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Deneen Coleman-Ruff

By Abby Henry Singh April 1, 2008Survivor Stories

Dogged determination and a passion for creating soulful art have sustained Deneen Coleman-Ruff through some rough times. A survivor of abuse, a bitter divorce from a man who left her, raising three children alone, lengthy periods of homelessness, alienation from family, and breast cancer, Deneen is healing and ready to give back … and to get back to the world of art. Visiting our Patient Resource Center on a recent bitter cold winter day, Deneen was the warm, bright light that moved among us with her energy and certainty that the time was right for her art, that it would no longer take a back seat. She simply wants to give back to this world with thanks for the grace and humility she’s learned through her hard times; and maybe help someone else who needs encouragement, inspiration and hope.

Deneen credits her mother with inspiring in her the pursuit and appreciation of all forms of visual art. Although Deneen’s family moved frequently during her childhood for military obligations, her mother, a copper-embossing artist, never failed to take Deneen to art galleries and museums to experience the impact of rich color and skilled brushstrokes firsthand. Whether living in Germany or the United States, Deneen cultivated her own skill primarily through school art classes and teachers/mentors who recognized her talent. Although hard times have surfaced all too frequently, Deneen has always turned to her art for solace. To cope with her darkest hours when her husband abandoned her and her children or when she lost her home and lived in shelters with her children, lost her mother to cancer, and endured treatment for her own breast cancer, Deneen always found herself returning to her art—the safe and comforting world to which her mother introduced her at a young age. Deneen has volunteered countless hours to share her art and talents with school children and various art galleries and exhibits from Kentucky to New York and Massachusetts to Tennessee.

Deneen works in pastel charcoal, watercolors, pencils, color pencils, acrylics, gold leaf and rhinestones as well as creates quilts, pillows and dolls. Her portraiture and paintings reflect the genre of the African-American experience and speak of emotions naturally tapped into by a survivor. The positive, tangible expressions of her survivorship through her art are a community treasure and a clear reminder that art is a retreat for the human soul. Deneen is currently seeking locations to exhibit her art and sponsorships to offset her business/art costs as she re-establishes her business.

For more information about Deneen’s work, contact her at

Abby Henry Singh

Author Abby Henry Singh

Manger Content, Outreach, and Outcomes Abby Henry Singh is a native of Sevierville, Tennessee, and a graduate of Belmont University with a bachelor’s degree in English and history. She has been a member of PearlPoint Cancer Support for over 5 years. Previously, Singh was the Program and Outreach Manger for the Lupus Foundation of America, Mid-South Chapter where she worked to raise disease awareness and support those diagnosed with the disease through educational programs. She is a member of Alpha Gamma Delta sorority and the Belmont English alumni book club.

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