Aug 6, 2018 – Artist Features

Art is for Neighbors: Allison Ruby’s Red Garage Studio is Open for All

by Erin Moore, for MPLSART.COM

For Minneapolis artist Allison Ruby, gardening, painting, and running a garage gallery all go hand-in-hand.

Allison Ruby’s love of art and plant-life are apparent in every aspect of her Red Garage Studio, a space she opens up to neighbors and strangers alike. The Southwest Minneapolis-based artist is a woman who seems to have a lot going on — from Manual Transmission, a series of summer art shows that take place in her lush backyard to her gardening and permaculture consulting business New Lawn Order, not to mention creating and exhibiting her own artwork as well.

But when I visited her home and sat in her buzzing garden, she made it seem only natural that she do all this work. The result is an almost fantastically beautiful garden space where artists bring sculptural work to the garden and into her red garage and where neighbors and other local artists eat, talk, and enjoy playful art in an easy-going atmosphere.

Red Garage Studio, located at 36th and Garfield, shown here during Manual Transmission: First Gear.

Sitting in her garden is peaceful but engaging, with birds and insects whizzing around, leaves and grasses rustling in the breeze. All the space is utilized, no area reserved for a carpet of grass or turf. Instead flowers, herbs, and plants of all kinds that I wish I could name, push up against each other in every direction. Ruby’s New Lawn Order is alive and well here. Hers is a yard abundant with every kind of plant — plants for walking on, plants for smelling, plants for eating, plants for just sitting next to and enjoying. When asked how her studio space and her garden, are related, she tells me that while she’s studied both art and horticulture, she’s really just a very nature-oriented person.

“It’s kind of natural for me that [gardening] is kind of the center of my practice. It’s just what I see and am attracted to.” A love of gardening preceded any formal relationship with art for her, after a grade-school teacher scared her off of it for a while. Her interest was renewed when she became a Waldorf teacher, where integrating art into her lessens meant she did art herself too. But really, all along, art was as natural to her as her love of gardening. “I think that I’m just more of an artistic soul, more than I was a sort of practicing artist.”

Allison Ruby, Outdoor Extension Chord, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30”

Ruby’s home seems to be a hub for this artistic spirit — it is clearly a place where she thrives, and her natural creativity and affinity for nature thrive, too. After graduating from the University of Minnesota, she wanted to bring something of the U’s community spirit into her home as well. “I really liked being in that environment, where there’s just so many people doing stuff so there’s a lot of creative energy around you. And I knew when I graduated that I would have my studio here and I just wanted to kind of energize this space. I didn’t want to feel isolated… also I live alone so it’s kind of like, why can’t I share this space?”

So after graduating, she finished her garage, and her space became yet another place for growth — a place to meet new people, maintain connections, and to work on projects with others. Having lived on the West Coast off and on throughout her life, she’s experienced communities where people just drop by each other’s homes and have casual relationships with one another.  “I also think that galleries are really intimidating to a lot of people… so I thought if I brought the events here, [it] would just kind of be a way of meeting neighbors and maybe getting people involved in these kinds of activities without making it feel so precious. I really wanted to gear more towards maybe the non-art crowd as far as who came. Just get more types of people in.”

Red Garage Studio in between exhibitions

Ruby sources mostly from artists she knows for her shows, and though she does do open calls, those who respond are often already artists with whom she’s acquainted. Once she teams up with artists for a show, she repaints her garage and prepares the space just like any gallery, providing snacks, drinks, and music for the event. On the nights of Manual Transmissions events, her sunroom will be lit up by a movie projection on one wall, a beacon for visitors to enter. The backyard and its plethora of plant life provides the down-to-earth, playful environment that is at the heart of Manual Transmissions. “It’s not a wine and cheese kind of opening,” she says. “People come and they stay for awhile, they linger and they hang out and chat. Some people stay for an entire evening… I think having the garden here makes it more relaxing to people. I think people feel better when they’re sitting on grass or near flowers than standing on concrete or inside a building.”

Creating a feeling of ease and accessibility is important to Ruby, especially for visitors from her neighborhood. The artwork itself also helps with this mission. “The idea of these shows” — the four Manual Transmission exhibits — “is that everything [has] to be actually handmade. So work that’s sort of fabricated or digitally manipulated, I don’t really show that kind of work. Not because there’s anything wrong with it, it’s just not what I want to show. I also [want] more humorous work. [Not] funny necessarily, but just that people are really playful and experimental in how they work with their materials or what their subject matter is.” The title of the series comes from this focus on organic, handmade fun. Ruby is interested in the imperfections that come through in art that is done by hand. She says, “I like things a little messy. And I think people are a little bit messy.”

Opening Friday, August 10, from 7-10pm, MANUAL TRANSMISSION: THIRD GEAR will be a solo show of work by multidisciplinary artist Hillary Price, who will be taking over the garage and garden for an installation of 2D, 3D and multimedia work that challenges conceptions of space and perception. Cosmic bodies, crystal growth cycles, bird migrations, mycelium/hyphae highways bridging trees and mushrooms, caves, synaptic functions in the brain, visual diagrams of the internet, and aerial views of cities all serve as points of reference as Price collapses micro and macro systems into one scale, creating habitable spaces that parallel the inner workings of the mind expanding into the universe around us.

Details on the rest of the shows and their openings — including a probable solo show of Ruby’s own work — can be found at If you’re looking for something to delight you on one of these warm summer nights, make sure you stop by the Red Garage and Allison Ruby’s wonderful hub of nature and art.

All photos courtesy Red Garage Studio.


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