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I AM HERE art installation gets OK from Nevada City council

Elma Baker is interviewed by Ruth Chase for the I AM HERE project.
Photo courtesy Dee Anne Dinelli

Know & Go

For more information on Ruth Chase and I AM HERE, go to https://ruthchase.com/work/projects/i-am-here/.

Do you belong here?

It’s a weighted question, particularly for those who choose to find their place in a small rural community.

But the complexity of belonging has proved a rich source of inspiration for Nevada City artist Ruth Chase. Last year, she explored what it means to be a part of a community with a multimedia initiative funded by a grant from the California Arts Council, interviewing 10 diverse subjects unified by the land to which they have dedicated their lives.

Chase almost immediately segued into a new, related, project, “I AM HERE,” about how women find and maintain their sense of belonging in a changing rural landscape. During the year-long project, Chase has worked to elicit perspectives through the use of social media, public art-making salons, a short film, and a culminating interactive public installation.

On Wednesday, Chase took one of the final steps toward installing that temporary piece of public art when she got the go-ahead from the City Council. The I AM HERE installation will go up in Robinson Plaza in mid-May with a “soft opening” on May 23. There will be a more public art opening and reception during the First Friday Art Walk on June 7, and the structure will remain on site until June 17.

What does it mean to belong?

When Chase started the project last year, she was not sure what form the installation would take, telling The Union, “The women involved will come up with the specifics. I want it to be their great idea, not mine.”

The participants — Cassie Angle, Elma Baker, Melinda Booth, Virginia Rose Covert, Kimberlee Evans, the Friendship Club, Susan Gouveia, Isis Indriya, Kayle Martin, Erin Noel, Elisa Parker, Shelby Richardson and Ginny Woods — met several times with Chase.

“We dug deep into the idea of what does it mean to belong, what is our sense of belonging specific to this rural county,” Chase said.

Some of the participants were recent transplants and some were multi-generational, she said, adding, “It was interesting, to speak to the diversity that lives here, the women and their individual challenges.”

When it came to formulate the installation, Chase said, the discussion centered around symbols that would be far-reaching.

Baskets were highlighted as representative of weaving and gathering, using manzanita as a re-usable resource. Some of the branches will be charred, Chase said, as a symbol of renewal and taking care of Mother Earth.

Monica Hugues of Naked Tree Woodworking and Sally Peterson of Funky Yard Art were brought on board to help implement the vision, which has taken the form of an upright triangular cylinder, designed for stability yet symbolically feminine. The triangle will be 9 feet high and 7 feet wide, with solar powered lights and a water feature in the center of the structure.


“I want this to be approachable,” Chase said. “I want to be always bridging gaps. It’s not about serving my art muse — it’s really important that this serves the community. We had a lot of discussion about making it universal, keeping it simple.”

One part of the installation will be interactive QR codes that will allow viewers to access and watch short video clips filmed by the participants that reflect on their perspectives of “belonging.”

Another “huge” part is an information stand where the public can find paper tags on which they can write about women who live or have lived in Nevada County, that can then be tied to the “branches” of the main structure.

When the installation is dismantled, the tags will be collected and preserved, perhaps for another phase of the project.

“I hope people take the opportunity to write about themselves or the women in their lives,” Chase said. “I hope the structure has quite a few tags by the end.”

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.

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