Attendees view art at Ruth's Table. Photo by George Lipp.

The long-awaited day had finally come: Thursday marked the opening of Ruth’s Table, a new creative art space at 21st and Capp. 

In the 10 years since its founding, the gallery operated out of one room in the Bethany Center, a 50-year-old government-subsidized home for seniors, which sits adjacent to the gallery. Now Ruth’s Table has a space of its own. 

Thursday evening’s event was buzzing as more than 100 people, young and old, packed into the gallery space, exchanging smiles and embraces, chatting and capering from one installation to the next. The walls were lined with sculpted wire, woven textiles and a variety of contemporary artwork. 

“We speak multiple languages here — very little English — but what we all speak is art, and that’s how we build community,” Jessica McCracken, the director of Ruth’s Table, said. “We’re super excited because we have a new space that is not only going to hold all of our art, but it’s going to hold all of our classes. We’re gonna have dance classes, painting classes, all kinds of stuff where we make friendships while we make art.”

Monica Lee artist in residence at Ruth’s Table with vine made from milk cartons.

Ruth’s Table, at 3160 21st St., is named for San Francisco artist Ruth Asawa. It’s an organization that offers free creative activities and opportunities to senior citizens and disabled adults. Asawa was known for her sculpted wire mobiles, similar to those exhibited today. 

These classes are open to the public, McCracken explained, “Having space like this creates an opportunity for the community to come in and engage with the Bethany Center residents. The average age [at the Bethany Center] is 85.” 

“I think it’s fabulous,” beamed Janet Jones, 88-year-old artist whose art was exhibited two years ago at the former Ruth’s Table space. “It’s this wonderful opportunity for beautifully curated art that is accessible to residents.”

“This is where I first connected with Dance Generators [an intergenerational dance troupe based out of USF]. They have an open workshop on a Sunday,” said attendee Beth MacLeod, 68, “I think the arts are one of the best ways for aging people to connect out of isolation and to express themselves while aging. In our dance troupe, through fun and movement, people of any age can have fun and relate!”

“We’ve been impatiently waiting for this for a long time.” Donna Calame, a 75-year-old Ruth’s Table board member chuckled, explaining the building took almost three years to build from scratch. 

The currently displayed exhibit, ‘Beyond the Warp and Weft: The Enduring Legacy of the Bauhaus,’ celebrates the 100-year-anniversary of Bauhaus, a longstanding tradition of craft artists using industrial skills, such as weaving and textile work, to create art. 

Curator Hanna Regev said her vision’s starting point was the gallery’s name. She explained that most of her past exhibits drew from Asawa’s life and values. Asawa studied the Bauhaus tradition at Black Mountain College, and 2019 happened to be the 100th anniversary of Bauhaus–this is how the pieces came together.

“Bauhaus is something that encourages experimentation, creativity and innovation,” Regev told us the artwork exhibited harnesses technology that was not accessible 100 years ago, allowing Bauhaus to grow and live on.

Ruth’s Table’s commitment to inclusion is apparent from the warm greetings given to attendees still filing through the gallery door.

Mr. & Mrs. Patel, Margie Ramirez, Sue Finn, Lupita Portillo, Mr. & Mrs. Dang, Monica Lee and Elizabeth Dunlap and her furry assistant, Alexa.

Ruth’s Table is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m and by appointment. Contact Ruth’s table at 1-415-642-1000 (Margarita Mukhsinova). 

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Aleka A. Kroitzsh grew up in Mumbai, India and now lives in Berkeley, CA. She is an English major at Dartmouth College and is passionate about poetry, hiking, and travel.

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