Ruth
Photo courtesy of John Michael Kohler Arts Center
Photo courtesy of John Michael Kohler Arts Center

Ruth DeYoung Kohler II (1941-2020)

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.

Staff
Photo: Constance Mensh

KAREN PATTERSON

Executive Director

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.

Photo: Ebtihal Shedid

Kim Nguyen

Program Director - Artistic Initiatives

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.

Photo: Brooke Burton

Rachel Reichert

Program Director - Sites & Stewardship

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

Program Coordinator

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.

Photo: Dani Storm

Heidi Wirth

Operations Director

Heidi Wirth has worked in non-profit arts organizations for more than 15 years, most recently as Director of Development at the Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend. Originally from Wisconsin, she returned to the Milwaukee area a decade ago after several years on the East Coast working in development and administrative capacities. She was previously Director of Museum Administration at the New-York Historical Society (New York, NY) and held positions at the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs (Chicago, IL) and the Tufts University Art Gallery (Medford, MA). Her arts career began as an intern at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art (Ithaca, NY) while earning an economics degree at Cornell University. Her journey has merged creative and analytical interests that continue to feed her development as an arts professional. She is a passionate advocate for the role the arts can have in education and community development, as well as the value of art to inspire us individually.
Board of Trustees

Susan Flader

Dawn Ripkey

Paul Tilleman

Advisors

TANINA EVANS

Vice President, Senior Trust Officer

Dan Harris

National Director of Philanthropic Services

Norah Jones

Principal and Founder, C3 Legal

Terri Yoho

Trust Liaison

Friends

Adam Abdalla

Being part of the launch of The Ruth Foundation for the Arts has been an extremely meaningful experience for us. We started Cultural Counsel with the intent, above all else, of putting artists’ voices at the forefront of the national dialogue. Ruth Arts’ adventurous funding model not only presents an opportunity to do that, but to change the way big philanthropy comes to understand the realities of the organizations they are funding, and identify those most deserving at a grassroots level. The possibilities are endless.

Melina Cordero

Equity & Inclusion Consultant

As an equity and inclusion advisor, I help organizations approach equity work in new and meaningful ways. Working with the team at Ruth Foundation for the Arts at their very beginning has been a unique opportunity to weave equitable and inclusive practices into everything they do. Their commitment to being and doing differently will have a wide-reaching impact on the artists and communities they touch.

Deana Haggag

Strategic Advisor

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!

Lauren Jones

We are always looking for great partners to build extraordinary brands with – to empower the leadership and the team to fully step into their purpose, vision and what makes them unignorable.  Working with The Ruth Foundation for the Arts was particularly special and has been a dream to build with Karen. This is a truly unique foundation that will impact the lives of so many artists and organizations doing incredible work, and at a time it’s more important than ever.

Scott Starr

Our intent has always been to engage with people who are not only passionate about their work​​but empathetically demonstrate intentionality in what they do and who they work with. Our goal is to help others amplify their own voice. Collaborating with Karen and the Ruth Foundation epitomizes this. The storied depth, purposeful intent, support for artists, and the cultivation of small communities doing incredible things have made this project feel entirely deliberate — charged by the imagination of one and driven by a creative collective of friends and fellow believers.