Ruth's Table

Clarion Alley, SF. From left, Monica Lee, myself, Linda Clark Johnson and Leslie Flores

I recently met a new friend, Monica Lee, a San Francisco photographer and artist-in-residence at Ruth's table; a place and a space where people of all generations can meet and explore the arts. The organization was named after artist and sculptor, Ruth Asawa, and is situated in a senior housing facility in the Mission District.

Fascinated, I decided that visiting Ruth's Table would be a perfect artist/art therapist field trip. Securing a professional leave day, I planned an excursion with another artist, Linda Clark Johnson, Monica and her artist friend, Leslie Flores. Monica made a list of artistic destinations and we set off early on a Tuesday morning, all meeting up at the Ferry Building.

After our first compulsory stop at Dick Blick to pick up art supplies, we stopped off at the Andrea Schwartz Gallery to view the work of artist, Wynne Hayakawa, whose landscapes of trees, frozen in a moment of stop motion, provided a perfect first stop.

Wynne Hayakawa ©2014, Oil on canvas

Wynne's worked intrigued me; the size of the works was large, probably 4' x 4' and they made an impression not unlike that of virtually driving through a forest, looking out the window and trying to secure the images as time and the car moved on.

We also dropped in at San Francisco Center for the Book, a bookbinding and letterpress studio that promotes traditional and experimental book art forms. Walking into the vast open studio space was like wandering around my undergraduate days in the letterpress studio at the University of Iowa. Since then, I thought the art of handset type had almost died out. I was happy to see the trays of type, the Vandercook presses and the exquisite display of books by the Hand Bookbinders of California.



I was also astounded by the landscape of San Francisco and how much it has changed since living there some 30 years ago. It was as if bulldozers had leveled street after street, replacing the old dwellings with newer, trendier but hopefully more earthquake safe townhouses.

However, I needn't have worried that the entire city was remodeled. Our next location was tucked away in an old warehouse district off of Army St. SCRAP, or Scroungers Center for Usable Art Parts was a feast for my recycling eyes. Sprawling in a San Francisco School District warehouse in the Bayview district of San Francisco, SCRAP is the country's oldest creative reuse center, and has been diverting waste from landfills for use as art supplies for over 35 years. According to the website, each year over 200 tons of redeployed junk avoid the fate of the land fill. I'm here to say, that you could create an infinite number of installations with the goods provided there.

SCRAP, an art scavenger's paradise.

After a delicious lunch of fresh fish tacos, served on heavy timbered tables at a Mission taqueria, we made our way to Ruth's Table.

As we entered, Monica explained that the idea for Ruth's Table was the idea of director, Lola Fraknoi. After meeting Lola, we were treated to a tour and entertainment by an older, blind gentleman who had simply walked in off the street and begun to play, quite beautifully, on their grand piano. It was a beguiling scene; the white grand piano (donated by Princess Cruises) set in a spacious gallery with an exquisite calligraphic exhibit and this maestro of the moment, bent over the keys and playing his heart out.

A grandmother and her granddaughter walked in and Monica introduced us to them as two of her students. Monica had recently learned about gelli printing and wanted Linda and I to do a quick demo. We happily obliged using dog fennel that I'd gathered at SCRAP and some plants that her students had picked on their way over.


A quick half an hour later, we were covered in paint and a handful of prints displayed our efforts. Monica dropped Linda and I off at Megabus, where tired and paint stained, we climbed aboard with our backpacks, stuffed with memories of the day.