John Michael Kohler Arts Center
Press Release

John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Famous for its Efforts to Preserve the Art of Vernacular Environment Builders, Steps Up to Save Wisconsin’s Mary Nohl Lakeside Environment

The move to Sheboygan County will ensure public access to this unique art

By - Mar 27th, 2014 05:00 pm
Mary Nohl, 1970s. Photo courtesy of John Michael Kohler Arts Center.

Mary Nohl, 1970s. Photo courtesy of John Michael Kohler Arts Center.

Sheboygan, Wis. – Creation and Preservation Partners (CAPP), a supporting organization of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center (JMKAC), today announced plans to preserve the complete Mary Nohl Lakeside Environment by moving it to Sheboygan County, Wisconsin.

The JMKAC preserves and provides public access to the world’s most extensive collection of vernacular environments from throughout the United States. The collection now comprises eight complete environments, major components from 14 environments, and representative elements from seven others. The complete environments have been left in situ whenever possible.

Located in Fox Point, Wisconsin, the former home of artist Mary Nohl and the unique and extensive art collection that she created throughout the house and its grounds were gifted to Kohler Foundation, Inc. in December 2001, upon Mary Nohl’s death, and subsequently gifted to CAPP in 2012.

“Since CAPP assumed ownership of the Mary Nohl Lakeside Environment, we have worked diligently to find the most appropriate way to preserve her legacy,” noted Ruth Kohler, director of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center and its supporting organization. “Our goal is to make this historically and aesthetically significant property accessible to artists, scholars, educational institutions and other interested members of the public. Mary’s art will live on to inspire others only if they can have access to it.”

For many years, Kohler Foundation, Inc., and subsequently CAPP, sought a mutually agreeable arrangement with the property’s neighbors along Beach Drive in Fox Point to allow limited public access to the property. Nohl dreamed and planned to have her property given to the JMKAC with the intention that, after her death, her art environment would be used to teach and inspire artists, children and the public.

“We believe Mary’s artwork is intrinsically linked to its lakefront location and thus we explored many options to preserve the property and artwork in situ,” said Michael P. Cisler, president of the JMKAC Board of Directors. “However, after hearing from many neighboring property owners and municipal officials, who would need to approve a zoning change to allow even limited access to the property, we don’t believe there is a solution that would honor Mary Nohl’s wishes and meet the needs of the Fox Point neighbors.”

Therefore, CAPP recently decided that the best way to preserve Mary Nohl’s body of work is to add it to JMKAC’s extensive collection of artist environments. The move will ensure that Mary Nohl’s complete environment, including her house, will remain protected and accessible to the public. With nearly all the art already at JMKAC, it is time to move the house and remaining artifacts.

“After years of due diligence and attempts to work with the neighbors in Fox Point, we must move the house and Mary’s surroundings in order to preserve her art for people to enjoy and appreciate at another site,” said Diane M. Buck, a JMKAC board member and well-known Milwaukee preservationist.  “Moving the site and abandoning Mary’s specific vision is heart-wrenching for every board member of JMKAC and CAPP, but necessary to ensure that these treasures can continue to inspire future generations of artists.”

CAPP will immediately begin the planning process for relocating the house. Director Ruth Kohler noted that nearly all of the art objects that are a part of Mary Nohl’s environment had already been moved shortly after the flood that hit Fox Point in 2010.

The timeline for the move and details regarding the future of the Beach Drive property will be determined by CAPP in the coming months.  Until the move is complete, additional security will be on-site to protect the home, sculpture and neighborhood.  Members of the public wanting to see the art and home are encouraged to visit the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan.  Updates regarding the move will be posted periodically online at www.jmkac.org and questions can be directed to marynohl@jmkac.org.

ABOUT THE JOHN MICHAEL KOHLER ARTS CENTER (JMKAC)

Established in 1967, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center is a nationally acclaimed visual and performing arts complex in downtown Sheboygan, Wisconsin. A nonprofit organization, JMKAC is devoted to innovative explorations in contemporary visual, performing, media and literary art forms. Its exhibitions focus on a wide range of art forms, with particular emphasis on vernacular environments, sculpture, photography, craft-related forms, new genres, installation works, folk traditions, and the work of self-taught artists. The performing arts emphasize dance, music, theatre and interdisciplinary performances from around the world. Programming also includes a world-renowned Arts/Industry residency program, the Connecting Communities commissioning program, classes, and special events.

With the completion of an expansion in 1999, the 100,000-sq-ft. JMKAC now comprises fourteen galleries, an intimate theatre, and a more flexible interdisciplinary performance space, studio-classrooms, meeting spaces, the ARTspace shop, and the ARTcafe. JMKAC also has two adjunct sites: The James Tellen Woodland Sculpture Garden in Black River and ARTspace, an exhibition space and shop in the Shops at Woodlake in the Village of Kohler. Both ARTspace shops and JMKAC are fully accessible to those with disabilities. Two wheelchairs are available at JMKAC. Call 920-458-6144 for additional information, or visit JMKAC’s website, www.jmkac.org.

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