Ruth DeYoung Kohler II, who died last week, is being recognized for growing the Sheboygan arts center to an internationally recognized institution.
She died Saturday at her home in Kohler at 79. She was the daughter of Herbert V. Kohler, Sr. and Ruth DeYoung Kohler, and younger sister of current Kohler Co. Executive Chairman Herbert V. Kohler, Jr.
At the time of her death, she was the Director Emerita at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. She was also a major shareholder in privately held Kohler Co., headquartered in Kohler.
A press release from the John Michael Kohler Arts Center said Kohler was a "tireless champion of under-recognized artists and art forms. She saw the arts as a driver of positive social change, upholding the pillars of diversity, inclusiveness, and community involvement. She believed passionately that the arts, in all its iterations, reveal who we are as a people: past, present, and future."
The release went on to say that she worked to change how art environments are perceived, preserved and valued by the arts world and the public. Under her direction, the Arts Center collection grew to include over 25,000 works by more than 30 art-environment builders.
Her final endeavor was serving as Director of Strategic Projects focused on the design and building of the Arts Preserve, west of Sheboygan, which will open to the public in June 2021.
“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,” said Ruth’s brother, Herb Kohler, Kohler Co. Executive Chairman.
She also served on the Kohler Foundation board from 1969-2019 and as the Foundation’s President from 1999-2006.
“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,” said Ruth’s niece, Laura Kohler, Senior Vice President-HR, Stewardship & Sustainability. “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.”