Mary Nohl Home
Neighbors' opposition, which we previously reported, forces relocation of the artist's home.
In October 2013 I wrote a story for Urban Milwaukee entitled “Mary Nohl vs. NIMBY.” It detailed the decade-long struggle of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center to preserve the Fox Point lakefront home of the artist / philanthropist. Kohler specializes in vernacular environments throughout the United States, retaining them at their original site — in situ — whenever possible, and providing for limited public access.
“With its fantastical sculptures and other decoration,” I wrote, “the home is one of the nation’s premier site-specific art locations. The location, the home, the artist and the art are all one, and you can’t forgive its owner, the $50 million-in-assets John Michael Kohler Art Foundation, for hoping to get approval to open the home on a limited basis to ‘honor Mary Nohl’s desire for her work to be preserved and enjoyed by others after her death.’”
Well, so much for that. In a press release issued on Friday, the foundation announced that the home and related artifacts would be dismantled and moved to Sheboygan due to a failure to reach an agreement with officials and neighbors over a needed zoning change.
“I’ve been trying to save Mary’s environment for 27 years,” Ruth Kohler, director of the arts center, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We’ve worked with a lot of art environments, from as far away as New York and Louisiana, and we’ve always been able to change the minds of the village or town that the site was in. We’ve never had a complete stalemate like this before.”
Cisler estimated the cost of moving the home would be upwards of $1 million and perhaps as high as $2 million. The lot that will be left behind will be quite valuable, given its location overlooking the lake, but Nohl bequeathed that to the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, along with money that created a fund for the arts in Nohl’s name.
Nohl’s home and artistry has won a national reputation and some mention on travel sites. If properly preserved, it might have become something that drew visitors (albeit on a limited basis) to Fox Point, and would have embellished the Milwaukee metro area’s reputation as an art-making place. Instead the Nohl home moves north to Sheboygan.