John Michael Kohler Art Center-a community center piece.

Why would any art museum use the very necessary, and most bacterially vulnerable facility, a focal point for superior artistry? It would be, of course, if the name of the museum bears the name of John Michael Kohler, the founder of a giant in the kitchen and bathroom fixture industry-the Kohler Company.  

As the name of the museum, ‘the John Michael Kohler Art Center‘ suggests, its a personalized mesh of art and industry. I’m talking about the most aesthetically pleasing washrooms I have ever set eyes on, also accented with some super modern amenities.

Besides the novelty of the restrooms, the building is a superb example of architecture, with glass panels in the entrance pouring sunlight upon its guests.

The exhibits are equal to the aforementioned lures. What’s great, most seem to echo the theme of industry and art. From retail store shelving units to an automobile tire, which was brilliantly colored in metallic paint and reflected in funhouse mirrors, there’s a particular brand of art I have never been subject to before.

That being said, I’m not an art critic. Art doesn’t necessarily wow me. However, today was an exception. I also caught the vibe of both tourist draw and community center, encased in a classy building.

Today it’s sunny and frigid and, as I cross the glass paneled threshold of the museum, I’m enveloped in warmth immediately. It invokes a positive impression and excited anticipation.

My eyes scan the modern and hip interior. There’s a room titled the Artery, housing desks and materials for one to create their own masterpiece. Across from that lies a cool giftshop. Yet, front and center, in a wide open expanse, stands the reception desk.

The woman manning the desk greets us, explains the exhibit lay out and informs us on the washrooms. According to her, it is encouraged to visit both women’s and men’s washrooms. I brace myself for a hefty entrance fee, but admission turns out to be free. There is a donation jar, with a suggested donation of seven dollars.

We decide to save the washrooms for last. Instead, we make a right turn and find ourselves in an Exhibit featuring artist Mary Nohl. This particular exhibit will run till Sunday June 23, 2019. Mary Nohl was a folk artist, whose estate was given to the Kohler Foundation after her death. My favorite, in this collection, are the driftwood sculptures which she sculpted by use of a chainsaw.

We work our way back to the reception area, cross it, and wind up in a exhibition entitled ‘Makeshift’. This is a collaborative exhibition involving the museum and the curator. It features many artists and includes everyday items like old crusty furniture to retail store shelves. My favorite here is what appears to be a colorful tree house. The name of the sculpture is called ‘Tina’and was created by artist Greg Smith. The artwork in ‘Makeshift’ is supposed to delve into the aspect of the studio in contemporary art. The exhibit runs through March 3, 2019.

The next exhibit, ‘Dark Matter’, was Heidi’s favorite. It was designed by artist Joel Otterson. The work suggests that roles should be gender neutral as he uses domestic handicraft and traditional sculptural materials. Personally, I don’t make a connection of any gender role. I’m paraphrasing the Exhibits official description. All I know, between the tapestries and cool modern sculptures, its interesting and aesthetically appealing. Unfortunately, today is the last day ‘Dark Matter’ will be exhibited in the museum.

My favorite Exhibit is the last we stumble upon. ‘Hothouse’ by Virgil Marti is, in my novice opinion, the most fun, visually stunning and creative temporary exhibit in the Museum. Contorted mirrors, resembling those used in a funhouse, reflect colorful works of art. The pieces transform as you pass by the mirrors. It’s actually pretty cool. This exhibit only runs till February 3, 2019.

Of course, the main attraction has yet to be explored and, as mother nature would have it, is begging my visitation right now. So, I tell Heidi I’m going to use the urinal and ask her to wait till I’m done.

The washrooms are amazing. The painted tile, the color, lighting and amenities are all cause for a ‘wow’. Seriously, I have never felt guilty about urinating in a urinal until now. The porcelain fixture is expertly hand painted with inspirational words.

It seems like I’m urinating in an exhibition room, not to mention on a gorgeous exhibit. Surely, I’m about to be escorted out of the building. It’s amazing how long the duration of a steady stream seems to last when you’re this uncomfortable.

I finish, zip up and find Heidi, telling her, “You have to see this!” When we enter, she’s as blown away as I was. We Investigate every bathroom in the building. There are five artistically styled rooms. They’re fun, and very different from one another. The only complaint was from Heidi, claiming the first women’s restroom was a bit too loud with its bright pinks.

We leave with smiles on our faces. The drive to Sheboygan being well worth the time invested.

Along with the exhibits, there are other facets and activities in the John Michael Kohler Art Center. You can get a bite to eat at the Artcafe or pickup a rather pricey souvenir at the Artspace. The Artery, as I mentioned this briefly in my recount of the visit, is a free drop-in art making studio. There are classes and workshops also available. Some of these are free, others are quite costly. Dance classes for youth and ballroom dancing are available at the art center. There is even a preschool under this roof.

If I had a minor complaint, I wish there would have been more exhibits. However, I found that what was there to be first-rate.

Safe Travels!

Author: Chris Karas

I am a 44 year old man living in Green Bay, Go Pack!! I love History, give me the origins of almost anything noteworthy and I'm all ears. I also love outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking and camping. However, I don't mind a few days in fresh, bustling cities with interesting historic attractions.

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