Ruth-Ann Thorn, Indigenous Entrepeneur, Artist, Gallerist, TV Show Producer and Host

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Veronica Wood
March 21, 2024

Photo: Ruth-Ann Thorn, TV Producer and Art Gallery Owner in San Diego

Ruth-Ann is a gallerist and owns a successful art business in San Diego. Beyond that she also is a TV host of two series that are in distribution with major networks, ‘Art in the City’ and ‘Indian Country’, which she describes as Anthony Bourdain-meets-Native America.

Where does she find the time? That’s beyond you or I.

She gives some insight into her prolific career: “My success is based on the willingness to do whatever it takes no matter what. If a person does that, things will turn in a good way. People give up too soon.”

But her road was not a straightforward one, and certainly not easy. Ruth was out on her own at 15. She became a drug runner for a few years. When she came out of it, she felt it was a spiritual awakening. She got married and moved to Hawaii, where she got an art job that changed the trajectory of her life. She knew what she was supposed to do.

She knew it was time to start her own gallery business. So she went to the bank fora loan, but was refused because she was a young entrepreneur with no credit established. And yet, as she has a pattern of in her life, she did it anyway. She built her first company out of the back of a truck, and was able to open her first gallery back in California, where she began to represent artists.

She has owned seven galleries in the 20+ years she’s been in the game, and today, she manages a large gallery in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego, where she has recently been honored by the city of San Diego as the only known Native American sole proprietor business. Visit EC Gallery for more info.

As an artist with an inherent gift of storytelling, she channeled her creative spark into a new TV show where she could share the incredible people behind the art that she loves. With no formal TV experience, she embarked on a journey across the United States to interview various acclaimed artists and share their stories. You can watch Art of the City on YouTube.

Of course, one TV show is not enough. Ruth-Ann also partnered with FNX to develop another show called ‘This is Indian Country.’ She hosts the show, interviewing Native people who are engaged in various spaces from culinary arts to traditional dancers. With three on camera, one on sound, they hit the road, staying in Air BNBs along the way. Starting at the tip of Washington and making her way down and through the United States, she profiles twelve incredible artists. One of her goals, she says, is for people to really introduce themselves to the communities right in their own backyards. She notes, ‘doors truly were opened by the ancestors’ and she felt guided by spirit through its creation. The show is in its final stages of completion and is anticipated to air in the fall of 2024.

She loves her work and plans on being in the arts forever.

She even has a new creative entrepreneurial project in the works (I know, her bio is reading as if there’s four people here). She has recently launched a luxury skincare brand, N8iv Beauty:  This is a Native luxury skincare line. Based on the acorn medicine of her culture, and named N8tiv because of the eight seasons in Luiseño culture, her brand is firmly grounded in native values. She is aiming to sell the product in Nordstrom or Niemen Marcus, to show Native women in luxury spaces. She reminds us that Natives were the most wealthy population, but were raped and put into a category, the lowest of low. With her new line, she wants to return to the feeling of abundance, and for women to speak with confidence about their beauty.

Besides her own businesses, she has found a way to give back. She returns to her own reservation, Rincón Luiseño, to work in economic development. She is an entrepreneur creating jobs - and that’s the Indigenous way.  

So what’s next for Ruth-Ann? She’s focused on team building. She has a belief that things work best in teams — people supporting each other, circular business the native way. Gallery team building. Building her startup N8ivBeauty, and collecting stories for another season of Indian Country.

Does she have any advice for people looking to make an impact? She says, ‘My hope is that people are looking at their interests, seeing what they enjoy doing, and then figuring out what they should do based on what they enjoy doing. And from that, how can they create a revenue stream that supports them and is also giving back to the world?’

You can connect with her on Instagram at or on her website,