New Exhibit at John Michael Kohler Arts Center Brings to Life the Home of Kohler Co. Founder and Family


Close to Home, opening September 13 at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, WI, offers visitors an inside look at the home life of Kohler Co. founder John Michael Kohler and his family.

The southwest wing of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center is a stately residence, listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and built in 1882–83 by Kohler as a home for his young family. Presented in the Arts Center’s House Galleries, which once served as communal spaces for the family, Close to Home traces the history of the dwelling’s original residents and tells the story of how the home became an arts center.

Decorative objects, personal artifacts, and vintage photographs evoke the life of a family deeply committed to artistic and cultural pursuits. Among the items included in the exhibition are paintings, sculptures, architectural plans, letters, books, newspaper articles, and furniture from the collections of the Arts Center and Kohler Co. Notable works include a pressed-glass vase by René Lalique; cast-iron candelabras by Austrian architect Kaspar Albrecht, who also created the house’s stained and leaded glass windows; and ornate clothing from the Victorian era and the 1920s that belonged to members of the family.  

It is believed that John Michael Kohler designed the Italianate home himself. Many of the house’s architectural features are still visible throughout the galleries, including the Italian revival-style dining room, which was added to the home in the 1920s by well-known Milwaukee architect Richard Philipp.

In light of the family’s active interest in the arts, it was fitting that in 1966, John Michael Kohler’s heirs donated the home to the Sheboygan Arts Foundation, the formative organization of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center.  

Close to Home runs through January 3, 2016. Admission to the John Michael Kohler Arts Center is by voluntary donation. The Arts Center is located at 608 New York Ave. in downtown Sheboygan. The Arts Center is open seven days a week. Visit jmkac.org for hours and directions. 

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