History and Mission

Our Mission


Our History

The idea for the Plymouth Arts Foundation, now known as the Plymouth Arts Center, actually began in a community over 2,000 miles away in Livingston, Montana. Livingston, a community of about 7,000 people, has an active arts council which operates an art program every Friday evening which is broadcast live on the local radio station. Their arts council is successful and totally volunteer run.

Nancy Smith, who was the Executive Director of the Plymouth Chamber at the time, decided that if the arts council could work in the Livingston, Montana it could work in Plymouth, Wisconsin. She determined that creating an arts group could benefit the community in many ways by improving the quality of life and increasing tourism. Smith sent out 200 postcards to area artists to assess their interest in forming an artist’s guild. Only seven cards were returned, however she continued to pursue the idea. She invited several people including artists, educators, and business people to a meeting at the Plymouth Library in January 1993.

The first year the group was very busy organizing; developing the mission statement, filing articles of incorporation, developing their bylaws, and designing their logo. Public relation efforts included exhibiting at Mill Street Festival, Sheboygan County Fair, and making presentations to local organizations and businesses. Board member and artist, Roger Lahm developed a watercolor print series for a fundraiser.

In 1994 the group’s organizational efforts continued with filing for non-profit status, and again exhibiting at the Sheboygan County Fair. Free ad space was provided by the Plymouth Review to help create awareness. Up to this point the group had looked at five different possible sites for an art gallery and then they were approached by Lee Gentine about taking up residence in The Plymouth Center. (see Plymouth Center history on facilities page.) In December of 1994, Joan Kohn and her Exhibition Committee determined that the first visual art show would be oil paintings by Artist Robert Heuel and proposed that his show would open in Gallery 110 North mid 1995.

In January of 1995 representatives from the three proposed tenants of The Plymouth Center (PAF, Historical Society and Chamber of Commerce) met to discuss how to renovate the building to meet everyone’s needs. PAF held their first general membership meeting which was attended by 60 members. This was the year that PAF became financially independent. Board members wrote and received grants from the Wisconsin Arts Board and State Tourism Department for the grand opening celebration of The Plymouth Center which was held October 1995. The event was called the Heritage and Arts Festival.
In 1996 Plymouth Arts Foundation’s activities expanded to include art classes and a folk concert series. In 1997 the PAF had a full schedule of art classes that were offered in cooperation with Plymouth Community Education, the visual art display had changed eight times offering exhibits of varied media. PAF garnered regional as well as national attention for many of its shows. The PAF coordinated the Family Folk Concert series and supported the formation of a local theater group which presented a play in September 1997.

Plymouth Arts Center has come a long way from the seven cards that were returned in 1992. Today the organization has grown to over 400 members and has hundreds of volunteers. Some of the original founding board members continue to be very active today.

Click HERE to view the History of the Plymouth Arts Center Building.

Click HERE to view the History of the Cheese Capital of the World!

Why is Cheese so important in Plymouth, WI? Read about a recent grant received by the Redevelopment Authority. Donna Hahn, executive dirsctor of the Plymouth Arts Center is the vice-chair of this committee. The RDA is moving forward with an exciting project of rehabbing an old building in downtown Plymouth.

Click HERE to view the Lakeshore Community Foundations website!


Joan Kohn portrait A Tribute to Joan Kohn
Joan M. Kohn, was a founding member of the Plymouth Arts Foundation.  Joan served actively on the Board of Directors continuously from the beginning of the organization through 1998.  She was the driving force and the creative genius responsible in great part for the development of the visual arts programming of our Arts Foundation and the credible reputation earned by Gallery 110 North.  In her own right, Joan was a nationally known fiber artist and was listed in 100 People Who Shaped Sheboygan County.  She is greatly missed......

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