Arts/Industry is perhaps the most unusual ongoing collaboration between art and industry in the U.S. Conceived and run by the John Michael Kohler Arts Center of Sheboygan, Wis., the program makes industrial technologies and facilities available to artists through long-term residencies, short-term workshops, tours and other programming so that they may further their artistic work.
The main part of Arts/Industry is a residency program at Kohler Co., the maker of plumbing ware. Artists spend two to six months creating works of art using the industrial materials and equipment. Artists are exposed to technical knowledge that enables them to explore forms and concepts not possible in their own studios, as well as new ways of thinking and working.
The Arts/Industry residency program operates year-round to support approximately 15 artists annually, usually four in residence at a time. Participants can work in the Kohler Co. pottery, iron and brass foundries, or enamel shop to develop a wide variety of work in clay, enameled cast iron and brass. Work includes murals and reliefs, temporary or permanent site-specific installations and functional and sculptural forms.
Artists-in-residence are provided with studio space in the factory that is accessible to them 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition, the artists live together in housing provided by the Arts/Industry program.
Hundreds of emerging and established artists have benefited from the Arts/Industry program at Kohler Co. since its inception in 1974. The work of past participants in the Arts/Industry program can be seen in the galleries of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan.
Major funding is provided by Kohler Co. and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Meet four artists who completed residencies at the Kohler factories in fall 2001, and hear what they have to say about working in the middle of a large factory. Also meet the two technicians who help the program run smoothly and learn how they balance assisting artists-in-residence with making their own art.
Charlotte Meyer (Foundry)
Clothing speaks volumes for Seattle-based artist Charlotte Meyer, who completed a residency in the Kohler Co. foundry. Her education in textile design is evident in the metal pieces she creates. Using historical clothing forms such as corsets and objects like clothes hangers, Meyer examines how clothes shape people's identities and affect how they perceive themselves. As part of her residency, Meyer also spoke to workers in the Kohler factory about what particular items of their clothing mean to them.
Images of work by Charlotte Meyer
Interview with Charlotte Meyer: RealVideo | Transcript
Rebecca Ratzlaff (Foundry)
Rebecca Ratzlaff, currently a student at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, combines dual interests in metalwork and theater. She came to the Kohler factory with previous experience in foundry casting and chose to use her residency for the creation of multiples. Affected by the events of September 11, Ratzlaff conceived a project composed of the cast forms of people's cupped hands, hoping to create a series of castings equal in number to the number of people killed in the terrorist attacks. Ratzlaff would like to combine these forms with photographic and performance components.
Images of work by Rebecca Ratzlaff
Interview with Rebecca Ratzlaff: RealVideo | Transcript
Deborah J. Weinstein (Pottery)
Inspired by the sea life of her home state of Florida, ceramic artist Debbie Weinstein creates fanciful and fantastic forms that she calls "hybrids"-imaginary meldings of different creatures. She also creates delicate spherical forms and lidded vessels. Before coming to the Kohler Co. pottery, Weinstein completed a master of fine arts (M.F.A.) degree at Kent State University.
Images of work by Debbie Weinstein
Interview with Debbie Weinstein: RealVideo | Transcript
Isaiah Zagar (Pottery)
Hailing from Philadelphia, Isaiah Zagar has created large-scale murals out of ceramic tile and other materials since 1969. Over his career, Zagar has covered approximately 15,000 square feet of walls, ceilings and floors with his vibrant mosaics. Zagar found his experience in the Kohler Co. pottery invigorating because the industrial setting allowed him to dramatically increase his output. Zagar, who is also a folk art dealer, was joined by his assistant, artist Susan Stewart, for his Arts/Industry residency.
Images of work by Isaiah Zagar
Interview with Isaiah Zagar: RealVideo | Transcript
The Arts/Industry program of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center (JMKAC) employs two technicians, one for the foundry and the other for the pottery. These technicians, both accomplished artists in their own right, ensure that things go smoothly for the artists who come to the Kohler factories. They acquaint artists with the Kohler facilities, look after artists' safety and ensure that the artists' work does not interfere with industrial production. The technicians are the liaisons between the artists, the factory workers and the JMKAC.
Donna Lopp, Arts/Industry foundry technician
For about two years, Donna Lopp has served as the foundry technician. Lopp also has her own studio space near the residency artists, and she must balance working on her own art with meeting the needs of the visiting artists. When making her own pieces, Lopp enjoys working with a variety of materials, from metal and rubber to wood, leather and textiles. Lopp is also interested in the intersections between sculpture, dance and theater.
Interview with Donna Lopp: RealVideo | Transcript
Scott Zimmer, Arts/Industry pottery technician
Scott Zimmer has been the pottery technician for more than two years. He holds an undergraduate degree in architecture and a master's degree in ceramics, which he describes as his "first love." In a number of ways, the industrial pottery in the Kohler factory is different from what artists are used to in a typical art studio. For example, all of the clay the artists use in the Kohler factory is piped in as slip to their workstations. This slip is not well-suited to throwing on a potter's wheel or hand-building, but excellent for casting in molds or carving. In addition to his technician role, Zimmer creates his own pieces, frequently based on botanical forms.
Images of work by Scott Zimmer
Interview with Scott Zimmer: RealVideo | Transcript
Contact: Beth Lipman, Arts/Industry Coordinator, John Michael Kohler Arts Center, 608 New York Ave., P.O. Box 489, Sheboygan, WI 53082-0489. Phone: 920-458-6144.
Arts/Industry Day: To learn more about the Arts/Industry program, attend Arts/Industry Day on April 8, 2002. Tour the Kohler factories and see works-in-progress by the artists currently in residence. For information about Arts/Industry Day or to register, contact Beth Lipman.