Art Preserve: A Plan for the future

Already world-renowned for its presentation and preservation of artist-built environments, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center has begun construction of the Art Preserve—a 54,000-square-foot satellite facility designed to elevate the experience of its collection to new heights.

At the Art Preserve, traditional understandings of museum storage are reenvisioned in favor of an approach that allows—in fact, encourages—engaging with the 25,000 objects in the Arts Center collection of artist-built environments. While it meets the projected needs of safely housing an expanding collection, the Art Preserve’s curated storage also answers the challenges of increased interest in this remarkable art form. Once limited to viewing the artwork only when exhibited at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center or on loan at other institutions, researchers and the public will have access to view the collection year-round, year after year at the Art Preserve.

Situated on a 38-acre green space rising above the Sheboygan River, the Art Preserve is located at 3636 Lower Falls Road on the west perimeter of Sheboygan. The site offers easy access from major thoroughfares and connectivity with existing cultural assets including Bookworm Gardens, Sheboygan County Historical Museum, UW-Sheboygan, the Arts Center, downtown Sheboygan, and the South Pier district.

The three-level building, designed by tres birds workshop of Denver, Colorado, embraces an aesthetic in harmony with the work it houses. Materials favored by the creators of art environments have been incorporated into the building’s exterior façade and interior.

In addition, the Art Preserve design respects the surrounding habitats, complementing land conservancy initiatives related to adjacent acreage along the river. An irregular footprint allows the building to “climb” the sloping site and offers areas where the outdoors infiltrates interior spaces. Mortenson Construction, headquartered in Minneapolis, MN, is building the structure.

Inside the Art Preserve, thirteen environments in the collection will be the focus of exhibition-style installations, allowing visitors to experience the sense of discovery so fundamental to artist-built environments. In addition to curated display areas, the Art Preserve includes an education area/multipurpose room, archive, and study area.

The John Michael Kohler Arts Center’s main campus, at 608 New York Avenue in downtown Sheboygan, remains the Arts Center’s primary venue for public engagement, including original exhibitions of works of art by contemporary, vernacular, and self-taught artists. Performing arts, classes, workshops, films, community arts, group tours, Preschool, and venue rentals will continue to be offered at that location.

With strong support from the community, our partners, and donors, construction began in April. The building will open to the public in the late summer of 2020. The Art Preserve project is projected to cost $40 million.

Read the official press release here.

The Art Preserve Committee

Serving on the Art Preserve committee are John Michael Kohler Arts Center Board members Ed McKelvey (committee chair), K.C. Nemschoff, and Nancy Schreiber. Arts Center staff leadership is provided by Ruth Kohler, director of strategic initiatives. Other staff members involved in the project include Sam Gappmayer, director; Amy Horst, Associate Director; and Karen Patterson, Senior Curator.

Fundraising for the Art Preserve is ongoing. Please contact Heather Schubert, deputy director of development, at or 920-458-6144 if you are interested in helping to ensure that the exceptional work of art- environment builders continues to be accessible for generations to come.


Images: Art Preserve conceptual drawing by tres birds workshop. Art Preserve under construction, 2019.