by Sara Johnson, former Administrative & Marketing Coordinator
I am writing this on my last day working at SAGE Community Arts, just a few days after my 3-year anniversary with the organization. In the last 3 years, I’ve worked with 3 executive directors, worked on 22 exhibitions, helped organize countless classes, kids’ camps, and events, and admired hundreds of works of art by artists both local and national. Each Artist Member has generously shared their stories, techniques, creativity, and passion with me. The Sheridan Artist Community embodies an encyclopedic knowledge of art mediums and practices from all over the world, and I have been a sponge for 3 years, absorbing it all.
SAGE (Sheridan Artist Guild Et al.) has been part of my life for a long time. I have fond memories of walking down the big hill from the Sheridan Junior High School to the old creamery building (on Broadway Street) for after school art class once a week. At that time, SAGE occupied a large room in the back of the building with huge windows, concrete floors, and a huge metal “slop sink” that was perfect for rinsing out palettes and brushes. When it was “after school art day,” I watched the clock all day at school, eager to hike down the hill. SAGE felt like our own special art club, and the local artists who taught us every week were always accommodating and let us explore mediums and projects that we were curious about.
We made mirror mosaics with stained glass, paintings on paper that we blended and sieved ourselves, sumi-e, linocut prints, mattes cut for our frames, learned basic Photoshop editing and painting skills, watercolor techniques, weaving with various looms, and so many other projects. Since we had so many artists that volunteered to teach us for 2 hours a week, we were exposed to a wide variety of perspectives on art and art making. In hindsight, that so many local artists were willing to volunteer their time to teach and create with rambunctious pre-teens every week is amazing.
I lost track of SAGE in my teen and college years and never got to visit the Sagebrush Art Center in the Train Depot building on 5th Street. I went to university for a BA in English Literature from Western Washington University, and moved back to Sheridan after graduation to pay off my loans and figure out what to do with my degree. SAGE was moving too; in late winter, 2017, they opened the current location at 21 W. Brundage Street in the beautifully renovated Montgomery Building. SAGE had grown from a volunteer-run organization to having two paid staff members along with the rotating team of volunteers. A permanent location gave SAGE space to put down roots in historic downtown, in the center of “the action."
I was hired by SAGE in July 2018. My first day was the first day of SAGE Kids’ Summer camp, with all the chaos and creativity that implies. I was so excited to be surrounded by art all day, every day. I recognized so many names of artists with work hanging in the Member Gallery as my teachers at the “creamery building.” How special to have come full circle with SAGE, especially at a time of such exciting growth and progress!
(Above, photos from 2019's inaugural Art with a heART that I started with SAGE. That year we delivered over 145 handmade cards by local artists to the Green House Living and the Hub on Smith).
Now this chapter of my life with SAGE has ended. I am embarking on my second year of graduate school at the University of Kansas, pursuing a master’s degree in Museum Studies. Working with artists on exhibitions, art education, and community partnerships inspired me toward a career in Museums. One of my favorite “magic moments” at SAGE was always the first time an exhibition was hung on the wall, and all the behind-the-scenes work to put it on finally materialized. The best part is turning on the gallery lights and seeing the artwork sparkle to life, showing their true colors. I love watching new visitors come into the galleries and marvel at the work of artists from “such a small town.” In my classes I often refer to SAGE to illustrate a point or make a connection with the texts we explore. Although I haven’t chosen a specialization in the field, I’m most interested in connecting visitors to artwork and artists through museum exhibitions, special programs, and education opportunities—all things that SAGE enabled me to experience.
SAGE an artistic gem for the Sheridan community. It has helped artists rise in their careers from amateur to professional artist. It has provided a space for local artists to create their own legacies. I consider myself to be part of this legacy: the personalized art education I received as a child at SAGE, and my time of employment to help grow SAGE in its new location, propelled me onto my new museum career path.
SAGE and the many other arts organizations in the Sheridan area are so important for fostering creativity for artists of all ages. I encourage you to visit a gallery, attend a play, take an art class, and support local artists (and your local economy) by opting to shop local first.
In gratitude to the countless artists, mentors, colleagues, and board members at SAGE Community Arts through the years,
Sara K. Johnson