Ruth Adler Schnee: A Passion for Color and Design

On Display
October 9, 2009 to January 15, 2010
Kibel Gallery

"Ruth Adler Schnee: A Passion for Color and Design" pays tribute to this important figure, exploring her life, her work, and the challenges she faced as a woman designer. Schnee, who has been called a "Detroit Treasure," helped to bring the Mid-Century Modern movement to Michigan. Her work has been shown by the Detroit Institute of Arts and collected by the Archives of American Art. A film documentary produced in conjunction with this exhibit will be shown in the gallery.


After fleeing Nazi Germany in 1938, Schnee and her family settled in Detroit. After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design and the Cranbrook Academy of Art, she worked in the New York firm of Raymond Loewy in the 1940s. Returning to Detroit, Schnee began creating original textile designs. She collaborated with Buckminster Fuller on the Ford Rotunda in Detroit (1952-53) and Minoru Yamasaki in specifying interior treatments for the World Trade Center (1970-77). In the 1950s, she operated Adler Schnee, a design store committed to bringing modern design to Michigan.


Now in her 80s, Schnee still lives and works in Michigan, designing building interiors and woven textiles for Anzea. She is active in the Detroit design community as a preservation advocate for the city's Modernist history.



Exhibition Credits
The exhibit design for the Kibel Gallery is a collaboration between three generations of women designers, Mercedes Afshar (M. Arch. 2010), Ronit Eisenbach (Architecture faculty) and Ruth Adler Schnee. Professor Eisenbach also co-produced the film documentary, which was directed and edited by Terri Sarris, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Screen Arts and Cultures at the University of Michigan.



  • Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation
  • The Kibel Family
  • University of Maryland School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation
  • University of Michigan Center for Research on Learning and Teaching
  • University of Michigan Institute for Research on Women and Gender
  • Anzea Textiles