Documentary ‘Belonging’ featured at Wild & Scenic Film Festival

Laura Peterson                                                BELONGING Film Schedule
Special to The Union
January 15, 2019

Ruth Chase by Lori Lachman 2018

In her film, “Belonging” local artist and director, Ruth Chase documents the stories of people living in Nevada County, including Shelly Covert, spokesperson for the Nevada City Rancheria, Nisenan Tribe.

The film is an initiative of Nevada County Art Council and funded in part by California Arts Council through its Artists in Communities Program. Chase and Covert are scheduled to show the film during this week’s 17th Annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival comes to Nevada City and Grass Valley.

The pair are scheduled to participate in activities such as opening reception, art shows, fireside chats, coffee talks, workshops and film panels throughout the five-day environmental and adventure film festival that attracts filmmakers, change-makers and activists from around the globe.

The two sat down and answered a few questions. Chase had this to say:

What inspired you to make the film, “Belonging?”

“Belonging” is about how people find a sense of belonging through the land, the earth and the environment. I was initially interested in examining the unique connection people have with the land they were born on and if that connection changes when residing in a place other than their birthplace.

I started my research by interviewing two people — Shelly Covert of the Nisenan, a local tribe that has been here countless generations, and Rob Thompson, a rancher and land steward at Legacy Ranching who wasn’t born here. It was because of Shelly and Rob that the film evolved to be about people who are deeply connected to the land and how they view their own sense of belonging by the place where they live.

What is your hope with this project?

I hope that the film will inspire others to have a relationship with the land they reside on. That people consider the earth as having a history and soul of its own.

What have you learned along this filmmaking journey? What’s next?

Oh, I’ve learned so much. I am a visual artist and painter and this was my first film ever — no film school, no lessons, I learned along the way. Thankfully I worked with Radu Sava, the cinematographer of “Belonging” who patiently guided me, as well as the Nevada County Arts Council who gave me an opportunity to explore this medium by taking me on an Artist in Residence.

Now I am working on a short documentary with Will Edwards called “I AM HERE,” about how women find their sense of belonging. After this, I want to go back to my roots and make an art film that captures the nuance of belonging using the medium more abstractly.

What are you looking forward to most at this year’s Wild & Scenic Film Fest?

I never go to Wild & Scenic with a plan, I allow the festival to wash over me, taking me where I need to be. I will leave the festival forever changed, and that is all I am looking forward to, my own transformation.

Here’s the conversation with Covert:

wildandscenic-gvu-011619-bYou are playing a very active role in this year’s Wild & Scenic. Talk about the significance of this to you personally and to the Nevada City Rancheria Nisenan Tribe.

I am very happy to be involved at Wild & Scenic in many ways this year. It feels good to have Elders from the Tribal Council participating, too. The welcome ceremony is perhaps the most significant as it honors the indigenous people who were here before the gold rush and remain today. These opportunities to participate publicly continue to raise the visibility of the Nevada City Rancheria Nisenan Tribe and to restore their story and history on this land. I’m glad the Wild & Scenic organizers find us of value to be involved at this level.

Tell us how the films you were involved with touched your life?

Participating in both “We Are Here” and “Belonging” was intimidating at first. I felt self-conscious and was worried that I wouldn’t find the words in front of the camera that I needed to express myself and tell our story well. But, after I saw the finished pieces, I found pride in my delivery and believe that I represented my Tribal community, the land, and my family in a way that will make them proud.

What do you want festival-goers to gain/ learn/ take home after they attend the opening reception, films, workshops and chats that you, your family and tribal council are involved with?

I truly hope that what I say in films, at the opening reception, workshops, and chats will impact the audience and move them to action. We need the public’s support to help us regain our Federal recognition. The Nevada City Rancheria Nisenan Tribe was almost completely erased from our memory here locally and we must reverse that. We have a long and beautiful cultural history here on these lands in need of protection before it is lost. It is my hope that people will learn who we are; come and hear stories about the Nisenan in this area; and take home some excitement in support of the local Tribe as it restores its nearly extinguished identity.

What does the year ahead look like? What are the next steps and how can people get involved?

