Tokens of Appreciation will consider the meaningful and unexpected relationships that develop between the Kohler Co. factory associates and the Arts/Industry residents who come to the factory to create art.
For many residents, it is their first time entering a factory; for some, it is also their first time working with clay or metal. Kohler Co. associates such as “Brass” Bob Halfmann have had an undeniable impact on the ultimate success of uncountable residents in the factory’s Pottery and Foundry over the years.
Tokens of Appreciation will feature works from Halfmann’s personal collection of hundreds of objects created by residents. “Brass” Bob Halfmann is one of the most notable and influential figures in the history John Michael Kohler Art Center’s Arts/Industry program. The recently retired Halfmann, an engineering technician III at Kohler Co., oversaw the melt operation for all the brass made into faucets and fittings as well as artworks.
In a time of divisive public discourse and social polarization, On Being Here (and There) highlights the roles cultural organizations and artists perform as citizen, custodian, neighbor, and friend. The works presented in this series of exhibitions reveal ways our communities are enhanced and shape by a diverse spectrum of artistic practices and engagement.
With the August 2020 opening of the JMKAC’s Art Preserve, it felt right to revisit the breadth of the work the Arts Center does in preserving, creating, and showcasing cultural assets. Since the 1970s, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center has cared for artist-built environments in Wisconsin and beyond, acting locally, nationally, and internationally. Through residencies, exhibitions, and outreach the Arts Center has sought to strengthen connections, open dialogue, and engender collaboration among its various local and international constituencies.
On Being Here (and There) is anchored by a group exhibition titled Between You and Me, which brings together contemporary artists whose practices are intentional acts of care for their neighbors or broader communities.
Complementing Between You and Me are three exhibitions that engage the Art Center’s own history of collaboration, collecting, and preservation. Tokens of Appreciation is a story about the unique relationships that develop between Kohler Co. factory associates and artists participating in the Arts/Industry residency program. Good Road to Follow evokes Adolph Vandertie’s in-house museum to hobo and tramp art and explores the role of grass-roots archiving in the maintenance of histories. Visible Repair uses the 1883 John Michael Kohler home as the container for artwork and objects that speak to intimate, domestic, and personal acts of care and repair.
These exhibitions are supplemented by The Projector Room, a gallery newly dedicated to the showing of film and video artworks that expand on themes pertinent to the Arts Center’s mission, collection and programming. Three films—Who Is Bozo Texino?, Inscriptions of an Immense Theater, and EDM House—broadly examine belonging, questioning some of the invisible structures that help create, define, and destroy our sense of self in relation to the world around us.
This exhibition is supported by the Kohler Trust for Arts and Education, Kohler Foundation, Inc., the Frederic Cornell Kohler Charitable Trust, and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.