Arts & Culture Newsletter: In her docuseries, Ruth-Ann Thorn spotlights the work of Native American artists

I’m David L. Coddon, and here’s your guide to all things essential in San Diego’s arts and culture this week.

Ruth-Ann Thorn operated her first art gallery “out of the back of a Ryder truck.” That’s a humble beginning for the woman who would — over the course of 15 years — oversee seven brick-and-mortar galleries: in La Jolla, Fashion Valley, the Gaslamp Quarter, Seaport Village and out of town in Laguna Beach, Beverly Hills and Breckenridge, Colo.

Today Thorn, who is of the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians in Valley Center, has just one gallery space: Exclusive Collections in Solana Beach’s Cedros Avenue Design District. This is by choice. She’s taken her advocacy for artists, particularly Native American artists, to a multimedia platform. Thorn’s docuseries titled “Art of the City” began as a project on Facebook Live. It’s now viewable on the fledgling FNX network, on some PBS affiliates and on Thorn’s YouTube channel.

In “Art of the City” episodes, Thorn interviews and spotlights the work of Native American artists. It’s produced on a shoestring, or “Rez dog style,” she said. So far, 13 shows have been produced: four filmed in San Diego, four others in Santa Fe, N.M. and five in New Orleans.

“To me, what makes art so special and important is that you have this very short window of time that an artist is alive,” Thorn said. “Within that window they’re able to create art that can impact the rest of history forever.”

Come January, Thorn will begin producing in Santa Fe an “Art of the City — Indian Country” series. “I’m going to be doing interviews to show all these tribes and the progress they have made in spite of difficult conditions to further their art and culture,” she said. Meanwhile at home, she has a vision to open an indigenous art center on the Rincon reservation.

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