We have started a letter writing campaign both locally and afar, we have a petition people can sign, and accept donations through our nonprofit, CHIRP (California Heritage: Indigenous Research Project). Look for our table during the festival and check out our website at The coming year is going to be full throttle forward with building the capacity of our nonprofit, working on legislation for Federal recognition, continued building of our partnerships with environmental organizations, tending the land, and continuing to raise the visibility of the tribe through public speaking events and through the arts. We seek partnerships with our community and together we will solidify the Nevada City Rancheria Nisenan Tribe here in our homelands now and into the future.

Learn more and purchase tickets to the Wild & Scenic Film Festival by visiting,

Ruth Chase @ Wild & Scenic Film Festival

This is a big year for BELONGING with several events during the Wild & Scenic Film Festival. Two art exhibits with paintings from BELONGING (year one) and two film screenings, then we have an I AM HERE event with guest speakers on Sunday. I invite you to join us and am thrilled to be sharing so many local stories about how we find and maintain our sense of belonging.

Visibility Through Art ~ Invisible No More
Group Show including BELONGING Painting by Ruth
Akashic Visions Gallery
513 Searls Ave, NC

More about BELONGING

JAN 19 | SAT 1:30 PM
BELONGING Film Screening
Vets Hall, 415 N Pine St., NC

JAN 19 | SAT 3:30 – 5:30 PM – FREE
Wild & Scenic Film Festival Art Stroll
Paintings by Ruth Chase from BELONGING
Lunches Tasting Room, 128 Mill St, GV

JAN 20 | SUN 9:30 AM
BELONGING Film Screening
Miners Foundry, 325 Spring St., NC

More about I AM HERE

JAN 20  |  3:30 – 4:30 PM – FREE
I AM HERE Fireside Chat – Free Event
Golden Era, 309 Broad St. NC




#BelongingInNevadaCounty #IAmHere

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Growing Up in VENICE > Elaine Leslie

Elaine Leslie West of Lincoln Project Opening copy
“The Deeper We Go, The Brighter We Shine” painting with Elaine Leslie

Painted in collaboration with Elaine Love Leslie by Ruth Chase. The painting reflects her life story and the wisdom she has as a result of growing up in Venice, CA. This was the final painting in the West of Lincoln Project, completed in early 2017. Painted by Ruth Chase.

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Elaine with her two beautiful daughters in 2016

Elaine Love Leslie
b. 1969 | Sunset Ave.

There is a real gift in darkness. That’s why the moon disappears and we have seasons. The dark is necessary in order for the regrowth. The seed lives in darkness before it emerges into its full potential.

I was five years old in 1974. That is when my single mother, in pursuit of freedom, moved us from Colorado to our new home on Sunset Ave in Venice. The house was nothing more than a shack, and it was already the home to a thousand cockroaches. “I’m going to paint the kitchen yellow,” she said, and I remember hearing her voice crack with both bravery and fear. As a child, one of my favorite things to do was watch my mother be brave.

Venice was my greatest spiritual teacher, for there was sacredness there, an unspoken law of survival. You will know danger and become intimate with fear. You will learn your strength, for it will be called on often in the ritual of being a child in the wild.

I found God in everything and everyone. I heard messages of love preached by crazy people conversing with angels in the form of sand.  My home was a safe haven of lost souls. We welcomed all. My childhood was filled with nights of wine and weed, and conversations about art, spirituality, politics, liberation, music, literature, and madness. These were the sacred hymns that lulled my young bones to sleep; these were the songs of my youth.


Elaine and her mom in 1976, Venice, CA

Beautifully written by Elaine Love Leslie


I AM HERE Questions

Every Saturday morning Ruth posts a question about our sense of belonging on the I AM HERE Facebook Group page. Each response informs her work, using social engagement as a tool for artmaking.

Ruth has been exploring ideas of belonging for over three years now, having a direct impact on her life and work as an artist.

The first year of BELONGING we asked, how do you find and maintain your sense of belonging through the land that we share? This year, with I AM HERE, we’re asking, how do women find their sense of belonging in a rural county? I welcome you to participate too.



On February 16, the weekly question will be live and in person.

Belonging really happens best when we are with each other in person, men we need you too.

I AM HERE is the name of the second year of BELONGING. I AM HERE questions are meant to engage the community in a conversation about women and to foster a community connection.

