Featuring Karen Napalijarri Barnes, Willie Wilfred Gudipi, Adrian Jangala Robertson, Dulcie Sharpe, Michael Japaljairi Wayne, Bulanjdjan Lucy Yarawanga
Art Preserve: From Blagdon to Von Bruenchenhein, Immerse Yourself in Art Environments
From traversing a “forest” of soaring timbers to pondering the power of Emery Blagdon’s “Healing Machine,” visitors to the John Michael Kohler Arts Center’s new Art Preserve in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, are treated to an unrivaled, eye-opening experience of more than thirty art environments.
Showcasing JMKAC’s world-renowned collection of more than 25,000 works from artist-built environments, the Art Preserve arouses the sense of discovery that is so fundamental to finding and exploring an art environment in its original location. A combination of immersive installations and curated storage displays allows the “conversations” among the many objects contained within a single environment to be heard.
Visitors enter the three-story Art Preserve through an array of soaring timbers angled like the trees growing on the site. The impressive building, which received a 2022 American Architecture Award from The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design, was designed by Tres Birds of Denver, Colorado.
The first floor focuses on art environments of Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest, featuring large-scale installations of works by Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, Levi Fisher Ames, and Mary Nohl, among others. Inspired by Fred Smith’s Wisconsin Concrete Park, an evocation of the back bar at the tavern Smith owned offers a place to congregate and enjoy a cold Fred Smith Lager, which was created by artist John Riepenhoff.
Among the works shown on the second floor are environments created by artists who lived in urban areas and circulated in the mainstream art world, including Lenore Tawney. Stella Waitzkin, and Ray Yoshida. Juxtaposing those installations are works from environments by self-taught and vernacular artists, among them are components of Loy Bowlin’s Beautiful Holy Jewel Home (McComb, Mississippi) and Jesse Howard’s Sorehead Hill (Fulton, Missouri).
The third floor presents three installations that are fully immersive experiences. The grouping of these large environments by Emery Blagdon, Nek Chand, and Dr. Charles Smith offers insight into the ways the Arts Center acts as a steward, working for and with environment builders to ensure the protection of the sites.
Visitors will also find works created by contemporary artists in response to the collection and rotating exhibitions that bring additional perspectives to the fore. These include three artist-designed washrooms created by Michelle Grabner, Beth Lipman, and Joy Feasley and Paul Swenbeck.
The Art Preserve’s opening in 2021 marked the culmination of more than a decade of work guided by the late Ruth Kohler’s vision of a home for the JMKAC collection that allows the public a year-round opportunity to experience the artwork.
“For me, the Art Preserve resonates with Ruth Kohler’s voice,” said Amy Horst, Arts Center director. “The stories she told over the years echo, whether she was recalling her first encounter with an art environment at Fred Smith’s tavern or sharing the powerful impact of her first visit to Eugene Von Bruenchenhein’s house. Ruth’s dream of a place dedicated to the work of art-environment builders—artists who so inspired her—is manifested here at the Art Preserve.”
3636 Lower Falls Road, Sheboygan, Wisconsin
Tue, Wed, Fri: 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Thu: 10:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m.
Sat and Sun: 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
artpreserve.org or (920) 453-0346
John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Art Preserve
3636 Lower Falls Road
+1 920 453 0346