Yes, SHE Persisted

SHE Persisted an event by YubaLit  |  Featuring Author Bridget Quinn

Yuba Lit She Persisted by Ruth Chase .jpg
Ruth Chase on May 31, 2018 at SHE Persisted

This is an essay I read at SHE Persisted about how I overcame a time in my life when I was the most discouraged and wanted to give up being an artist. It starts and ends with a self portrait I painted that changed my life and was the first step I took to create my own “rags to riches” journey. Well, not so much not riches in the form of money.

Stronger Than You Realize large file Detail copy
“Stronger Than You Realize” close up

Spring 2015: I’m on the back end of my 40s and this time I’m going to really give up. Pursuing an art career feels hopeless, and the uphill battle I’m fighting right now is more than I can handle. It’s 4:00 am Monday morning—hot coffee, cell phone, Facebook app and the dog. Every week my husband will be gone from Monday til Thursday or Friday. I’ve committed to homeschooling our only child; I feel lost, I feel alone. Every bit of my spiritual energy is being given to our beautiful daughter who will turn 10 in May. I had no idea that motherhood would take this long or be this hard, that I would feel so disconnected from my dreams and my art. I’ll be 50 before yah know it; I don’t have the time or energy to pick up a paintbrush. “Who am I kidding? Get a real job! I’ll never be a working artist.” I’ve been through this before, but this time it’s different.

1967aprox Ruth Chase Fine Art Venice Beach CA. copy
Venice Boardwalk
Ruth Chase

When I was six, my home was on the Venice boardwalk, and within me was a well of strength I would not realize I had until I was older, much older. To be totally honest, I was at my very strongest then. I wanted to be the first woman president when I grew up. At that age, dreaming big was easy. The fact that my tutu matched my bodysuit was enough affirmation for me to believe that I could do or be anything. I remember that dance outfit like it was yesterday; I remember the empowering feelings that went with it, too. It seems like it was the only time in my life where my dreams belonged to me and I was in them wholeheartedly, against all odds.

Summer: There are signs that the demands of motherhood are changing. I’ll try to paint a self-portrait of that little girl. The one who dreamed big dreams.

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San Francisco Art Institute
“No Utopia Here”, oil on canvas, 1987

In the late 80’s, I was a student at the San Francisco Art Institute. I wanted to be an artist with a gallery and be in a museum; I wanted to fill my life with conceptual artist friends and travel the world, eating exotic foods and drinking too much wine. Every idea I had about being an artist came from school, a book, or someone else’s life already lived. As the years go by, I no longer fit into that dream; in fact, I don’t have time to dream.

Fall, I am almost done with the self-portrait. It makes me cry for months, will it ever stop crying? I go with it. I paint, and paint for hours over weeks and into months, one painting turns into 13, turns into a whole installation with audio and video.

Venice Arts Gallery Left Wall West of Lincoln Project by Ruth Chase copy


Venice Tribute Wall close up copy
West of Lincoln Project Paintings and Venice Tribute Wall
Venice Arts Gallery

It’s August again, I’m 52, I’m having my first solo exhibition today, the LA Weekly will be there. I try to stay present as 400 people attend. That’s a lot of hands to shake, my feet are hurting me in the killer shoes that tell the world “I still got it.”  The following morning I will wake up to some 500 texts with my name tagged all over Facebook and Instagram, they will keep coming for the rest of the day and throughout the following weeks. The City of LA will mail me a Certificate of Appreciation for that one self portrait that turned into the West of Lincoln Project. I never saw any of this coming.

How Do You Identify by Ruth Chase


Fragmented by Ruth Chase
“How Do You Identify”
acrylic on canvas, 2018

Today I embark on a project called I AM HERE, about how women maintain their sense of belonging. It’s no coincidence that I am working with the theme of BELONGING, because that has been the theme of my life. Perhaps the theme of life?

Three years ago, I had no body of work and 30 years of a whole lota nothing on my resume. Two years ago, I embarked on a dream bigger than I could have imagined—a dream where I belonged to my art.

Stronger Than You Realize by Ruth Chase
“Stronger Than You Realize”
acrylic on canvas, 2015

Here’s my self portrait, “Stronger Than You Realize.” I realize now that I AM stronger than I ever thought. I did not find it in a book or a movie; I found it by letting go of an old story, one that was never meant for me, and moving forward, one tiny brave step at a time, toward my dreams. The dreams that were meant for me.


