Mary Nohl house discussed at art preservation forum

July 9, 2014

Fox Point — Many in the North Shore were caught by surprise when the John Michael Kohler Arts Center announced in late March that it would move the environment of the late Fox Point artist Mary Nohl from its origins on Beach Drive to a location in Sheboygan.

The announcement became a catalyst for discussions about the preservation of artist environments such as the Mary Nohl residence — also nicknamed the Witch's House — particularly when they are located in communities that must balance the impact of allowing public access — even on a very limited basis — against the value of preserving a local cultural treasure. These ideas will be discussed at a public forum on the preservation of art environments in the Lubar Auditorium of the Milwaukee Art Museum on Thursday, July 10. The forum is free and open to the public.

Event organizers hope this forum will not only expand public understanding of the particulars of the Nohl situation, but also introduce into the discourse a clearer sense of the recurring preservation issues that surround artist environments: negotiating with neighbors, defining public access, funding preservation, and weighing the impact of cultural loss on our sense of place.

The program will be moderated by Polly Morris of the Public Art Subcommittee of the Milwaukee Arts Board and will begin with an introduction to the artist's work by Debra Brehmer of the Portrait Society Gallery. Speakers include Ruth DeYoung Kohler, director of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center; Lisa Stone, curator of the Roger Brown Study Collection and adjunct associate professor in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism, both at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; preservation architect Matthew Jarosz; and local historian John Gurda.

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