Arts Center Brings Behind-the-Scenes Conservation Work into the Gallery ~Visitors Can Watch ‘Beautiful Holy Jewel Home’ Preservation~

Contact: Patricia DuChene
Media Relations Coordinator

Jan. 5, 2016 Sheboygan, WI

The preservation of art environments is a complex undertaking, and usually occurs behind closed doors in conservation labs. Throughout 2016, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center offers visitors unprecedented opportunities to observe, in real time, the processes involved in the conservation and presentation of an art environment—Loy Bowlin’s “The Beautiful Holy Jewel Home.” 

“The Beautiful Holy Jewel Home was last on view at the Arts Center in 2007,” said Karen Patterson, curator of the lab. “People loved it, and we thought visitors would appreciate learning about and seeing the painstaking, yet in my opinion, really interesting work that goes into preserving and presenting an art environment.”

Cricket Harbeck, an object conservator and owner of an art conservation studio in Milwaukee, has been contracted to lead the project. After a condition assessment, Harbeck will make treatment recommendations and guide the Arts Center’s collection team through an extensive preservation process that includes addressing the porch, ceiling, wall, and roof structures in addition to the hundreds of collage components.

Inspired by Glen Campbell’s 1975 hit record, “Rhinestone Cowboy,” Loy Bowlin (1909–1995) gained notoriety in his hometown of McComb, Mississippi, as the self-proclaimed “Original Rhinestone Cowboy.” Bowlin wore dazzling, hand-embellished suits and drove around town in a completely decorated two-door 1967 Cadillac. In the late seventies, he started transforming his small home into a fitting backdrop for his illustrious persona; it became The Beautiful Holy Jewel Home: The Home of the Original Rhinestone Cowboy.

Bowlin ornamented much of the building’s exterior and nearly every inch of the interior. He covered the walls with patterns of cutout paper, paint, glitter, and collaged photographs and magazine illustrations. The result was a kaleidoscopic, glittering home. 

After Bowlin’s death in 1995, his property was sold, and The Beautiful Holy Jewel Home was scheduled to be razed. Houston artist and collector Katy Emde purchased the house, with the stipulation that it be moved from the site, just in time to save it from destruction. Emde carefully documented and dismantled the house. 

The Kohler Foundation later acquired the dismantled the building and worked for four years on its preservation. In 2001, the foundation gifted the art environment to the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, along with many of Bowlin’s works of art and personal belongings, including his bedazzled dentures. The entire environment has been exhibited twice (2001, 2007) at the Arts Center and remains a favorite among local—and international—visitors. 

Admission to the Arts Center and its galleries is free. The Arts Center is located at 608 New York Ave. in downtown Sheboygan. The Arts Center is open seven days a week. Visit for more information.

Conservator Cricket Harbeck at work on Loy Bowlin's Beautiful Holy Jewel Home in the Preservation Lab.

Photos: John Michael Kohler Arts Center

Additional hi-res images are available by contacting Patricia DuChene at

About the John Michael Kohler Arts Center: Founded in 1967, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center is dedicated to making innovative arts programming accessible to a broad audience that ranges from artists and academics to families and youth of all ages. Central to its mission is promoting understanding and appreciation of the work of self-taught and contemporary artists through original exhibitions, commissioned works of art, performing arts programs, community arts initiatives, and publications. The Arts Center’s collections focus primarily on works by vernacular-environment builders, self-taught and folk artists, and works created in the Arts/Industry residency program.

Looking to the future, the Arts Center continues to generate new explorations in the arts that foster creative exchanges between an international community of artists and a diverse public, making real the power of the arts to transform lives and strengthen communities. The John Michael Kohler Arts Center is supported by corporate and foundation donors, government grants, and its many members. The Arts Center is not an entity of Kohler Co. or its subsidiaries. More information about the Arts Center can be found at

to the John Michael Kohler Arts Center is free. Arts Center members receive a discount on performance and other event tickets, classes and camps tuition, purchases at ARTspace gift shops, and free or discounted admission to many special events. Memberships are available at the Arts Center, by visiting, and/or by calling 920-458-6144.

Arts Center Hours: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays: 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Tuesdays and Thursdays: 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays: 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m