Ruth DeYoung Kohler cover

Ruth DeYoung Kohler II was Director of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center for over 50 years.

MILWAUKEE – The Ruth Foundation for the Arts, which is supported by a bequest from the late Ruth DeYoung Kohler II, has given out its first round of grants. The Milwaukee-based organization is expected to donate $17 million to artists per year.

The first round of funding distributed $1.25 million to 78 nonprofit arts organizations in 29 states, with individual grants ranging from $10,000-50,000. The organization’s regular giving cycle will take place later this year.

Grants are invitation-based and will be given twice per year. The Ruth Foundation will continue the adventurous spirit of arts patron and former John Michael Kohler Arts Center Director DeYoung Kohler, who embraced art in all its genres and forms, and championed the unconventional and exciting.

“I am honored to continue Ruth’s exceptional legacy in such an impactful way. She has shown us that a thriving art community requires support for the entire ecosystem: from exhibition spaces, to festivals, to archives, to art environments, to residencies, and to school programs. We are truly a multidimensional field. We rely on one another. And none of these things would be possible without artists,” said Ruth Foundation Executive Director Karen Patterson.

Patterson comes to the foundation after serving as Director of Exhibitions at The Fabric Workshop and Senior Curator at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. She is joined by Program Director Kim Nguyen, who previously served as Curator and Head of Programs at the CCA Wattis Institute in San Francisco.

In the Ruth Foundation’s initial round of grants, input was sought from 50 artists from across the United States. They were asked to nominate organizations that influenced their own engagement with art, provided visionary community programming, and connected deeply with artists’ processes.

The Ruth Foundation will continue to work with artists to guide and inform its programming in the future, and will host their artist nominating processes on a regular basis.

In addition to grantmaking, the foundation plans to establish an artist advisory committee, a Visiting Artists program for art schools, a fellowship program for artists, and research grants for cultural workers.

For more information on the Ruth Foundation, visit

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