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Ruth-Ann Thorn, owner of Exclusive Collections in Solana Beach, stands with Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer and artist Chad Smith. Courtesy photo
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Solana Beach business owner celebrates 25 years in art industry

For Solana Beach business owner, Ruth-Ann Thorn, art has always been more than just a job. For the native Californian, it’s a passion that deserves to be shared.

It’s why Thorn, who started working in the art industry with her mother in the 1990s, has continued to share her love for the profession over the years.

This year marks Thorn’s 25th year in the art industry. Thorn, the owner of Exclusive Collections Gallery, recently celebrated the milestone by hosting Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith and his eclectic collection.

But, it’s the unknown artists who have made Thorn’s career worth it all. Looking back on her decades-long career as a gallery owner and curator, Thorn said it’s “discovering unknown artists and bringing them to international acclaim such as Michael Flohr, Henry Asencio, Michael Summers and Chuck Joseph” that has made her most proud.

“I am always on the lookout for the next great artist to come on the scene,” said Thorn, who also serves as chairwoman for the Rincon Economic Development Corporation, which supports the tribal community of the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians. “But I also work with internationally acclaimed artists from all over the world. I try to find the best artist in each genre meaning landscape, abstract, figurative and glass.”

Thorn started her path as an art gallery owner with her mother when they opened a shop in La Jolla in the 1990s. The duo moved on to open galleries in the other areas of Southern California, as well as Las Vegas and Colorado.

Five years ago, she decided to move her business to Solana Beach.

“I decided five years ago to down-scale and move my gallery back to more of a community environment and that’s why I chose Solana Beach,” Thorn said.

Despite downsizing the business, she has continued to thrive in the beachside community.

“We have great collectors and patrons of the arts who have the same amount of passion that we have as art dealers,” Thorn said. “Without those folks supporting the artist we would not have remained in business for 25 years.”

Jamie Forbes, publisher of FineArt Magazine, who has known Thorn for nearly 30 years said she has always “stood out” in the arts community.

“What makes Ruth Ann’s gallery stand out from others is the quality of art, love, and service she lends to her artists, customer base, and the community she serves,” Forbes said. “She has demonstrated her community commitment for over thirty years  by exhibiting local and nationally-known artists in her galleries, public spaces and international art fairs.”

Thorn, who said one of her favorite exhibits of her career includes “Art of Dr. Seuss” by Jose Royo, said she hopes to continue to stay in business for years to come. More importantly, she hopes to convey the emotions in every art piece that is on display at Exclusive Collections.

“Art is extremely emotional and goes right to the heart of people’s existence,” Thorn said. “I think it’s important that patrons know the artist personally because they’ll be able to understand the art in a better way.”

For the rest of her 25th anniversary, guests can expect an impressive lineup of Native American art as well as live art demonstrations.

“I’m hoping to push the arts forward by helping people understand not only what an artist creates but why they create it and how they’re able to create it because of their life experience,” Thorn said.

For more information about Exclusive Collections, go to The gallery is located at 212 S. Cedros Ave. #104 in Solana Beach.