Ruth Krech works three jobs to support her artist dreams, volunteered seven years of her life to bible studies, and in her free time devotes her art to ordinary individuals.
By Tatiana Lee
Every Friday Ruthie Krech grabbed her bible and headed to the Washington County Jail where she would find women waiting for her and her mother, Cheryl. A smile formed on her face as she patiently waited while officers were occupied by giving body checks to Krech and her mother.
Everything Krech and Cheryl brought was taken except for their bibles. This became a routine for Krech. Being patted down and having belongings being checked was something these two presumably did for four years while Krech was in college.
Not only did Krech attend a bible study with female inmates, she also went to a women’s shelter every Tuesday through her church, The Alley. The women’s shelter, a place many women who are struggling came together with their kids, and sat down for a bible study. Krech would play with the children and do simple activities such as dancing and talking to them.
Bible studies drew Krech because she “felt as though imperfection was acceptable there. I didn’t have to pretend to be someone I wasn’t.”
After seven years of Tuesday night bible studies, Krech decided it would be best to take a step back as life moved forward. A new management team came in and got rid of the aspect of children being at the bible study, a change which led Krech to leave.
“The kids are what kept me going,” she said.
Krech dedicated a collection of art called, “Monuments To The Ordinary,” five sculptures of women doing simple tasks such as brushing teeth or drinking coffee, ordinary choices which were taken away once the women were placed in prison.
The women and children at the bible study inspired Krech to display women performing ordinary tasks that the women no longer had the choices to make, in order to show individuals what many of us take for granted in our daily lives.
Opening the door was like being in an art gallery. Art was posted along every wall. On the left sat three manikin bodies covered in an array of colors. The center wall held a large painting dedicated to a ballet dancer who died in a tragic accident. Finally looking right was a large metallic looking banner that had nothing to do with her art, it was her sister Judith’s.
The open air, white walls and high ceilings exposed the apartment while the windows let in the surroundings from outside. The floors were marked up. It was like stepping into a dirty box company, with all sorts of leftover art materials glued to old wooden floors. Bright and colorful assortments were placed around the room as decor. The apartment where Krech and Judith lived is in the Art Lofts building next to Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar in St. Paul.
Krech is the type of women who has candles drifting all around her apartment, but gnomes standing tall on the shelves above.
Krech works two jobs as well as working toward her dream of becoming a well-known artist. At the end of high school, she went through a break-up, which left her feeling uncertain about her future, and a year later her grandmother passed away. Her life was falling apart, or so it seemed.
After the break up, her mother introduced her to a Jazzercise class. This involves jazz aerobics, something she used as a way to get her mind off the break-up and now teaches classes herself.
After college, she cleaned houses as a side job to earn more money because she hated waitressing. Krech also did this with Cheryl until she was given a house to clean by one of Cheryl’s friends. With time, more clients rolled in and it became natural for her to acquire a second job that she loved because it was hard work, but the right type of work for Krech.
“I love sweating and working hard. Cleaning houses works well with my schedule because it has flexible hours.”
Since she was little, art was her first love. Krech knew she wanted to major in art. Her third job is her artwork. She would not be anywhere without it today.
“It’s what I’m good at,” she said. “I’m a visual thinker. For me it’s a stress reliever. It’s therapeutic. However, I try to do it with a professional mindset. I do it for other people rather than just myself.”
Not only does she clean houses, but she also gets to know the individuals of the houses she cleans for on a personal level.
Krech impressed Lee, a woman she cleans for by the way she conversed. “She was in art school and the way she talked about going to the shelter with her mom, and the heart she had for these women was so profound.”
Lee also remembers tears surfacing when Krech would talk about the woman and their lives. This was long before Krech devoted a collection of art to these women.
“Ruthie was already investing time in other people, when this was many people’s time to have a good time,” Lee shared.
Krech grew up in South Saint Paul. She was homeschooled by her mother and then attended College of Visual Arts on Summit Avenue, which no longer exists. Going through college, art was a way she would remember certain historical facts, and continued to obsess over her infatuation for art. Art is the one way she can support herself and continue to do the one thing she loves.
Her favorite piece came from the inspiring women at the prison bible studies. Krech named the collection “Monuments To The Ordinary.” This collection is a set of five sculptures and her favorite was her first: a woman with bubbles in her hair, supposedly showering. The other four also represent daily tasks, which are often taken for granted by many individuals who have the freedom of choice.
“Sculpting is where my work is best,” she said.
Krech likes to be physically into her work. Since she believes in physically using herself, many of her sculpting pieces are literally from her physical self. She will wrap herself in plaster and let the mold sink onto her skin until it hardens. Her “Monuments To The Ordinary” took a lot of time because she would mold a leg, then a hip and mesh these pieces together until a full body was formed.
Krech states, “You are truly your most accessible body.”
Her process is important to her as well. Krech works on a large scale, thinks of the big picture and uses it. If she’s painting she likes using a big canvas. If she’s sculpting she uses herself to really impact her work. She begins small and works large, with sculpting she molds one piece at a time then adds it to the final work.
“Sometimes the mold comes out funny, but I like it because it makes it more human and real,” Krech explains while looking at her favorite sculpture.
Krech continues to acknowledge that she must stay motivated and work really hard in order to make her dreams come true. The Art Crawl sales are twice a year and last a week. She typically opens up her apartment at The Art Lofts.
Some of Krech’s work was also put up in Made Here Minnesota, an empty, old retail space on Hennepin and 8th Street that is now used as an art gallery. Her art was held for six months, this is vital because it gives her a chance for someone to inquire in her work.
“The scary part of trying to sell art is there never is a set amount you will make.”
The amount of works in her collection depends on extra time she has outside of her two other jobs. Sales vary; Krech can make no sales to over a thousand, but there is never a guarantee.
The 29-year-old artist cheers herself on and reminds herself not to compare herself to other people because it doesn’t get her anywhere. Krech works three jobs to pay the bills and makes art on the side to fulfill her dream.