John Michael Kohler Arts Center receives $1 million grant to launch Lenore Tawney fellowship

Objects from the Lenore Tawney Collection at the John Michael Kohler Art Center's new Art Preserve in Sheboygan. Photo courtesy of John Michael Kohler Arts Center.

The John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan has received a $1 million grant from the New York-based Lenore G. Tawney Foundation to establish an endowment funding a fellowship dedicated to the study of the center’s Lenore Tawney Collection.

The new Lenore G. Tawney Fellowship is to be awarded annually to a scholar, writer, curator or artist to pursue projects using the Tawney collection, as a basis or inspiration for their work. Fellowships will be open to individuals of all nationalities, at all educational levels and from all disciplines.

The late Lenore Tawney was an American fiber artist known for her “innovative interpretations of traditional fiber practices,” the art center said in a news release. “Tawney’s unorthodox sculptural works took weaving beyond the expected flat rectangular format, moving fiber art off the wall and into three-dimensional space.” Her work also includes drawing, collage and assemblage.

In addition to the $1 million endowment grant, the foundation is providing the JMKAC a grant of $50,000 to operate the fellowship in its first year. The first fellow will be announced in early 2023, with the fellowship beginning summer 2023.

“Through the generosity of the Tawney Foundation, the Arts Center will be able to bring in new voices and diverse perspectives on the collection and the ongoing relevance of Tawney’s life’s work,” said Amy Horst, director of the JMKAC. “We are grateful for the foundation’s gift and enthusiastic about the opportunities it will provide for new research and new works of art.”

With assistance from the Kohler Foundation Inc., JMKAC worked closely with the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation – established by Tawney herself in 1989 for charitable and educational purposes – to acquire hundreds of key components from the artist’s last studio environment. The 486-piece collection includes artwork, collages, assemblages, furniture and supplies.

An installation of Tawney’s studio environment is on view at the JMKAC’s new Art Preserve. The 56,000-square-foot, three-story building opened in 2021 at 3636 Lower Falls Road to provide the public and researchers year-round access to a collection of art environments that now includes works by more than 30 artists.

Founded in 1967, JMKAC is known for “promoting the understanding and appreciation of the work of self-taught and contemporary artists through exhibitions and commissioned works of art,” according to the release. Located in downtown Sheboygan at 608 New York Ave., the facility features eight galleries, two performance spaces, a café, a museum shop and a drop-in art-making studio. Its programming includes artist residencies; presentations of dance, film and music; a free weekly summer concert series; classes and workshops; an onsite arts-based preschool; and approximately twelve original exhibitions of the work of self-taught and contemporary artists annually. JMKAC also administers the renowned Arts/Industry residency program, which is hosted by Kohler Co.

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Maredithe Meyer covers restaurants, retail, tourism, and sports and entertainment. She joined BizTimes in 2015, previously as an intern reporter. She earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University in 2017. When she's not on the job, Maredithe coaches field hockey and loves exploring her favorite city on earth, Milwaukee.

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