Bridget Quinn is an Art Historian that delves into the lives and careers of 15 brilliant female artists in her book Broad Strokes. Learn moreThese images were taken at SHE Persisted on May 31st at the Stone House for YubaLit.


Bold Women Artists
May 31, 7:30p

BARNSTORM 2018 | June 1
Ellensburg, Washington

B E L O N G I N G  |  TBD

Through July 30th
Summer Thyme’s Gallery, 231 Colfax Ave, Grass Valley, CA

Film Screening 
With filmmaker Radu Sava, Ruth Chase and featured participants of the film: Rick Berry, Jeff Brown, Jonathan CollierShelly Covert, Philip Oyung, Nancy Tiken Lopez, Elisa ParkerAimee RetzlerMike Stewart and Rob Thompson

SHE PERSISTED, Bold Women Artists
Thursday, May 31, 7:30p, $10
Reading with Featured Speaker Bridget Quinn:
Deborah Bridges, LeeAnn Brook, Ruth Chase, Amanda Paoletti, Jerianne Van Dijk
Presented by Yuba Lit
The Stone House, 107 Sacramento St., Nevada City, CA

Barnstorm 2018
“Where Do We Go From Here” by Ruth Chase will be exhibited
Opening Reception: June 1, 7 pm, runs through June 30
Bluestone Building, 2nd Ave & Pine StreetEllensburg, WA

Image: Makayla Miracle,
Performance at Barnstorm 2017

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THE UNION: Artist Ruth Chase brings people together with her multimedia project, “Belonging”

Michael Rohm
Special to The Union

Ruth Chase has made a career of bringing people together. While this is metaphorically true of many artists, it is literally true of Chase: her art is defined by her community.

This intersection of art and community is the basis of her newest project, “Belonging,” a multimedia initiative funded by a prestigious grant from the California Arts Council as part of its Artists Activating Communities Program.

“We were really excited that we got it,” said Chase, a Nevada County Arts Council artist-in-residence. “When you’re an artist in a small town, it’s amazing to get a grant like this.”

The grant, one of the most competitive among artists in California, has allowed Chase the freedom to do what she loves — connect with her community for the sake of art. Indeed, for Chase, connecting with her community is her art.

“I see myself centered in communities where the gaps are bridged by artwork,” she said. “It’s all about community.”

The short film and series of paintings that make up “Belonging” are meant to be one such bridge for Nevada County, where Chase says there is great variety but also great unity. The project is designed to explore and celebrate both.

Earth Art Workshop at Woolman in Nevada City, image taken by Jennifer Rugge

“There’s always a bridge to be built between groups that don’t usually coexist,” Chase said. “That bridge can make a community better.”

In the case of Nevada County, Chase sees a diverse group of people with different habits, livelihoods, and dreams all connected by our vulnerable mountain home. The project is, among many things, an exploration of what it means to live together on this unique patch of land.

“We all appreciate the beauty and the terrain,” Chase said. “It isn’t always easy to live in Nevada County — it doesn’t offer what big cities offer — but it is beautiful. I built the project around the idea of belonging to that. That’s really the core of the project.”


Chase is no stranger to how places and people mutually shape one another. The Venice Beach native discovered that phenomena in her previous art project, “West of Lincoln,” an award winning assessment of and reaction to her hometown.

“Venice was undergoing a tremendous amount of gentrification at that time,” said Chase, who interviewed and painted portraits of many Venice Beach natives during the two year project. “While that’s not as intense here in Nevada County, it still exists. We are so spread out.”

“Belonging” came to fruition because of her work on “West of Lincoln,” and in many ways is its spiritual sequel, another installment in the artistic investigation of community.

“I had never seen anything like ‘West of Lincoln,'” said Eliza Tudor, executive director of the Nevada County Arts Council. “Ruth has an obvious capacity to mobilize the community. Part of our role is to touch the lives of people who would never consider that art might be relevant to them. With ‘Belonging,’ Ruth has gone to some of our most remote and wild places to pick up on stories that are deeply relevant to our everyday lives.”

“Ruth is extraordinary,” Tudor added. “She’s really touched the lives of a lot of people.”


The tools of artistic expression that Chase used to accomplish “Belonging” are similar to those used in “West of Lincoln” — community engagement, in-depth discussion, and lots of paint — but “Belonging” goes even further.

In partnership with local cinematographer Radu Sava, Chase interviewed 10 diverse subjects unified by the land to which they have dedicated their lives, among them a rancher, a Cal Fire captain, and a spokesperson for the Nisenan Indians.

The resulting 10 minute film summarizes Chase’s artistic vision of Nevada County: a community of people who have more in common than they don’t.

