Ruth DeYoung Kohler Assumes New Role at John Michael Kohler Arts Center

Contact: Amy Horst
Deputy Director for Programming

February 4, 2016 Sheboygan, WI

Ruth DeYoung Kohler, Director of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center (JMKAC), has announced her decision to dedicate much of her attention in the coming years to the creation of the Art Preserve, the world’s first major facility dedicated to the study of art environments and their preservation, conservation, and public presentation.

In recognition of the importance of this work, the JMKAC Board of Directors has named Kohler to the newly created position of Director of Strategic Initiatives. To concentrate on this new role, Kohler is stepping aside as Arts Center Director, a position she has held since 1972. Beyond the focus on the Art Preserve, her new duties will include the development of a National Council, planning for the Arts Center’s 50th anniversary in 2017—a yearlong exploration and celebration of the Arts Center as a whole and the art environments—and working with board and staff to interview and select the next director.

The board also honored Kohler by naming her Director Emeritus of the Arts Center. This lifelong title is a testament to Kohler’s tremendous contribution to the fields of art environments and selftaught 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 John Michael Kohler Arts Center, known worldwide for saving art environments, is in the process of purchasing 39 acres from the City of Sheboygan on which to build the Art Preserve. Scheduled for completion in 2020, the new facility will serve as the only major indoor/outdoor museum of whole environments as well as of surviving components when the whole is no longer intact. Art environments are generally created by individuals who select their home, yard, or other site meaningful to them and transform it through time—sometimes decades—into an exceptional, multifaceted work of art.

Ruth Kohler expressed great optimism about her new role. “The Art Preserve has been a dream of mine for many years. Now, I will have the opportunity to take this exciting concept off the drawing board and, working with staff and experts in the field, make the Arts Center’s unparalleled collection accessible to adults and children from throughout the United States and beyond,” she said.

Board President Sandra Sachse noted, “As we look for Ruth’s successor, we will strive to build on her remarkable legacy of generating creative programming between diverse artists and communities.. Page 2 of 2 And we are, indeed, fortunate to have an experienced and accomplished management team in place who can continue to move that vision forward during this time of transition.”

Sachse added that while the Board of Directors conducts a national search for a new director, a committee of board officers will meet regularly with JMKAC Deputy Director of Programming Amy Horst, Deputy Director of Operations Kelley Renzelmann, and Chief Advancement Officer Cynthia Echols.

The Arts Center begins its yearlong 50th anniversary celebration in January 2017. Curator Karen Patterson and Kohler will spearhead plans to feature the work of environment builders throughout the Arts Center’s 12 galleries and in extensive related program offerings. One highlight of the year will be a conference of curators and scholars from a variety of disciplines, developed in collaboration with Kohler Foundation Inc. This interdisciplinary approach will allow new access points into the JMKAC collection and result in new writings about art environments from a range of perspectives.

About the John Michael Kohler Arts Center
Founded in 1967, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center is a contemporary arts center dedicated to making innovative arts programming accessible to a broad audience that ranges from artists and academics to families and youth of all ages. Central to its mission is promoting an understanding and appreciation of the work of self-taught and contemporary artists through original exhibitions, commissioned works of art, performing arts programming, community arts initiatives, and publications. The Arts Center’s collections focus primarily on works by environment builders, selftaught and folk artists, and works created in the Arts/Industry residency program.

Looking to the future, the Arts Center continues to generate new explorations in the arts that foster creative exchanges between an international community of artists and a diverse public, making real the power of the arts to transform lives and strengthen communities.

The John Michael Kohler Arts Center is an independent nonprofit supported by corporate and foundation donors, government grants, hundreds of members and individual donors. More information about the Arts Center can be found at

Visitor information
Admission to the John Michael Kohler Arts Center is by voluntary donation. Arts Center members receive a discount on performances and other event tickets, classes and camps tuitions, purchases at ARTspace shops, and free or discounted admission to many special events. Memberships at various levels are available at the Arts Center, by visiting, and/or by calling 920-458-6144.

Arts Center Hours: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays: 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Tuesdays and Thursdays: 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays: 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The Arts Center is open at other times for special events.