By Jessica Mize
Art has always been a driving force in Dean Ruck’s life.
In fact, it’s the reason the Hamden, Conn., native made his way to Houston in the first place.
After earning his Master of Fine Arts in sculpture, Ruck was accepted into the Glassell School of Art’s Core Residency Program, so in 1987 he packed his bags and moved to Texas.
“This was a great opportunity for me,” said Ruck, a senior project manager for Facilities Planning and Construction. “This program gave me studio space, a modest stipend, a peer group and connected me with many members of the Houston art community.”
One of those connections happened to be the head of the sculpture division within UH’s School of Art — an individual who helped Ruck land a job as a shop steward over the wood and metal shops at the South Park Annex of the University.
That was in 1990. Just ten years later, Ruck made the transition to Facilities, Planning and Construction and has been with the department ever since—working his way up from overseeing small renovation projects to now managing large-scale capital construction endeavors, including the UHCL Arbor expansion, Calhoun Lofts and Cougar Village II.
The transition was a natural one for Ruck.
“I have always loved building things and working with my hands,” he said. “Growing up in rural Connecticut, I built tree houses, snow forts and even helped make repairs to the 200-year-old house where I was raised, so what I do today is a perfect fit.”
While there’s no doubt his work on campus keeps him busy, Ruck still finds time to tap into his more artistic side through both solo and collaborative art projects around the city. Some of his work includes Big Bubble in Buffalo Bayou and Fifth Ward Jam on Lyons Avenue.
In 2009, he and fellow artist Dan Havel formed the partnership Havel Ruck Projects, and the two have since gone on to receive lots of awards and honors, including being named the 2014 Texas Artists of the Year by Art League Houston. The duo is currently working on a new project to open at the Art League on September 19.
As a child, Ruck knew he enjoyed art, but he didn’t recognize the talent he had for it or foresee the role it would play in his life, but those around him did.
“I had a teacher tell me ‘always keep your hand in art,’” he said. “I didn't think much of it at the time, but that seemingly small piece of encouragement has stayed with me to this day. Mrs. Calhoun must have known something I didn’t.”