Cynthia Consentino, The Women’s Room, hand-painted porcelain tile and bathroom fixtures.
The public washrooms at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center epitomize the achievements of Arts/Industry, the decades-long collaboration between art and industry conceived by Director Ruth Kohler. Begun in 1974 as a means of supporting artistic exploration by providing artists with access to industrial technologies, Arts/Industry gives artists from around the world the opportunity to create new bodies of work using the facilities, technologies, and materials of the nation‘s leading plumbing ware manufacturer, Kohler Co.
Each year, between 16 and 22 artists are selected from hundreds of applicants to spend two to six months working in Kohler Co.‘s Iron and Brass Foundries, Pottery, and Enamel Shop. These artists have the privilege of learning new processes and experimenting with materials unavailable to them in non–industrial settings while working side-by-side with industrial craftsmen and women with years of hands-on material expertise.
Six washrooms were the first commissioned works undertaken by the Arts Center as part of a 1999 expansion, and an additional washroom was commissioned in 2004. With the organization‘s focus on ever-changing exhibitions and performances, most of the facility serves as a blank canvas for both visual and performing arts works. The washrooms were one of the few public spaces where permanently installed works of art would be considered, serving to uphold the Arts Center‘s philosophy that art can enliven, enrich, and inform every facet of our everyday lives. The artists selected for these commissions were emerging and mid career artists who had not previously had the opportunity to create major public works. Community members from factory associates to preschool children informed the design, content, and fabrication of these works.
Cynthia Consentino—The Women‘s Room
Matt Nolen—The Social History of Architecture
Casey O’Connor—Childhood Vitreous
Ann Agee—Sheboygan Men‘s Room
Carter Kustera—Tell Me Something I Don‘t Already Know
Merrill Mason—Emptying and Filling