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Curious Kenosha: Bowfin Ruin history remains a mystery

Curious Kenosha: Bowfin Ruin history remains a mystery

Story behind tower sculpture at park still unknown

  • Updated

Reader Guida Brown tossed us this Curious Kenosha inquiry: “What is the Bowfin Ruin? Is it art? A smokestack from a historic building? Why is it called Bowfin Ruin”?

Bowfin Ruin is a sculpture created in 1991 by Wisconsin artist Terese Agnew and installed when the graders were still leveling the former Chrysler plant grounds in the HarborPark area.

As the Southport Marina was being improved with a restroom-shower building and parking lot, the Tot Park was built nearby with a $100,000 donation from the Kenosha Rotary Club.

Bowfin Ruin was one of the first structures to rise from the ruins of the factory.

While the city parks department has specifications on the tower, Jeff Warnock, city parks director, doesn’t have anything in the file cabinets on the history of the artwork.

“Everything we have is on the development of the Southport Marina,” Warnock said.

Agnew, a Milwaukee resident, is a sculptor and textile artist probably best known for her “Portrait of a Textile Worker” (2005), which was originally exhibited at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts in Brookfield.

According to the Museum of Wisconsin Art website, it was later acquired by the Museum of Arts and Design in New York for its permanent collection.

Agnew’s quilts are found in the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Milwaukee Art Museum and elsewhere. Before Bowfin Ruin, she created The Dragon Project (1985), a huge fiberglass sculpture temporarily installed on a historic water tower in Milwaukee.

In 1995, she collaborated with Mary Zebell on The Wisconsin Workers Memorial, a permanent sculptural installation at Milwaukee’s Zeidler Union Square.

Attempts to reach Agnew by multiple emails addresses failed.

The Kenosha News will continue to look into this question, trying to get a more satisfying answer.

Are you curious?What do you wonder about the Kenosha area, its people and culture? With Curious Kenosha, we’re looking into the questions that matter to you. Visit to submit your question, read what others have submitted and — when voting rounds are taking place — have your say on which one we answer next.


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