The first time we visited the JMKAC, a docent ran up and asked if I had seen the men’s room yet. An odd question to ask anyone, especially a woman. When I confessed that somehow I had missed it, she ushered me right in. The Kohler’s restrooms are one of the main features of the trip. Each one of the six is unique, with hand-designed tiles, sinks, toilets and artwork created by artists–in-residence.
Having visited many of the top art museums in the world – the Louve, Guggenheims, The Tate and many more – the can still say the Kohler Arts Center is my favorite. Easily viewed in a hour, there is no permanent collection. Instead, there are ever-changing shows in their three main galleries, along with a smaller collection in the former Kohler home and original building. The focus is often on artwork made in the Kohler factories by more artists-in-residence, plus plenty of naive work (pieces by artists without professional training). Great shows we’ve seen in the past include a kinetic art sculpture show with a still-playing radio slowly being crushed by a vice, a strangely alive wishbone dancing across a surface, and a cart covered with fake fur and metal “worms” that crawled across its surface as it was pushed. Another show featured an enormous sweater knitted for a giant squid, which covered an entire wall. To date, our favorite show was the work of painter Julie Heffernan; we drove back five times in six weeks to see it.
JMKAC also has a very nice gift shop and a small cafe.
If nothing there grabs your fancy at the Kohler cafe, head over to the Weather Center cafe for one of their fabulous smoothies or burritos.
On the way back, make time stop by the Kohler Showroom. A huge main gallery showcases dozens of sinks, showers and tubs, all with running water. Play to your heart’s content with jet streams and glorious faucets. Upstairs are a dozen or so galleries. These staged rooms feature the nicest Kohler products set in beautiful rooms with lovely, furniture art and tchotchkes. Any fans of home-tours will love poking around through these rooms. In the basement is a small museum devoted to the Kohler history. Also, actual bathrooms.
John Michael Kohler Arts Center
608 New York Avenue
Sheboygan, WI 53081
Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Tuesdays, Thursdays, 10:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m.
Saturdays, Sundays, 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
Kohler Design Center
101 Upper Road
Kohler, WI 53044
Monday – Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Saturday, Sundays & Holidays 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Weather Center Cafe
809 Riverfront Dr.
Sheboygan, WI 53081