Ruth Arts launched on June 30, 2022, supported by a significant bequest from the late Ruth DeYoung Kohler II (1941–2020).
Meaningful support for artists and the ethical stewardship of Ruth Kohler’s legacy are at the core of the Foundation’s work. We are inspired by the breadth of her life and giving: artist-driven and non-hierarchical, with an unwavering generosity and a commitment to the unexpected and the impossible.
A lifelong supporter of the arts, Ruth Kohler made financial contributions to organizations in her home state of Wisconsin, including her beloved artist-built environments, (under the name RDK Foundation). The Ruth Foundation for the Arts (Ruth Arts) launched in 2022 to honor Kohler’s generous bequest after her passing and to mark a new phase of national funding initiatives. Kohler’s inimitable legacy and enduring vision continues to guide our mission.
To underscore Kohler’s dedication to artists and their integral role in communities, Ruth Arts launched with our (now annual) artist-nominated granting program with an initial $1.25 million. Over 50 artists were asked to propose organizations they felt had deeply influenced their own engagement with art and/or had presented visionary community programming. Their nominations resulted in over 75 arts and cultural organizations across the country receiving unrestricted grants, joining Ruth Kohler’s historic recipients to form the 2022 pool of Ruth Arts grantees.
As a new national funder, Ruth Arts is in its early and integral stages of program development. Our mission is to explore new possibilities for arts philanthropy through an artist-driven approach. Responding to the evolving needs of our community, and working across a wide spectrum of lived experiences, we aim to support those that center the unconventional and the exciting.
Our first announced grantmaking program, a participatory artist-nomination process called Artist Choice, generated our inaugural pool of Ruth Arts grantees in June 2022, along with arts and culture organizations historically funded by Ruth DeYoung Kohler II.
The Artist Choice program will continue each spring. By asking artists from a variety of backgrounds—with different approaches to artmaking and at every stage of an artist’s career—to nominate organizations that have impacted their lives and communities, we empower them to be at the center of our mission and planning, and to illustrate the integral role artists play in shaping our understanding of our worlds.
Artist Choice will be followed by a complementary, yet distinct, fall and winter grant programs, which are currently in development and will be announced in November 2022 and February 2023.
Ruth Arts does not currently accept unsolicited proposals.
Ruth Arts’ grant programs are being developed with a particular eye toward arts and culture organizations with a high degree of innovation, materiality, and resonance with the community in which they work—welcoming spaces and organizations that exemplify and inspire a degree of curiosity. As one way to honor Ruth’s legacy, we make sure to include the small but integral spaces—the sites that might be the only arts space in their communities, and those with specific, possibly idiosyncratic, artist-focused missions. Organizations that are operating in thoughtful and critical ways, building meaningful connections with the communities they serve.
At this time, as we continue to build our grantees, we are not funding:
- Capital campaigns
- Organizations whose core mission is not directly tied to art and culture programs or arts education
- Fundraising events or galas
- K-12 schools or private K-12 institutions
- Requests or proposals from organizations outside of our grantee pool
We encourage you to delve into our list of grantees and Ruth DeYoung Kohler’s historic giving to better understand the creative endeavors we support and the direction we are thoughtfully heading. We are pleased that this list reflects Kohler’s legacy of supporting artmaking at all scales and in all ways, with a focus on imagination, education, community-building, and artist-centric programming. To be the first to learn about our upcoming programs, please sign up for our newsletter.
Stay tuned for news on artist fellowships, scholarships, and re-granting programs in 2023.
As we work to build our programs and sustain our workloads, we remain artist-nominated and/or by invitation. Establishing and sustaining meaningful relationships with our grantees is essential to our process, and we seek out active partnerships that are rooted in reciprocity and knowledge sharing. We encourage everyone to support artists, develop and maintain innovative community-based, artist-centric programs, and to review our values and mission to see if your work aligns with our artistic strategies and objectives.
We seek out artists with active, interdisciplinary practices—whether by working across various mediums or through the numerous hats they may wear as practitioners (educators, writers, organizers, curators, etc). The individuals that are operating within the many intersections of artmaking, who in their own innovative practices reflect the risk-taking, criticality, and generosity representative of the values of Ruth Arts. To create an expansive group of nominators, Ruth Arts solicits recommendations from past nominators and grantees, and the selection process is rooted in equity—balancing race, gender, and class, with a mind towards geographic and generational representation, and a wide range of artistic and cultural experience. We believe in artist self-determination: to have representative communities in the pool so that they can speak to and for their own communities, uplift each other’s practices, and determine how they want their work to be made, presented, and supported.
Our focus is on artists and organizations whose priorities are arts and culture programming and arts education—those deeply immersed in the many facets of artistic practice, from the structural and material support for artists, to the presentation, production, preservation, and scholarship of the work, to creating equitable access to arts education. We prioritize organizations that place creativity at the center of their community building and engagement. We recognize that many organizations work across disciplines and greatly welcome those working within these intersections, as long as their activities are artist-driven and in dialogue with contemporary practice, art, and ideas.
Ruth DeYoung Kohler II was the longstanding Director of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center (JMKAC). She also served as the Chair for Preservation with the Kohler Foundation for many decades. And of course, it is Ruth DeYoung Kohler’s vision and generosity that created Ruth Arts. Today, all three organizations honor Ruth’s legacy in their respective programs but operate as distinct and independent entities.
The work of Kohler Foundation, located in Kohler, WI., encompasses five major areas of concentration: art preservation, grants, scholarships, a performing arts series (the Distinguished Guest Series), and the management of the Waelderhaus, a historic home. For more information, visit www.kohlerfoundation.org.
Among JMKAC’s program offerings are community arts projects; artist residencies; presentations of dance, film, and music; a free weekly summer concert series; classes and workshops; an onsite arts-based preschool; and approximately twelve original exhibitions of the work of self-taught and contemporary artists annually. JMKAC also administers the renowned Arts/Industry residency program, hosted by Kohler Co., and the Art Preserve, the world’s first museum to focus entirely on work from art environments. For more information, visit www.jmkac.org.
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