Ruth Stevens Appelhof, 81, was more than the director of Guild Hall in East Hampton, a position she held for 17 years. She came to epitomize exactly how a sometimes difficult, always diverse position can be held: with glamour, class, and intelligence.
An art history scholar, Appelhof threw herself at the job upon arriving, rejuvenating East Hampton Village’s crown jewel.
Her time at Guild Hall was filled with theatrical events and notable art exhibitions. The Robert A.M. Stern expansion and restoration of the building and theater under her guidance may prove to be her definitive career achievement. But perhaps not.
Tirelessly, even in failing health, Appelhof worked on “Lee and Me: An Intimate Portrait of Lee Krasner,” a project she pined to do for some time. She attacked it with gusto even in the throes of cancer, and the book — yes, she finished it — is scheduled to be published on May 19.
Guild Hall had over 50,000 visitors in a single year. Her tenure as director ended at the end of 2016, and earlier the same year she was honored with Guild Hall’s Lifetime Achievement Award in a surprise presentation by Sarah Jessica Parker, who stated that, “Ruth Appelhof has done so much for the East End that she should be named permanent cultural ambassador for life.”
“Ruth was not only a dynamic, generous, and balanced leader of Guild Hall, but also someone who maintained a sense of humor throughout her challenges, with an easy laugh and a bright smile,” artist April Gornik said of Applehof. “She was a pure appreciator of art.”
Appelhof held a B.F.A, Master’s and Doctorate from Syracuse University and was an educator and arts leader whose focus was on contemporary art in America. She worked as a professor at the Auburn University, Syracuse University, and the University of Birmingham. As a fellow at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1980, Appelhof organized an exhibition of contemporary landscape paintings, followed by four years as the curator of exhibitions at Syracuse.
he lived in Springs and died from leukemia, according to her husband, Gary Adamek. She is survived by two children from a previous marriage, Gregory and Lee Ann.
A private service will be scheduled.