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Wisconsin National Register of Historic Places

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Mary Nohl Art Environment (T. Heggland photo, 2005)

Mary Nohl Art Environment (T. Heggland photo, 2005)

Mary Nohl Art Environment (T. Heggland photo, 2005)

Mary Nohl Art Environment, house interior (T. Heggland photo, 2005)

Nohl, Mary L., Art Environment
7328 North Beach Road, Fox Point, Milwaukee County
Architect: Henry Harshaw Hay
Site Designer: Mary L. Nohl

Located on the Lake Michigan shore, the delightfully embellished home and sculpture garden of artist Mary Nohl is a magical art environment. Over sixty sculptures of concrete, glass and stone populate the yard, including a twelve-foot grinning dinosaur. Colorful panels of creatures and figures in profile adorn the home's exterior, while the interior contains thousands of works from a lifetime of tireless experimentation with nearly every conceivable media. One of very few women to have undertaken such an extensive transformation of her personal world, Nohl created an incredibly diverse and vast body of work.

Mary Nohl's family was one of the first residents of this beach front neighborhood, and the original beach cottage portion of the house remains from 1921. In 1940, the Nohl family turned their summer residence into a year-round one and incorporated a two story addition. Mary's father died in 1961 and her mother moved into a nursing home two years later. Mary found herself alone in her home for the first time and not long afterwards began the process of transforming it and the surrounding lot into the total art environment that it was to become.

For Mary, every material had potential and served as a catalyst for her home, a work in progress revised according to her need to continuously explore and to delight her senses. TV dinner trays were saved to eventually become a chandelier of fish over the dining table. She unraveled the wire from old electrical cords and wove them into three-dimensional creatures hanging from the ceiling. She bought boxes of scraps of stained glass and assembled them in mosaic-like patterns on her windows. Concrete sculptures formed a menagerie in her yard.

In 1996, Mary began the process of gifting her entire collection to the Kohler Foundation to ensure its preservation. By the time of her death in 2001 at the age of 87, knowledge of Nohl's extraordinary creation had traveled far beyond Wisconsin, and she had achieved international recognition, both as an artist and visionary.

The Mary Nohl home is a private residence and is not open to the public.

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