We had the good fortune of connecting with Ruth Offen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ruth, what inspires you?
For me at this age inspiration is the desire to keep moving forward. To continue with new experience and adventures.
With this in mind, my life has changed greatly in the last 2 years because of the pandemic.
I am a tango dancer, a traveler and a photographer/visual editor. On March 11, after living in Buenos Aires for 3 months, I decided to stay in the city and not return to the Seattle area where I had lived for 36 years.
What allowed me to stay in BA was my house on San Juan Island was for sale. My art gallery, WaterWorks Gallery which I founded in 1985 was in the process of selling to my manager and my son was 31 and running his own precision machining business.
For the first time in years, I wasn’t a homeowner. I wasn’t a gallery director. I wasn’t an active mother.
I was a woman who danced tango, whose mission with her photography is to try and convey to people who don’t dance tango the emotion, the music and the magic of connection of social Tango.
When the Tango world stopped on March 11 2020, and Argentina closing its borders to the world, my decision to stay was a total inspiration.
By staying here in this city, I could just be me.
At the time of strict Quarentine I lived in a tiny apartment in Recoleta.
Recoleta is one of the most beautiful sections of the city. Think the best vintage architecture of Rome, add Madrid and Paris with wide tree-lined streets. This is the area where most of the city’s 5 star hotels are located. Where the clothing designers have studios on the streets and some of the best restaurants and bars in the city.
I started to learn Spanish on line as I wanted to talk to my butcher, my fruit sellar and all the other folks that help support my lifestyle.
Living is this beautiful city was a hardship for many people.
With the city closed, restaurants closed, nite clubs and bars disappeared.
Buses we reserved for emergency workers only. There were only a few brave taxi drivers on the street.
This once vibrant city was essentially in a Quarentine…with no access to the city from the provinces, anyone who lived outside the city was no longer permitted in. If you worked in the city, but lived in say Lomas, you could not enter the city.
Papers were always checked at the control access points to the city. In Argentina, usually many document must be shown upon request and they need to be properly stamped.
I didn’t see any out of town friends for over a year. People who were accustomed to entertaining were living solo. In the beginning not many restaurants delivered food to your house and I know I was drinking a lot.
Slowly life started to return to normal with restaurants and bars staying open until 10 at first, then 12 and now till 2 or 4.
There are traffic jams, were there wasn’t any traffic 6 months ago.
The sidewalks are packed with holiday shoppers. The wait time for a taxi is now about 10 minutes.
There are always price changes on things and taxi fare just went up again.
Inflation is running about 50 %, pretty typical in Argentina.
All these things bring me back to what inspires me.
It is the city of Buenos Aires and the people that inhabit it.
They are resilient, emotional, friendly, lively, family oriented people.
I have learned what is important here, spending time with friends chatting, enjoying the tango embrace and living with no expectations.
Living only for today is what I have learned and now practice.
As tommorrow will take care of itself.
And as to the future, dreaming of traveling again, and dancing tango around the world, and work on another book of photos on tango
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I founded a contemporary art gallery on San Juan Island, Washington state in 1985 after moving there, to try and repair a broken relationship. I created a very contemporary and well repsected gallery on an island off the coast of Washington in the Salish Sea.
Predominanantly showcasing woman artists, who at the time of the founding of the gallery,1985 where not many woman were getting much recognition.
It was very difficult as most people wanted a landcape in a traditional manner, The gallery was non-traditional, but contemporary, with abstract work and lots of color.
For many years, I strove to show and showcase talented artists from the Northwest only, Washington, Oregon and British Columbia, as these were the colors of the area.
In doing so, I found there were lots of clientes who too had an interest in supporting an outlier gallery.
This philosophy always informed the decisons that I made, as to the quality of the work is excellent, and usually different than what you expected to see in a town that was know for it’s Killer whales and eagles.
It brings me joy to know this business and philosophy lifestyle that I founded continues on as I persue other avenus of interest.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Hmm, Now I live in Recoletta, a barrio of Buenos Aires. Argentina.
The streets are filled with fabulous restuarnants and bars, large green space parks and many museums. MALBA, Museo Naciona de Bellas Artes, Museum Evta and MACBA
First and foremost, if they are my friends, we are going Tango dancing. The website www.Hoy-Milonga.com lists all the locations in the city where we can now dance.
The place will depend on the day. This will be our major endeavor daily.
Then of course, find a great restaurant to eat at like Miliones, El Tripezon Presidente Bar, Sintesis and Figata to list a few. But mostly, we will sit on my terrace and drink Malbec or Rose.
We will reminisce about all the places around the world we have danced tango and where we want to dance tango as that is what we do.
Then shopping in Recoletta Mall or Patti Bulrich Mall.or at some of the smaller designer Ichave grown to love, Manfredi or Madam Mimi for shoes.
Tango shoes are usually custom and so are the clothing even though at some milongas there are both clothing and shoes.
We take a cab to Palermo for many wonderful ethic restaurants, Cantina Sunae, Can Ting or Eratz. or so many steak houses to choose from as Cabernet or La Malbequiria.
Buenos Aires has the best meat in the world and paired with a glass of Malbec. Divine!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Many people helped my business be a succesful art gallery for 35 years, the community I lived with on San Juan Island, Friday Harbor, the artists and jewelers who the gallery represented and the amazing clients who have supported the gallery and its endeavers for 36 years
But most of all I am greatful for my manager, Jennifer Smith who answered my advertisment on LinkedIN almost 4 years ago. She was motivated to change her life. I offered her a job after chatting with her a couple of times.She decided to move to a new small island with her high school age daughter. She mentioned that it was always a dream of hers to own an art gallery.
And now almsot 4 years later we are transitioning into partners. She has learned alot, and after mentored her for these years of transitions including the current pandemic, I would say WaterWorks Gallery is in good handsas she understands the uniqueness of the gallery.