Chase also found this to be true over the course of a yearlong Facebook initiative, in which each week she posed a question related to “Belonging.” The ensuing discussion, she said, shaped her entire project.

“I’m interacting with real life people who have real life feelings,” she said. “I get to be the participant and the curator at the same time, but it’s totally spontaneous. It has to happen organically.”

“Ultimately, the conversations on Facebook helped with what I chose to portray in the film,” she added. “My most powerful tool as an artist in the community has nothing to do with any of the materials I use. It has to do with communication.”


The culmination of her project, however, comes down to the first artistic tool to which she gave her life, and for which she is best known: her paintbrush.

“Everything filters through me and sifts down into the paintings,” she said.

These paintings — portraits of her interview subjects and filtered reactions to the subject matter — will be on display at Summer Thyme’s Bakery and Deli in Nevada City from May 2 to July 30.

The exhibition grand opening, during which the short film will be screened, takes place May 20 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Summer Thyme’s. The event is open to the public.

As for Chase, she is just as excited now by the idea of community art as she was back in Venice Beach.

“I see myself continuing on this path,” she said. “I love working in the community and I know my best tool for doing that is though art.”

For more information about Ruth Chase, including her work past and present, visit her website at

Michael Rohm is a freelance writer. He can be reached at

BELONGING Exhibition

Community Exhibition | Film Screening

Facebook Invitation


May 2 – July 30

On May 2, Nevada County Arts Council will present the work of Ruth Chase in an artist-led community exhibition. This exhibition is the culmination of a year’s work—traveling, interviewing, painting, organizing, documenting. Alongside Ruth’s large-scale acrylic paintings will be a meaningful collaboration of work from the community: paintings, drawings, sculpture, letters, poetry, photography and video. A short film by Ruth Chase and Radu Sava will emerge as the centerpiece of this year-long inquiry of what it means to belong to the land in Nevada County. The exhibition runs through July 30th.

BELONGING is about our vulnerable mountain home. Ruth worked with the people who tend it, love it and depend on it, mobilizing perspectives to create a deeper sense of connection between the members of our community and the land we all share. Belonging is an initiative of Nevada County Art Council led by Artist Ruth Chase, generously funded in part by California Arts Council through its Artists Activating Communities Program.

Through social media, Ruth posted a weekly Saturday morning question that engaged the community in finding a sense of belonging here in Nevada County. The interactions and responses of this group informed the project’s outcome. In addition, ten featured participants were interviewed by Ruth about their direct relationship with the land in Nevada County. In the short film by Ruth and Radu, each person reflects on their connection to the land and how it relates to their sense of belonging. Lori Lachman followed the project, taking photographs of the people and of the places that Ruth and Radu traveled throughout the year of the Belonging project. These photographs will be on display during the exhibition.

Ruth Chase lives and works in Nevada County. In 2017, Ruth completed the West of Lincoln Project that was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation from the City of Los Angeles for Art in Action. She was also awarded a grant to an individual artist from the Carl Jacobs Foundation. She was granted a residency at the Millay Colony for the Arts in NY, was published in Professional Artist Magazine, Catapult Art Magazine and Huffington Post, and has taught at the Crocker Art Museum, and she was a featured sketch artist on the Dead Files television program. Most recently she was awarded an Artist-in-Residence at Nevada County Arts for Artist Activating Communities through a grant from the California Arts Council for the BELONGING project. Ruth is a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute.

May 2 – July 30
Summer Thyme
231 Colfax Ave, Grass Valley, CA

Sunday, May 20 3-5p

Sunday, May 20 2-3p
With filmmaker Radu Sava, Ruth Chase and featured participants of the film: Rick Berry, Jeff Brown, Jonathan CollierShelly Covert, Philip Oyung, Nancy Tiken Lopez, Elisa ParkerAimee RetzlerMike Stewart and Rob Thompson.

Lori Lachman, Masha Lewis, Bill Jacobson, Ashely Foreman, Jude Bischoff, Sherri Dauphinais, Peggy Wright, Ron Kenedi, Amy Mills, Robert Finn, Al Martinez, Anna Snelgrove, Jennifer Rugge, Lisa Barker, Erin Sorani, Linda Leith, Dodie Johnston, Sarah Clark, Pamela J Bradford, Boni Woodland, and Ruth Chase

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Facebook Group for BELONGING

How drugs and growing up on welfare brought me to working with community.

