The John Michael Kohler Arts Center receives $1M award from Ruth Foundation for the Arts

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The John Michael Kohler Arts Center receives $1M award from Ruth Foundation for the Arts
Ruth DeYoung Kohler. Photo courtesy of John Michael Kohler Arts Center.

SHEBOYGAN, WI.- The John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wis., announced today that it has received a $1 million grant from Ruth Foundation for the Arts (Ruth Arts).

The grant will support JMKAC general operations such as exhibition and programming development, artist commissions, and digital-asset management systems. The award comes from Ruth Arts’ newly formed RDK Legacy Fund, which honors and continues Ruth DeYoung Kohler II’s (1941–2020) steadfast support of regional and craft-based organizations and artist-built environments. Kohler dedicated five decades of her remarkable life to leading and nurturing the growth of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center.

Ruth Arts is a Milwaukee-based foundation supported by a bequest from the late Ruth DeYoung Kohler II. Kohler served as JMKAC’s director from 1972–2016, having started as a volunteer in 1967, then holding the position of assistant director from 1968–1972.

“This generous award will go a long way in furthering JMKAC’s work to generate a creative exchange between artists and the public, and to engage in meaningful conversations with artists, fellow grantees, and our community. We look forward to partnering with Ruth Arts to keep Ruth Kohler’s passion for art making and community building alive,” said Amy Horst, JMKAC director.

Through Kohler’s guidance, JMKAC grew from a local arts center to an internationally recognized institution presenting contemporary art, the work of vernacular artists, performing arts, and the work of art-environment builders. In 2016, when she left the directorship of the Arts Center, the board of directors honored Ruth by naming her director emerita of the Arts Center. It was a testament to her tremendous contribution to the fields of art environments and self-taught and folk art as well as contemporary art—and to her great success in guiding the Arts Center to become the renowned institution it is today.

The crown jewel of Kohler’s legacy at JMKAC is the Art Preserve, where the Arts Center’s unrivaled collection of art environments is on public view and available for researchers and artists to study and respond to year-round. The Art Preserve, which opened in June 2021 and is also located in Sheboygan, was the focus of Kohler’s work during the last few years of her life.

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