Chadron State College
Chadron State College

Ruleaux leaves a legacy of Native American art

Dec 2, 2020

Don Ruleaux (Photo by Daniel Binkard/Chadron State College)
Don Ruleaux (Photo by Daniel Binkard/Chadron State College)

CHADRON – Don Ruleaux, a former Chadron State College adjunct faculty member and 1996 recipient of the college’s Distinguished Service Award died Wednesday. He was 89. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in art education in 1959 after studying with prominent African American artist William Artis while he was a member of the CSC faculty.

Ruleaux also received formal training at the Kansas City Art Institute, graduate studies at Arizona State University, and a fellowship from the National Gallery of Art.

Born in 1931 in Martin, South Dakota, Ruleaux served in the Navy. His early work experience included designing packages and being a cartographer for the U.S. Geological Survey.

During his long career in art education, he taught all types of students from elementary to college in Nebraska and South Dakota. Ruleaux returned to take CSC classes in 1999, was hired as an adjunct in 2000, and retired from teaching in 2010.

“It was a totally different experience working with college kids because they are mature. They know what their objectives are. They want to get an education. They're planning on becoming teachers and they take the job real serious,” he said.

In 2012, he received the Nebraska Governor’s Arts Awards for Excellence in Education.

“I was surprised by the award. I just feel that I was an average art teacher trying to teach kids something about art,” Ruleaux said in a video by the Nebraska Arts Council.

As an enrolled member of the Oglala Band of the Lakota Nation, much of his work portrayed Indian life. His body of work included a wide range of mediums: ceramics to lithographs to watercolor, oil, and acrylic painting, and the rare form of silverpoint drawings.

The nomination for the award said he demonstrated both the uncommon wisdom and the unquenchable delight of a true teacher.

Ruleaux’s artwork is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Nebraska Art in Kearney, Nebraska; the University of South Dakota Galleries in Vermillion, South Dakota, and the Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, in Washington, D.C.

CSC Art Professor Mary Donahue said she and her colleagues are saddened by Ruleaux’s death.

“Don was a consummate draughtsman, keen observer, and cared deeply for craft. He is one of the most important artists in our region and his work is a beautiful testament to life in this place. Don generously shared his vast knowledge of art, his technical skills, his stories, and his humor in his gentle and patient ways, having a major impact on generations of students as well as colleagues and friends,” Donahue said.

Ruleaux and his late wife, Betty, had five children: Mary, Frank, Donald, Francie, Beau, and Robert.

Related articles:

Ruleaux receives 2012 Governor's Arts Award

February 2003 Ruleaux art show

Ruleaux helps raise funds for rodeo arena

—CSC College Relations