Through innovative explorations in the arts, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center generates a creative exchange between an international community of artists and a broad, diverse public that makes real the power of the arts to transform lives and strengthen communities.
Located in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center (JMKAC) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that reaches more than 200,000 adults and children each year, primarily in Eastern Wisconsin.
JMKAC is known as an innovative grassroots organization that reaches into the community to involve nontraditional and underserved arts audiences such as cultural minorities, youth at risk, clients of shelters, the elderly, persons with disabilities, industrial employees, as well as the general public. JMKAC serves as originator of exhibitions and critical writings, steward of groundbreaking collections, laboratory for the creation of new works, nurturer of interdisciplinary initiatives, presenter/producer of performing arts, educator, and community builder.
In essence, it is a catalyst and explorer of new art and ideas that impact artists and the public. Its small-town Midwest location, challenging mission, extensive multi-arts programming, local, regional, and national audiences, and strong involvement of underserved constituencies make it unique.
JMKAC maintains free admission, despite economic pressures, in order to give everyone access every day and thereby reach more diverse participants. It has led the community in developing programming that encourages adults and children to understand and respect individuals of other cultures, ethnicities, socio-economic positions, ages, religions, abilities, and more as well as to gain a better understanding of their own cultures by involving diverse artists, nurturing underserved constituencies, and involving community leaders as Community/Project Partners. New audiences are reached through Connecting Communities, “Big Idea” projects, and other special programs, free tickets for low-income constituencies, scholarships for Preschool, person-to-person networking, targeted publicity, etc. JMKAC actively seeks to engage people of all ages in its programming.
Performing Arts presents 7 series: 3- to 4-day performance residencies with artists worldwide (5 companies yearly); a monthly series with Midwest artists; a Family Festivals series exploring the cultures that make up the community; Summer and Winter Theatre featuring 2-3 plays; Readers Theatre in the schools; a film series, and more.
Exhibitions Staff annually originate 12-22 curated exhibitions that are part of 2-3 broad themes exploring relevant issues in contemporary art and are accompanied by substantive critical yet accessible writings plus introductory videos and catalogues for major projects. Exhibitions focus on a wide range of concepts and issues—emphasizing installation works, new genres, craft-related forms, and the work of self-taught artists.
Collections JMKAC is acclaimed for its partnership to preserve vernacular art environments and has developed an unprecedented collection of 15,000+ works that were in jeopardy. Among other collections are folk art textiles and works by self-taught artists.
Connecting Communities brings together superb American artists in order to collaborate with underserved constituencies on the creation of major original works and thus strengthen and unite the community.
Arts/Industry, now 36 years old, provides 24/7 access to an industrial pottery, iron/brass foundry, and enamel shop through 2- to 6-month residencies for 16+ artists annually (8 per year since 1/2009 due to the economy) to create bodies of new work not possible in their studios.
Education efforts deepen the impact of exhibitions and other programs through The ARTery, a free hands-on learning space at JMKAC’s entrance that provides an introduction to the exhibitions; an arts-based preschool; classes; lectures; interactive tours; and programs for schools, universities, daycare centers, shelters, persons with dementia, the elderly, etc.