Art Preserve: The Future Draws Near

What was once a dream is almost a reality, as the John Michael Kohler Arts Center nears completion of the Art Preserve—a 56,000-square-foot space designed to elevate the presentation and preservation of the Arts Center’s world-renown collection of artist-built environments. The Arts Center took possession of the building in midsummer.

The Art Preserve of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center sets aside the traditional approach to museum storage in favor of one that encourages visitors to engage with the 25,000 objects in the collection. While it will safely house the 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.

The interior, while still unfinished, offers a glimpse of what is to come. The main level has a facsimile of Eugene Von Bruenchenhein’s pastel-colored frame house in Milwaukee, where he made and stored thousands of photographs, paintings, sculptures, and other works of art. The facsimile of Von Bruenchenhein’s home will hold his work; many pieces will be on display, other works will be in storage cabinets within the house.

Von Bruenchenhein is one of a dozen artists that the Art Preserve will showcase with tableaux settings of art environments. Levi Fisher Ames, Emery Blagdon, Loy Bowlin, Nek Chand, Annie Hooper, Mary Nohl, Dr. Charles Smith, Fred Smith, Lenore Tawney, Stella Waitzkin, and Ray Yoshida join Von Bruenchenhein in this evocative approach to showing artist-built environments. In total, works by more than 30 artists will be housed at the Art Preserve.

The Art Preserve of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center is located at 3636 Lower Falls Road on the west perimeter of Sheboygan. The site offers easy access from major thoroughfares and to Bookworm Gardens, Sheboygan County Historical Museum, UW-Sheboygan, the John Michael Kohler 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. The architects incorporated materials favored by the creators of art environments 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.

The John Michael Kohler Arts Center’s main campus, at 608 New York Avenue in downtown Sheboygan, remains its primary venue for public engagement, including original exhibitions of works of art by contemporary, vernacular, and self-taught artists. Performing artsclasses, workshops, films, community arts programs, group tours, and Preschool 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.

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.