Ruth DeYoung Kohler II (1941-2020) was an advocate for artists. She was perpetually creative and exacting in all she did. She held no pretensions, putting the individual needs of artists and the collective needs of communities above all else. Most of all, she believed in staying curious, and in supporting those who explored possibilities, those who pushed boundaries and showed us something unexpected.
A lifetime supporter of the arts, Ruth eschewed hierarchies and excluding categories within the art world in favor of artmaking that inspired new understandings of the creative process and of ourselves.
Serving as Director of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center for over fifty years, she made significant contributions to the arts across the U.S.,including serving as Chairman and member of the Wisconsin Arts Board, acting as a National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artists Organization panel member and past site evaluator, and as founder of the Preservation Committee of Kohler Foundation, Inc.
She believed passionately that the arts reveal who we are as a people: past, present and future. She promoted inclusive access to the arts in her local community, her home state of Wisconsin, and on national and international levels.
Karen Patterson is the Executive Director of the Ruth Foundation for the Arts. She brings more than fifteen years of museum and curatorial experience to help shape the foundation as an equitable and inspiring connection between artists and communities. Karen is devoted to providing artists with unhindered space for creative expression and believes in the people who work to make that happen. Her leadership style is founded on the belief that imagination, experimentation, and cross-disciplinary conversations lead to new paradigms.
She has previously served as Curator and Director of Exhibitions at The Fabric Workshop and Museum; Senior Curator at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center; Curatorial Assistant of the Roger Brown Study Collection at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; and has led large-scale projects and public art programs around the United States and abroad.
Kim Nguyen is the Program Director of Artistic Initiatives at the Ruth Foundation for the Arts. She previously served as Curator and Head of Programs at CCA Wattis Institute in San Francisco, and prior to that held the role of Director/Curator at Artspeak in Vancouver. Throughout her career, Kim has demonstrated a commitment to artistic excellence and risk-taking, supporting under-recognized artists and practices, and institution building.
Focusing on contemporary practices and the production of new work, she has worked closely with a wide range of artists, including recent projects with Maia Cruz Palileo, Jeffrey Gibson, Josh Faught, Cinthia Marcelle, Hồng-Ân Trương, Abbas Akhavan, Akosua Adoma Owusu, Ken Lum, and Trinh T. Minh-ha. In addition to her curatorial work, she maintains an active writing practice, having contributed to catalogues and curatorial publications nationally and internationally, and has taught at California College of the Arts.
Rachel Reichert is the Program Director – Sites & Stewardship for the Ruth Foundation for the Arts. As an artist and a practitioner, she brings an intimate understanding of artist needs, community development, and organizational sustainability, blurring the lines between art, history, and cultural preservation. Throughout her career, Rachel has focused on the support and care of artists and artist legacy through the development of artist residencies, experimental art schools, small museums, and cultural spaces.
Before joining the Ruth Foundation, she served as the Director of the James Castle House and the Cultural Sites Manager for the City of Boise’s Department of Arts and History, where she transformed Castle’s residence into a world-class art museum and artist residency. She co-founded The Atlanta School, a small art and architecture school embedded within a historic mining town where the end of a dirt road becomes a site for experimentation and community building. She has served as an executive member of the Historic Artist Homes and Studios program and maintains an active studio practice.
Zola Yi is the Program Coordinator of the Ruth Foundation for the Arts. Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, she has spent her recent years in Madison, Wisconsin as a project manager in healthcare technology. Interested in merging technology and the arts, Zola graduated from the University of Chicago, studying Neuroscience and Visual Arts. While gaining valuable experiences as a developmental neuroscience fellow, she maintained her commitment to the arts by working at Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art and as the Visual Media Editor for the University of Chicago communications team.
Zola respects and appreciates the ability of the arts to uplift marginalized voices, build communities, and amplify messages that may otherwise go unheard. She is grateful for the opportunity to incorporate these practices with her work at Ruth Arts and collaborate with the incredible minds this Foundation will bring together. She strives to bring a creative, thoughtful, and analytical perspective to program coordination at Ruth Arts.
Centering artists is my most guarded professional value. Collaborating with administrators, donors, and practitioners that share that belief has been the lifeline of my practice. Supporting the incredible creative ecosystem that makes our country’s cultural landscape has been the highlight of my career. The opportunity to work in service of a visionary legacy is spirit work I am always ever grateful to be called into.
Working with the Ruth Foundation for the Arts is a rare opportunity to do all four. It has been an abundant and joyful treat to build with this team! They are laser-focused on artists and their needs; enthusiastic about collaborations across our field; understand that there is wonder in every corner of this country; and deeply thoughtful about knitting Ruth’s spirit and values into everything they’re weaving.
They will make so much good! Bravo to them!