Maritime Museum Highlights Work of Ben Shenkelberg

The Door County Maritime Museum in Sturgeon Bay has opened a new temporary exhibit, An Architect and His Art, in its Reddin Bridge Room. The exhibition opened April 22 and features artwork by Ben Shenkelberg, the architect who designed the museum and is currently the architect for the proposed Maritime Tower project.

“They’re all really well done,” said the museum’s curator Adam Gronke about the designer’s pieces. “He’s an architect by trade and basically this is just the artwork that he does on the side. We were really impressed by them and asked if we could display them.”

Shenkelberg confirmed that originally, the paintings were something he made for business associates and friends. “I paint one of these every year at Thanksgiving for my Christmas card.”

The prints display a variety of maritime scenes, but none that would be recognized by locals. “None of the places I paint exist,” Shenkelberg explained. By painting imaginary scenes, he said, people can focus less on the accuracy of the rendering and instead simply enjoy the image for what it is.

Shenkelberg used a variety of mediums to produce the prints. “I paint these with watercolor, marking pens, ink and pencil. So it’s a little bit of everything – and a hairdryer,” he added with a chuckle. “That’s my technique. Every artist has their own style. That process really brings the color out. What’s green is really green and what’s red is really red.”

The exhibit provides an interesting look into the artistic ventures of the museum’s designer, but Shenkelberg’s generosity and support of the museum makes this installation an even greater asset. Shenkelberg is selling prints of his work to the public, with the proceeds going to the museum.

“If you like it, buy it, and they’ll take care of the whole thing,” Shenkelberg said.

Every print has a number and a price beside it, explained Gronke. Visitors can select which print they desire from the gallery showing and purchase it at the museum store. The print can be shipped to the buyer or picked up the day after the exhibit closes.

“This art is very unique. It is very unique to Ben’s artistic style, and he is an extremely talented artist,” said Gronke. “We had people that were buying prints before the exhibit was even installed. They’re very nicely done and I think people will be pleasantly surprised by how nice they are.”

Those worrying about getting a print for themselves needn’t worry about stock running low.

“We have multiple copies of each print,” Gronke assured.

An Architect and His Art is only a temporary exhibit at the Maritime Museum. It will reside in the Reddin Bridge Room from mid-April to early November. From Inside the Collections is another transitory installation focusing on shipwreck items from within the museum’s collection. It will be on display until Nov. 6 in the Upper Lobby.

Gronke indicated that these types of temporary exhibitions are highly beneficial to the museum. The more permanent exhibits tend to be broad in scope, focusing on topics such as Door County’s many lighthouses. With exhibits such as An Architect and His Art, the museum can go one step further.

“Temporary exhibits allow us to do more niche subjects,” he said. Visitors then have the option to explore exhibits that are more narrowly focused.

Additionally, varying what is and is not on display brings in both new and returning visitors.

“It’s kind of the nature of a museum to be changing and always trying to be doing something new,” Gronke stated. “Part of our mission is educating the public about maritime history. By doing different ones [exhibits] all the time we are able to reach different audiences as well.”

Door County Maritime Museum is located at 120 N. Madison Ave. in Sturgeon Bay. For more information, call 920.743.5958 or visit

Related Organizations

Article Comments