Elmer Petersen, Sculptor of La Crosse

Galesville resident responsible for iconic sculptures around Coulee Region

Take a look around La Crosse and what do you notice. A city cornerstone, a riverside monument, or other tributes that make a city one of a kind.

All are related simply because they were done by one man, Elmer Petersen.

“That’s just something I do, I’m a sculptor, I make sculpture,” said Petersen.

A current resident in Galesville, Petersen was born in Racine and wasn’t drawn to sculpting until college at the University of Wisconsin Madison.

He would then move to Texas to become a teacher, but in 1978 decided to make the trip back to Wisconsin with his wife and children.

“She wanted to come up north and kind of in between the grand parents in Racine and South Dakota so I had told her about this place because I had hitch hiked up here when I was young,” said Petersen.

Petersen hoped he could do what he loved and after multiple sculpting jobs, the rest was history. For the next 39 years, Elmer would fly under the radar.

“I know for a fact that I’ve gone by a lot of art works and so forth and I never think about the person that actually did it ,” said Petersen.

Elmer would continue to make his mark around the City of La Crosse. He created the iconic Lacrosse Players Statue seen when you drive into La Crosse on Highway 35/53 and in downtown La Crosse.

“They said they wanted a sculpture for the city and I read the history for the city and I decided that would be a good subject,” said Petersen.

Petersen also made the Eagle Sculpture in Riverside Park.

“I saw that spot, all it was was that circle at the end of state street and I thought that’s the perfect place for a sculpture,” said Petersen.

Along with everything in between, this 86-years-young sculptor has a long resume but isn’t calling it quits yet.

Inside his studio at six-feet high you can find his next piece as part of the upcoming Poage Park renovations and it’s unlike anything he’s done before.

“If I made them into a sequence, it would almost be like a movie but also I could hold them up above the hurdle,” said Petersen.

So take another look around La Crosse and what you might now notice is the shaping of a city through the hard work and creativity of the simple Wisconsin native sculptor: Elmer Petersen.

“Some people are singers, some people are whatever they are, engineers so I consider myself an artist, a sculptor,” said Petersen.

Petersen said plans to continue sculpting until he physically cannot anymore. He said he’ll continue his art after that point comes, creating designs on a lesser scale and then having someone else sculpt those designs in actual size.

For more information on Elmer Petersen and the art he’s created, you can go to his website, Sculpture In Metal.