The Sheboygan Museum bathrooms double as an art exhibit

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — A Sheboygan museum believes bathrooms shouldn’t just be private spaces. Instead, it may be art exhibits that tour groups browse.

The 10 bathrooms of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center (JMKAC) also serve as art exhibits. They have consistently been named among the most artistic bathrooms in the country. More recently, the American Alliance of Museums declared JMKAC bathrooms to be among the best in the country.

“We truly believe here that every facet of your life can be changed, illuminated and even enhanced through art,” said Jodi Throckmorton, JMKAC’s Chief Curator.

James Groh

Art inside the men’s bathroom inside the John Michael Kohler Art Center that depicts Sheboygan’s relationship with water, including waterfalls, Lake Michigan, houses, etc.

The museum wants to transform the mundane into something spectacular. While most bathrooms seem like an afterthought or the last place for decorative design, JMKAC wanted to reflect society, our culture and the environment in the design. So in the 1990s, they commissioned artists to design and build one-of-a-kind bathrooms.

Superb bathrooms

The two most amazing bathrooms are arguably the first ones you pass when entering the museum. The women’s bathroom is painted bright pink. On the walls are cartoon depictions of women combined with famous fairy tales. Inside each stand are images illustrating the history of women’s underwear.

John Michael Kohler Center for the Arts

James Groh

A stand in the women’s bathroom is part of a series that shows the evolution of women’s underwear over time.

“As you browse the stalls, you’ll see bras, corsets and underwear, all the underlying stuff — and you might see privately,” Throckmorton said.

The first men’s bathroom shows the history of architecture and the leaders who helped facilitate these projects.

“One side of the wall, (the artist) is telling the story or the architecture, and the other sides are pointing to the people who are doing it – the CEOs, the leaders,” Throckmorton said.

Bathroom Sheboygan JKMAC

James Groh

The men’s bathroom inside the John Michael Kohler Arts Center depicts the history of architecture and the leaders who facilitated these projects.

Visits

Predictably, visitors are quite surprised when Throckmorton leads them into a bathroom. However, she said all of the reviews were positive. It might not be typical of a museum visit, but it makes for a memorable visit, that’s for sure.

John Michael Kohler Center for the Arts

James Groh

The mosaic tiles inside the John Michael Kohler Arts Center which show the many allusions to the many roles women play in society. They combine images of bodily figures and images of mythical stories and fairy tales.

If you are not part of the tour but would like to see the bathrooms, you are more than welcome. Obviously you can since these are the bathrooms. But if you plan on taking pictures, maybe give someone a courtesy or a warning before you take a few pictures.

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About Carlos V. Mitchell

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