Grant Programs

Collectively, art and culture organizations are a part of an ecosystem that provides the resources, support, space, and connection needed for artists to thrive and engage with their communities. From providing an artist’s first big moment, to being the sole art space in town, to offering the time artists need to experiment, to supplying opportunities for exchange and wonder, to caring for their archives and homes.

We support organizations that acknowledge the fullness and interconnectedness of artists’ lives and whose missions are clearly rooted in the communities they serve.

Wisconsin Special Project Grants

Applications Open October 23, 2023

The Wisconsin Special Project Grant program is the only annual open call grant at Ruth Arts, exclusively offered to Wisconsin arts and culture organizations with operating budgets under $2 million. Small and mid-size nonprofit visual arts, performing arts, and arts education organizations with ambitious project ideas are welcome to apply for grants via a juried process. This new grantmaking initiative will award either $100,000 or $200,000 over two years for successful applicants.

Ruth Kohler with Camera
Ruth DeYoung Kohler at the Klessig farm, Wisconsin, c. 1969. Photo courtesy of John Michael Kohler Arts Center.

Future Studies

Future Studies is inspired by the Foundation’s namesake, Ruth DeYoung Kohler II, who believed that art had the ability to change lives, pointing to both the future possibility of creativity and the understanding that art, when fostered and supported, could contribute to fundamental change.

Yahkaskwan Mikiwahp (Light Tipi). Image courtesy of BUSH Gallery.

Artist Choice​

In early 2022, Executive Director Karen Patterson approached 50 artists and asked them to nominate organizations that have impacted their creative practice and contributed to the ecosystem of artmaking and community connections. This list stems from their insights and recommendations.

Wisconsin Grants to Artists

Launched in 2023, Ruth Arts’ Wisconsin Grants to Artists program offers support for artists and creative practitioners in Wisconsin. Established Milwaukee-based organizations were selected to receive funds on an annual basis for the purpose of awarding individual grants to artists in their communities to augment their existing support.

Sites & Stewardship

Sites & Stewardship nurtures the ever-evolving and exceptional relationships between artmaking and place. Rooted in Ruth DeYoung Kohler II’s long standing love of artist-built environments, this inaugural program stems from the belief that new possibilities emerge when we value the specificity of spaces in the pursuit of creativity.

Photo: Marion Aguas. Courtesy of The W.O.W. Project

Core Grants

Building upon our Spring 2022 Artist Choice campaign and the historical giving of Ruth DeYoung Kohler II, the Fall 2022 core grant program is shaped by three organizing categories: how artists live, make, and are remembered.

Thought Leaders

The formation of Ruth Arts’ multi-year Thought Leaders program is inspired by the breadth of Ruth Koher’s life and giving—non-hierarchical and committed to structural change with an unwavering generosity and a dedication to the unexpected. Through a substantial, sustained level of support, our multi-year program uplifts organizations undertaking ambitious, transformative initiatives with long-term impact. Organizations that are dedicated to the complex work of forming new possibilities through experimentation, capacity building, and deeper understandings and investigations of our histories, environments, or the full arc of an artist’s life.

Photo: Sana Javeri Kadri

RDK Legacy

In 1985, Ruth DeYoung Kohler II set up the RDK Foundation as a way to support arts and culture organizations, primarily in the Midwest, she felt personally aligned with. Ruth Arts has continued to support those organizations and will continue support for these legacy-based grantees well into the future.

Photo: John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Ruth Kohler at the Art Preserve