A Tribute to

Ruth DeYoung

1941 - 2020

Our Aunt Ruth could conjure superheroes on restaurant napkins and look at Snapple caps and see bathroom tiling. She never failed to enchant us with the adventures of her mighty schnauzer Schnickelfritz or the lovely Lucy Sweetpea. She would enlist us to paint the sticks in her backyard for her home décor, plaster piñatas for birthdays, and lead us through the Rhinestone Cowboy house at the Art Center as many times as we wanted. She gave us an incredible example of living a life of purpose and passion. She inspired us, nurtured us, taught us and loved us in a way that, like Ruth herself, was wholly unique. Ruth created a world full of magic, beauty and wonder, one that we will continue to foster in her honor.

Laura, Rachel and David

Steve, Mark and Nina

Ashley, Greg, Lily, Hannah, Mara, Sam, Lena, Jack, Rachel, Tait and Leo

Ophelia, Herbert and Uma

Ruth DeYoung Kohler II will be fondly admired as a tireless champion of under-recognized artists and art forms, and for most of her career, served as Director of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Ruth died Saturday, November 14, 2020 at her home in Kohler, Wisconsin, at the age of 79.

Read The Obituary

A Life of Purpose & Passion

The Arts

Ruth was deeply committed to breaking down hierarchies within the mainstream arts world to engage with overlooked art forms and communities with limited access to arts experiences. Ruth fully took up the Arts Center’s motto of “All the arts for all the people,” centering programming and exhibitions development around it.

Arts / Industry

Ruth and her brother Herbert, Jr. collaborated to serve as the driving forces behind the unique intersection of industrial manufacturing and contemporary art through the formation of the Arts/Industry residency program in 1974 with Kohler Co.

The Kohler Foundation

Ruth also served on the Kohler Foundation, Inc., board from 1969-2019 and as the Foundation’s President from 1999-2006. Since the 1970s, the preservation of art environments, folk architecture, and collections by self-taught artists has been a major focus of Kohler Foundation.

“Art energizes public spaces, emboldens thinking and enriches communities. Art is indispensable to who we are as people, our quality of life, and our success in business, and has guided our company for generations. Ruth Kohler was an early visionary and a diligent catalyst in bringing together the arts and industry. She advocated strongly for this unique exchange of ideas between artists and production associates, which often drove innovation and created an open dialogue that encourages mutual inspiration.” - Herb Kohler, Executive Chairman, Kohler Co.
“Through her work at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center and Kohler Foundation, Ruth has promoted equitable and inclusive access to the arts in her local community, her home state of Wisconsin, and on national and international levels. She has been a guiding force behind the selection and conservation of many outsider arts sites and collections. Without Ruth’s vision and curatorial guidance, the Kohler Foundation would not be in a position to save these significant works of art for the public to appreciate and experience.” - Laura Kohler, Senior Vice President-HR, Stewardship & Sustainability, Kohler Co.

1941 - 2020