Art Preserve, House of RAD, Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum – VOL 32

Rachel Hausmann Schall

On the Rise: Art Preserve, Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Constructed only three miles away from the John Michael Kohler Arts Center’s downtown location in Sheboygan, the Art Preserve is home to over 25,000 artworks and is the only space of its kind in the world. The three-story structure was designed by architecture firm Tres Birds and fabricated primarily out of concrete and wood, honoring materials that artists from the collection employed in their work. The structure itself was intentionally built into the side of a hill, utilizing the surrounding landscape as a design feature. Dual purpose timbers that span the entire facade have a jaw-dropping architectural impact, inviting visitors in as they simultaneously protect the housed artwork from sunlight overexposure. 

The Art Preserve was a labor of love nurtured into being by Ruth DeYoung Kohler, previous director of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, along with many others. The space opened in June 2021 after overcoming pandemic-related delays although initial conversations first began in 2007. While similar in many ways to a museum, the Art Preserve distinguishes its purpose to be curated, visual storage of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center’s permanent collection of artist-built environments, artworks, and objects. At the Art Preserve, one will find two-dimensional works displayed on museum storage racks, sculptures housed in climate-controlled vitrines as well as immersive, intricate installations, and much more. 

Self-taught, vernacular, academic, and folk artists like Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, Mary Nohl, Lenore Tawney, and Nick Engelbert are among artists in the collection. Artist-built environments like Emery Blagdon’s “Healing Machine” made out of aluminum foil, mechanical odds and ends, sheet metal and lights act as a focal point of the Arts Preserve’s extensive collection. Ruth DeYoung Kohler envisioned such diverse and incredibly distinctive environments being visible and accessible to the public. Curator Laura Bickford describes the space as an “exploratory laboratory that is open and welcome to everyone.” Parts of the collection are frequently rotated for the health of the objects as well as to provide new visitor experiences regularly. 

Demystifying museum culture by offering opportunities to experience behind the scenes moments of exhibition and installation execution, artwork care, and preservation is an integral function of the space itself. In addition, the Art Preserve also houses artist-commissioned washrooms, akin to their sister space downtown. Some living artists from the collection like Dr. Charles Smith and Gregory Van Maanen have collaborated with the Art Preserve on the presentation and installation of their work, while other contemporary artists like Michelle Grabner have been invited to formulate responses to the permanent collection. 

The glittery Beautiful Holy Jewel Home by Loy Bowlin is flanked by an installation of paintings by Gregory Van Maanen at the Art Preserve.
 Photo: Rich Maciejewski, courtesy of John Michael Kohler Arts Center

The curiosity and mystery of the Art Preserve has been successful in drawing in audiences both locally and from afar. Strategically not using the word “museum” in the name, the shorthand title Art Preserve is one that stuck, leaving room for different ways visitors can interact with the collection and allowing space for interpretation. The Art Preserve is celebrated for championing artists’ lifework and recognizing the significance of artist-built environments — Wisconsin is fortunate to be its home. 

Visit jmkac.org for information.


On the Rise: House of RAD, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Local artist Emma Daisy as she examines her 2-color print at the inaugural Steamroller Print benefit for Anchor Press Paper and print, hosted by the House of RAD. Photographer, Eric Purdue.

The House of RAD began as an idea in a sketchbook twelve years ago, but has transformed far beyond a doodle and some notes on a page. While also a slang term for excellent, “RAD” actually stands for “resident artist doers,” and operates as a communal hub and studio space for artists. The building home to House of RAD is a renovated battery factory in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood located at the intersection of Keefe and Fratney Streets. The collaborative space is home to 20 individual studio spaces that house craftspeople, artisans, and makers with different skill sets, ranging from photographers, designers and digital content creators to multidisciplinary artists, painters, muralists and sculptors. The physical space officially opened in 2020 and occupies 13,000 square feet in the old battery factory, previously the shipping and receiving department. Unlike a makerspace, House of RAD provides private studios for artists to focus on independent projects, but also includes communal areas that are useful for collaboration. 

The collection of multidisciplinary residents provides for an energetic, bustling studio where there is always a project in process. Brandon Minga, co-founder of House of RAD, describes the space as being “a place to empower artists to realize their dreams and equip them with the support and tools to do so.” Brandon, along with co-founder Tim Priebe and other resident artists, offer production and professional assistance to residents when needed. Modeling their space with a “by artists, for artists” mentality, the House of RAD is a pillar of the Milwaukee community, providing an environment that sustains and supports all types of creatives. 

