Not wanting to stay in education for the entire duration of her career, Ruth A. Brennan most recently served as an arts columnist for the Rapid City Journal for one decade, previously serving the journal as an arts-staff writer from 1968 to 1983. She began her career teaching at Edison Junior High School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in 1954, remaining in this position for one year before becoming a registrar/veterans adviser at the University of Colorado Denver extension from 1955 to 1956. In addition to this tenure, Ms. Brennan served on the board of the South Dakota Arts Council from 1988 to 2011, for which she secured funding and programming, and as an arts consultant in planning, building and development for Arts Midwest in Minneapolis from 1991 to 1996 and Art South Dakota in Deadwood, South Dakota, from 1994 to 1997. Since 1987, she has also been with the Historic Preservation Commission of Rapid City.
Having an appreciation for classical music since the age of six or seven, Ms. Brennan always had strong interest in the arts where she grew up since they did not have art galleries in her community until she was in high school. As she entered adulthood, one thing grew into another and it became the whole field she was interested in. When the opportunity came to participate in something in an administrative way, she did it happily. The highlight of Ms. Brennan’s career was having a gallery named after her, the Ruth Brennan Gallery.
Prior to the start of her illustrious career, Ms. Brennan pursued a formal education at the University of South Dakota, where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts in sociology in 1954. Since receiving this academic honor, she has gone on to serve to a number of civic responsibilities. She was president of the Black Hills Playhouse from 1993 to 1994 and has served on the board of directors for the Rapid City Concert Association from 1970 to 1992, the Black Hills Heritage Festival from 1988 to 1994 and the Black Hills Playhouse. A prolific writer, Ms. Brennan has authored one book, “The Dream Lives On,” commissioned by the Black Hills Playhouse Alumni Association in 2015. She has also written several catalogue essays to accompany art exhibitions including “Missouri River” in 1991, “Glorious Adornment” in 1992 and “New Eyes” in 1993. Likewise, she wrote an essay for the South Dakota Governor’s biennial touring art exhibition in 2016.
To keep up with trends in her field, Ms. Brennan has served on the South Dakota Art Museum Board since 2001 and the Black Hills Symphony Board and Rapid City Library Foundation since 2014. Furthermore, she maintained involvement with the National Music Museum Board from 2003 to 2009, the Journey Museum from 2008 to 2018 and the Rapid City Rotary in 2012. From 1964 to 1966, Ms. Brennan was president of PEO, and later went on to chair the Rapid City Chamber of Commerce beautification committee from 1989 to 1990 and serve as president of the South Dakota Art Museum Board from 2005 to 2010.
A legend in her local community, Ms. Brennan received the “I Can Soar” Award from the Rapid City Boys Club in 1982 and the Rushmore Honors Award from the Rapid City Chamber of Commerce in 1994. More recently, she was honored with the South Dakota Governor’s Award in the Arts in 2011, the Rapid City Chamber of Commerce George Award in 2013 and the Lasting Legacy Award in 2019. Moreover, she was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame in 2013 and is listed in the third edition of Who’s Who in Entertainment and the 25th and 26th editions of Who’s Who in the Midwest.
Today, Ms. Brennan is the proud mother of two sons, Timothy Michael and Gregory Sinclair, as well as a doting grandmother to two beloved grandchildren, Conor Fels and Isabel Alice. She has thoroughly enjoyed all of the opportunities that have been offered to her, particularly through art and art-related organizations. Art has been a focus of her professional and volunteer work for many years, and has been since as far back as taking piano lessons and going to concerts with her mother. Whenever something was offered to Ms. Brennan, she usually tried to say yes; she believes that when a door opens, you should walk through it.