On March 7th I headed to Mi Pueblo in Nevada City to meet Brian Buckley for dinner. Brian is very involved in the community, having been a principal at several schools and on the Board of Directors for many organizations, to name a few, The Friendship Club and Nevada County Arts Council where he served as Executive Director as well. We met to talk about Sages Among Us on KVMR, then head to the studio for a live interview. on the weekly show. Typically I’m terrified of public speaking, so while the opportunity was great, I wasn’t all that excited. At the beginning of the interview I kept saying UM, UM, I was so nervous, but in the end I was able to open up and talk about a few things that I don’t usually speak about publicly. Here is the podcast if you care to listen to it.


Three part interview with Brian Buckley on KVMR

Tribute Wall in VENICE

The Venice Tribute Wall provided a space for the public to share their stories, memories, and memorial related to Venice.

From AUG 5 – SEP 10 the West of Lincoln Project was installed at the Venice Arts Gallery. Currently this project is seeking a permanent, semi permanent, or other installation location.

I am continuing to collect stories as part of the Venice Tribute Wall. Submit below and send images to>

*Bronwynn~Rose Saifer 1984~2008

Venice Tribute Wall close up In Memory of



Immigration from China in 1903 | BELONGING Project

Philip Oyung is a descendant of one of the first Chinese family to immigrate to Nevada County. He attended Union Hill, as did his father back in 1910. His grandfather emigrated from Guangdong province, China in 1905 to be a cook at the Star Mine in Grass Valley.

Photos by Lori Lachman


Portion of the interview of Philip Oyung with Ruth Chase 2017
On a warm Saturday in November, I met and interviewed Philip at the Oyung Cabin in Empire Mine State Park. With me were cinematographer Radu Sava and photographer Lori Lachman.  Philip and his six siblings were born and raised in this cabin until the 1970’s when the family moved out. Philip told me that many Chinese immigrants came through their family home as a first stop before moving on to San Francisco. Listen to hear Philip tell you in his own words.

Philip and Ruth NOV 2017

Philip Oyung is part of BELONGING, a community arts initiative led by Nevada County Arts Council Artist-in-Residence Ruth Chase, generously funded in part by California Arts Council through its Artists Activating Communities Program.

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On Friendship and BELONGING

The BELONGING project is a journey I’m taking with the community of Nevada County. Every week I ask a question on Facebook that explores how we find a sense of belonging. Here is the question I asked most recently.

How do the friendships you had growing up shape your sense of belonging now?

Growing up I felt an incredible pain from feeling like I didn’t belong in my own home while I dreamed of belonging where I wasn’t wanted, with my dad. My dad and I shared the same looks and big personality, I felt comfortable with him because we were alike. As a child my friendships often reflected these same family dynamics, feeling like an outcast in friendships that I perceived I didn’t belong in because I wasn’t enough. Further making me feel incredibly insecure about if I would ever belonging with anyone, anywhere. I think that is why I cried so much on my wedding day, someone wanted me to “belong” with them. To this day I rarely feel like I fit in with most people so I cherish the relationships where I do feel a sense of belonging. After many years of rejection from the art world I have come to realize that none of it is personal and that I belong to myself first and foremost.


So, How do the friendships you had growing up shape your sense of belonging now? 



Shelly Covert | BELONING Project

A sample of the interview of Shelly Covert with Ruth Chase, recorded by Radu Sava.

After meeting Shelly I decided to create the BELONGING project; about how people find a sense of belonging through the land. Their answers sit in a strange dichotomy as Tribal members feel a varying “personal” sense of belonging having lived here in their ancient tribal homelands never having been removed. Individuals have family, friends and community connections that help them to BELONG. But, when asked if the Tribe as a whole feels a sense of belonging, the answer was quite different; and how could it be any-other-way after their people were nearly annihilated during the Gold Rush.  The Tribe itself is invisible. The Tribe is “terminated”. The Tribe has no local value that can be seen by the community. This is in contrast to many of their personal feelings of home, community and belonging. The Nisenan are a vital link to our own sense of belonging to the land, like the roots of our community tree; the relationship they have held with the land can teach us how to connect with it ourselves.

To learn more about the Nisenan and Shelly Covert click here.

Arrange a Studio Visit

I invite you to visit my studio anytime. No worries, you don’t have to be an art collector to have a reason to visit.

Depending on my work schedule I will have something I’m working on that is progress, as well as older work to view. If you have questions about art, mine or in general, bring them with you, I love to talk shop.

I am located just three miles from downtown Nevada City, CA. Feel free to call me or use message form below. Ruth Chase  530-409-2330