Ruth Asawa is a living national treasure of the San Franciscan variety (and I was pleased to learn that there’s a classy and detailed website going for her). Born to a family of migrant workers in Southern California with whom she spent six months interred in horse stables during the war, she managed to attend Black Mountain College at its height between 1946-1949. There she studied with Josef Albers, Merce Cunningham, Buckminster Fuller (who was a fan- See: Bucky at home), and the rest of those geniuses. During that period, in the summer of 1947, she went down to study in Mexico on a trip sponsored by the Quakers and learned techniques for crocheting baskets that she went on to fantastically translate to wire for her sculptures.

Ruth also met her husband, architect Albert Lanier, at Black Mountain and the two of them moved to San Francisco in 1949. Ruth was 23; Albert was 22. They soon had six babies.

Ruth and Albert raised their family on Castro Street and both were majorly involved in arts education in San Francisco throughout their careers. When their kiddos were young in the mid-60’s, Ruth founded the Alvarado Arts Workshop with a $50 grant. There she put into practice many of the participatory arts education ideas she learned at Black Mountain. Come 1982, she spearheaded the founding of our public high school for the arts, now called the Ruth Asawa SF School for the Arts.

And she kept good friends, too. Imogen Cunningham was a dear friend and documented Ruth’s work. Lucky us.

Leave a comment