Ruth Alden Jones Ryan: A century of creativity

LAKE PLACID At 98 years young, Ruth Alden Jones Ryan will have her lifetime of art, publications and accomplishments featured in a major solo exhibit, titled Dancing Through Life with Brush and Prose: A Century of Creativity. The Lake Placid Center for the Arts is honored to host this exhibit from June 8 to July 8. The public is invited to a meet-the-artist opening reception on June 8 from 5 to 7 p.m. The twinkle in her eyes and her quiet sense of humor adds to her engaging and inspiring personality. Ryan is fond of saying she made her debut into the world the same year as the Model T Ford. Born in Malone, on Nov. 10, 1908, she is the second daughter of James R. and Marion Fay Jones. Ruth is very proud of her lineage, which goes back 11 generations to the Mayflower. Nine of her relatives fought in the Revolutionary War. A celebrated Civil War surgeon, Ruths great-grandfather, Dr. Calvin Skinner, came to Malone on horseback from Dartmouth Medical School in 1842. He also served as a delegate to the Republican party responsible for nominating Abraham Lincoln. Ruth wrote his memoirs in the book Star of the North Country which was first published in 1994 and since has had three additional printings. Her early childhood was spent mostly in bed surviving five bouts of pneumonia. It was during this time that Ruths mother put pen and pencil in her hand, which would clearly show the amazing talent of this young girl. Some of these early works will be on display during this new exhibit. At about the age of nine, her health took a turn for the best. She never took to her bed again nor would she see another doctor until the age of 80! She became a whirlwind of activity and as she muses today, people cant believe I am still a body in motion. Following her graduation from Franklin Academy in 1927, Ruth headed for New York City to the Traphagen School of Fashion. Many of these original drawings, created in younger days, will be on exhibit, exemplifying her incredible talent for details and portraiture. The Depression and her widowed mother brought Ruth back to Malone around 1932. (How fortunate for Malone!) She worked in various New Deal programs and also began to photograph friends, children and various areas of Malone. She did her own developing in a homemade darkroom in her cellar. Since there was no color film back then, Ruth meticulously and beautifully hand colored the photos, many of which will also be on display. Her uncle, Christy Fay, a photographer who was especially renowned for his Civil War pictures, was a constant inspiration for her. In 1941, Ruth and her older sister Eleanor opened a unique gift shop called My Sister and I, which would eventually gain nationwide recognition. In 1951, she was asked by Thomas Murphy, a famous editor, to write a column in the Gift and Art Buyer magazine. This popular column about the day-to-day doings of a gift shop would run for twenty years. In 1958, NBC approached the sisters proposing to do a television series on a gift shop run in the North Country and based on them. Unfortunately, Nanette Fabray was unable to do the show. The letters from NBC and the magazine will be on display. Ruth was also sculpting at this time and her revolutionary models were manufactured into lamps by the prestigious, Chapman Lamp Co., Boston that is still in existence today. She also admired the Peter Hunt style of painted furniture, and needless to say, she became very accomplished at this herself. The late 1940s brought Ruths appointment by Governor Nelson Rockefeller to the NY State Womens Business Council where she distinguished herself as a member of the board. In 1971, when her beloved sister Eleanor died of cancer, Ruth closed the shop. At the age of 66, Ruth married longtime friend and dance partner, Arthur J. Ryan. In 1984, they won first prize at Lake Placids Spring Swing dance competition and had many years of dancing through life. When Art died in 1996, Ruth, then age 88, still possessed extraordinary physical and creative energy and certainly did not want any pity. Encouraged with the enthusiasm and support of her step-daughter, Beverly Ryan Anderson, she began a new career by opening a small store, called Hugbugs, that would carry prints and note cards of many of her original paintings and photos. Her assistant and printer Tom Gratton helped her with this endeavor. Although the store is now closed, her cards and prints may still be found at the Adirondack Crafts Center in Lake Placid, For Arts Sake in Malone and other stores in the North Country. Besides her exemplary artwork, Ruth has many other accomplishments on her resume. In 1968, she saved the Franklin County SPCA from closing and served as president for many years. In 1998, she galvanized the entire Malone community to restore the Memorial Park that had become a concrete bunker. At age 91, she was chosen to be the Archbishop of the Malone Winter Carnival and asked to design the Winter Carnival Button. In 2000, the NY State Assembly nominated her as Volunteer of the Year recognizing her as New Yorks most outstanding older worker. Following her 97th birthday, Ruth fell and broke her hip and was in a rehabilitation center in Burlington, Vt., for the entire winter. In her typical no pity for me and can do attitude, Ruth managed to have an exhibit of her work at the rehab center and made a full recovery. She is once again living in her familys Victorian home at 35 Elm Street. The public is cordially invited to join Ruth at her opening reception on Friday evening, June 8 from 5 to 7pm. Cards, prints and original artwork will be for sale. Truly an inspiration and privilege to behold, the LPCA invites you to discover the work of this remarkable artist, photographer, author, historian and preservationist. This exhibit by Ruth Alden Jones Ryan gives visitors, both young and old, a reason to believe in their dreams.

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