KENOSHA — Artist Ron Ruble — who has written three books — is not often at a loss for words.
Except when a museum names a gallery for him and his wife, Mary.
“There are too many adjectives out there to choose from to describe the feeling,” Ruble said. “It’s pretty awesome. We’re thrilled as punch!”
Added Mary, “We’ve developed a close relationship over the past 15 years with the museum staff, and they are terrific people. It made us cry when they told us; we couldn’t believe it.”
Whether they believe it or not, the Kenosha Public Museum is naming its South Gallery, which primarily houses temporary fine art exhibits, the Ronald L. and Mary K. Ruble Gallery. And, a new exhibit recently opened, showcasing prints by Ruble and other artists.
The honor reflects Ruble’s long connection to the museum — he’s donated his extensive print collection to the facility — and his desire to support it.
It was at the local museum that Ruble, as a young boy growing up during the Great Depression, first discovered his passion for art.
“I didn’t do this for any reason except to donate to Kenosha and give back to the community,” said Ruble, speaking over the phone with Mary from their home near Madison.
Reflecting on his decades-long career in art, Ruble said one moment that stands out is “when I won my first national prize, at the University of Colorado. They purchased one of my prints for their permanent collection. I didn’t even realize at the time that I was a real artist. I gained some recognition from that award, including from other artists, which was a thrill.”
As he continues to work on his art, Ruble embraces new technologies and techniques, which he says help his growth as an artist.
“All those things are nothing but tools,” he said of using digital photography. “The art’s in your gut, and there’s nothing wrong with using new tools. I will always use a method that makes my final image better — it could be photo etching, photography or digital photography.”
When asked how people who aren’t artists can be creative, Rube scoffs at the notion that art is for a select few.
“I’m not very good at drawing either, but I found a method that I can handle and that can interpret what I want to say. Once you do that, you get into the essence of what art is about,” he said. “Don’t ever say you can’t do anything creative. If you tear a piece of paper in half and tear it again and mold it into different shapes, you’ve done something creative. Just express yourself and enjoy doing it.”
Added Mary: “All the artists that Ron has met and introduced me to, most of those artists aren’t really skilled at drawing, but they are expressing themselves. Their art is not necessarily a perfect reflection of reality, but that’s not what they’re trying to do.”
Building a collection
Though Ruble is donating his art collection to the museum, he’s still getting new pieces.
He started the collection several years ago by using the barter system — he wrote letters to artists, asking if they’d like to trade pieces with him.
“The artist lauerate of Colorado is the greatest engraver of this era,” Ruble said, “so I wrote to him one time and we traded. I sent him one print; he sent me five back. Then, just a couple weeks ago, I opened up the mailbox and there’s a big package from him: 15 beautiful prints for the Kenosha Museum. The artists are so generous. I only met one jerk; the others keep giving.”
Ruble recalls meeting one artist for lunch “and we just hit it off perfectly. He took me to his studio and gave me eight prints. I asked him, ‘Why are you doing this?’ He told me, ‘For your dream.’”
That dream, of adding to the local art scene in Kenosha, is one Ruble holds close to his heart.
“I believe in Kenosha’s future,” he said. “There are a lot of creative people there, and I’m hopeful something good will come from this.”
A Hollywood ending
When told that his story — a young boy dreams of becoming an artist and, decades later, the museum where he first had that dream names a gallery in his honor — sounds like something created by a Hollywood screenwriter, Mary Ruble said, “We decided if this story could be sold to Hollywood, we’d like Robert Redford and Julia Roberts to play us.”
That’s fitting, seeing as Redford started as a painter. And when Mary laughingly added, “I look nothing like Julia Roberts, but she’s still my choice,” I remind her that composer Cole Porter looked nothing like Cary Grant. But that didn’t stop Grant from playing Cole in the 1946 movie “Night and Day.”
See? Hollywood dreams do come true.
Liz Snyder is a reporter for the Kenosha News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 262-656-6271.