JMKAC on track to open new building dedicated to artist-built environments

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December 9, 2019
Sheboygan, WI

Contact: Patricia DuChene

The John Michael Kohler Arts Center has announced that it is on track to open The Art Preserve, the world’s first museum devoted to artist-built environments, in summer of 2020. The Art Preserve, located at 3636 Lower Falls Road, will complement the John Michael Kohler Arts Center’s main location in downtown Sheboygan.

The Art Preserve’s 56,000-square-foot, three-level building will provide exhibition space and storage for more than 25,000 works of art in the Kohler Arts Center’s world renowned collection of artist-built environments. Located in Sheboygan, a small city along Lake Michigan an hour north of Milwaukee, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center is known for its exhibitions, study, and preservation of the work of self-taught and contemporary artists. Considered a local treasure with an international presence, it holds the world’s largest collection of artist-built environments, a unique art form created by artists who often transform their homes and yards into multifaceted works of art.

“Excitement is building for the opening of the Art Preserve and people are talking about Sheboygan being on the cusp of becoming an art destination,” noted Sam Gappmayer, director, John Michael Kohler Arts Center. “It has been in the planning for more than 10 years and thanks to generous donors we are closer to realizing the dream.”

The work of 13 artists will be highlighted at the Art Preserve with tableau installations—Levi Fisher Ames, Emery Blagdon, Loy Bowlin, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, Nek Chand, Annie Hooper, Jesse Howard, Mary Nohl, Dr. Charles Smith, Fred Smith, Lenore Tawney, Stella Waitzkin, and Ray Yoshida. Two of these artists are featured in current exhibitions at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center: Dr. Charles Smith: Aurora, through May 17, 2020; and Lenore Tawney: Mirror of the Universe, through March 7, 2020.

The $40-million Art Preserve will be located in an attractive natural setting on 38 acres on Sheboygan’s west side. The design by tres birds workshop of Denver embraces community accessibility and interaction with the artwork while addressing exhibition and preservation concerns. The building is primarily a concrete structure, a material choice in keeping with the prevalence of concrete as a medium in the creation of many art environments. Visitors entering the building will move through a forest of soaring “timbers” angled like trees growing on the site.

The display spaces will present the artists’ work through tableaux as well as curated, visible storage of the works of art. In addition, the Art Preserve will include an education area, library, study collection, and other spaces that will provide access to the collection for researchers, tour groups, and the public.

Wisconsin is home to some of the country’s most outstanding artist-built environments including the James Tellen Woodland Sculpture Garden and the Wisconsin Concrete Park. The Art Preserve will emphasize the state’s riches while also promoting national and international artists. In many cases, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center possesses the largest collection available of many of the artists’ oeuvres. The Art Preserve will house a wide range of work that was made around the world from Chandigarh, India, to rural Mississippi to the Chelsea Hotel in New York City.

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 artist-environment builders, self-taught and folk artists, and works created in the Arts/Industry residency program. Since the 1970s, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center has preserved, studied, and exhibited artist environments. Today, with 25,000 individual works of art by more than 30 different art-environment builders in the collection, the Arts Center is the world’s leading center for research and presentation of this work.

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. 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.

The John Michael Kohler Arts Center is located at 608 New York Avenue, Sheboygan, WI. Admission is always free. For information, call 920-458-6144, or visit, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.