I AM HERE is an initiative of Nevada County Art Council led by Artist Ruth Chase, generously funded in part by California Arts Council through its Artists in Communities Program.

FEB 16  | SAT 9 – 10:30AM
Saturday Morning Question – In Person w/ Ruth Chase
Summer Thyme in Grass Valley

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My art studio is positioned just off the kitchen, and the kitchen is part of open living space.

When our daughter was little, it was a fantastic location for an art studio, primarily because I was home with her from Monday through Thursday by myself.

Day after day no matter what I say the doors swing open with a comment, question or demand with little regard for my privacy when I’m working.

Funny how after being in this studio for 13 years it only dawned on me this week to blocked the door off to the kitchen and asked at my family come around to the outside door if they need me.

It’s been two days now, but the energy shift is AMAZING. Though it’s still a bit awkward for everyone, creating this boundary will be essential to the quality of my work.



I AM HERE Fireside Chat

JAN 20  |  3:30 – 4:30 PM
I AM HERE Fireside Chat – Free Event
Golden Era, 309 Broad St. NC
INVITATION 21 and over

I AM HERE | A unique perspective from women in rural California

Award-winning artist Ruth Chase draws together participants of I AM HERE, part of the Belonging Project, to address questions about the unique role women play in rural life. She asks: What do we want for our daughters? What role does nature play in our sense of belonging? Joining Ruth in this public dialogue will be Faerthen Felix, Assistant Director at UC Berkley Sagehen Creek Field Station; Isis Indriya, a master in Mystery Studies and facilitator of rites, retreats and spiritual journeys, both locally and internationally; Jennifer Singer, Executive Director at The Friendship Club, engaging, educating and empowering girls at-risk; and Eliza Tudor: Executive Director at Nevada County Arts Council.

ADDITIONAL EVENTS for BELONGING & I AM HERE at Wild & Scenic Film Festival

BELONGING Paintings @ Art Stroll

Lucchesi Tasting Room

128 Mill St, GV
Saturday, January 19th

Start your Wild & Scenic Film Festival Art Stroll at Lucchesi’s in downtown Grass Valley on Mill Street near the Bank Street intersection. The BELONGING Paintings will be exhibited, and of course, Ruth will be there too.

ADDITIONAL EVENTS for BELONGING & I AM HERE at Wild & Scenic Film Festival

West of Lincoln Painting FOR SALE

Contact Ruth if you would like more information  530.409.2330

by Ruth Chase 2000 size
“West of Lincoln” w/ audio clips of participants 48 x 60″, by Ruth Chase


West of Lincoln Painting

Original painting, acrylic on stretched canvas, includes audio clips of participants, price does not include tax or shipping.




PARTICIPANTS in “West of Lincoln” painting:

Ric Clayton, Jenny Moore-Prather, Anna M. McGuirk, Ananda Jaynes with Mom and Joseph Anson, Noah Pachnowski, Dylan Pachnowski, Jon Reneau, Mark Rosenberg for Cheapskates, Doug Mug Swanson, Hassan DeSalles with Jason Sugars, Michael Cramer, Monica Leyba, Joey Leyba, Salvador Gonzales, Shannon Robinson LeFort for Bob Dean Robinson, Xavier Rimmington, Campbell Rimmington, Christina Brunk Stroh for J.Kevin Brunk, Bingwa, Stacy McDannold, Bernardo Charca, Jeff Cody Morris, Colleen Graham, Dale Henderson, Jim Fallon & Brady Dalton, Melanie Camp & Tricka, Luciano Mota, Carolyn Rios, Roxanne Rossi Kovak, Tamira L. James, Beth Allyn/MsVenice, Kristina Peterson, Renee Smith, Mona Perez Freedman, Carrie Hayrup for Eugene Tarango, Laura Ceballos, Richard (Dopey) Cortez and Robert (Trippy) Ayres, Francisco Letelier, Kori Cody Worman for George Del Rio, Miguel Bravo, Joann Goodwin, Sybil Roberson, Denise Woods and Gena Lasko.

BIG THANKS to Ray Rae, David Scott, Mathew Martin, Care Burns, and Steven Luciano for use of their photos.

The West of Lincoln painting was part of the West of Lincoln Project. This project was more than just an art exhibition, it was the voice of the community.