Although the space doesn’t operate as a formal gallery, there is plenty of room for events. Feed Your Soul, an annual community event hosted by House of RAD, raises money for Feeding America and exceeded the $100,000 goal in 2021, supplying over 400,000 meals for families in need. Artists create live during the event and visitors are invited to participate by donating via available auction items. House of RAD also hopes to continue hosting an annual, all-day live printmaking event, STEAMROLLER MKE where the community is invited to participate and prints are created by the use of a steamroller, a true spectacle.

The space has future plans to expand into the original production warehouse of the battery factory that adjoins the current House of RAD. Expansion means that House of RAD will continue to collaborate, organize, and host events that support artists in Milwaukee, continuing to encourage “doers” of all kinds to achieve new projects and reach their professional goals.  

Visit @house_of_rad_mke on Instagram for information.


On the Rise: Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Wausau, Wisconsin

With its mission to enhance lives through art, the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum offers an array of exhibitions and art-making opportunities, always admission free; photo by Richard Wunsch, Wausau. 

The Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum began with a dream and a gift: three daughters’ desire to honor their mother by giving an art museum to the Wausau community. Since opening in 1976, the Museum and dream have expanded, via its renowned Birds in Art exhibition, collection focused on art of the natural world, diverse changing exhibitions, and robust visual arts experiences, serving all of the northern Wisconsin community and beyond – always admission free. 

The Woodson Art Museum, as it’s known colloquially, is located just northeast of downtown Wausau and includes an outdoor sculpture garden, gallery spaces spanning two museum levels, two classrooms, a Rooftop Sculpture Garden which debuted in September 2021, and Art Park, an interactive space. Art Park invites visitors of all ages to engage in art-making at the Museum, complete puzzles, read books, and explore thematic, exhibition-related content.  

As the only full-service art museum in the northern half of Wisconsin, the Woodson Art Museum hosts a varied lineup of traveling exhibitions featuring an array of themes that have previously ranged from Tiffany glass and the optical illusions of M.C. Escher to children’s book illustrations and botanical art. Artist residencies, programs, tours, workshops, and special events enliven exhibitions. Offerings like take-and-make art kits and artist demonstrations encourage Woodson Art Museum visitors of all ages, stages, and abilities to absorb and explore art-making processes. In addition, the Museum’s annual flagship exhibition Birds in Art has taken flight and soared to become internationally renowned since its first iteration in 1976 as the inaugural offering at the space. 

During class visits at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, students experience artwork in the galleries and engage in art making, too; photo by Richard Wunsch, Wausau. 

The story of the Museum’s early days includes a celebration of women – three daughters highlighting their mother, Leigh Yawkey Woodson, and her love of beautiful objects. During their childhood, Nancy Woodson Spire, Alice Woodson Forester, and Margaret Woodson Fisher were fortunate to be surrounded by handsome items, including their mother’s collection of porcelain birds and grandmother’s Victorian glass baskets. The daughters were inspired by their upbringing and devoted themselves to opening a space that honored their mother and provided barrier-free access to the visual arts.  

The Museum’s history includes legendary Wisconsin artist Owen Gromme, who became an integral stakeholder by orchestrating the inaugural exhibition. With the collaborative direction of the Museum’s founding families via John E. Forester, Owen Gromme invited a group of artist friends to contribute artwork to exhibit during the Museum’s debut. The exhibition, titled Birds of the Lakes, Fields, and Forests, attracted more than 8,000 people throughout four weeks and later transformed into the international juried Birds in Art exhibition. In 2011, a donation of forty-three Gromme paintings created the need and impetus to increase storage and gallery spaces. Building additions and facility enhancements ensued, improving accessibility and the visitor experience. 

Visit lywam.org for information


About Rachel Hausmann Schall

Rachel Hausmann Schall is a visual artist, writer, educator and arts organizer living and working near Milwaukee, WI. She received her BFA from the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) in 2015 and became co-founder and co-director of After School Special, a satellite artist collective that supports emerging and underrepresented artists through exhibitions and programming. She has exhibited her painting, sculpture, and installation work nationally at many galleries, alternative, and artist-run spaces. In addition to writing for Artdose, Rachel Hausmann Schall is also a contributing writer for the Chicago based arts publication Sixty Inches From Center and works at Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Wausau, WI as an education specialist.