Applied Arts building on the UW–Stout campus. The current Applied Arts building is the third and most inclusive building. The second was in front of Hovlid Hall, where we now see a CVS Pharmacy. The backyard of this building had kilns and other art related tools. The Applied Art majors of the time created “The Fence” as a collective artwork to conceal the possessions of the building. Other sources say that it was created to avert the possibility of an accident involving a student crossing the street and not using the crosswalk as provided.
“The Fence” was created and built in the summer of 1967. Since its conception, the locals from then on felt controversially about the obnoxious structure. The later addition of black peace signs, which were associated with anarchist ideologies, caused some locals to call it unpatriotic. It not only obstructed the view of those who peered out of their windows at Hovlid, but created a blind spot for drivers trying to turn on Broadway from 3rd Avenue. “The Fence” was approximately 260 feet in length and about 50 inches in height.
The structure remained until the summer of 1973, a mere 6 years. It was at this point that the Applied Arts building that we know today was constructed. The property was then sold off and “The Fence” was inevitably destroyed. Although it was constantly declared an eyesore, “The Fence” at the very least was a good source of humor for local residents. When demolished, there was a mix of relief and sadness among the reminiscent community.
With all this considered, we can look back in a vague sort of appreciation. Some would like to think that this campus still holds this stark willingness to press academic agendas and gladly test the boundaries of social obnoxiousness. Personally I would say so: it’s with the many that tread the hallways and in broken boards buried under our campus grounds.