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Conversations with Sara Roberts

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sara Roberts.

Hi Sara, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstories.
The best part of my childhood was visiting various state parks across North Carolina. I loved the beautiful flowers, insects, views, textures, and smells of the woods and the beach.

I treasured the few photos we had from those experiences and was truly in love with the state. These experiences were my favorite memories when I went to college out of state. After living in various places across the country, we decided to return to NC to raise our kids. The beauty brought us back.

Growing up in rural North Carolina, there were no art programs in public schools. Even though I loved to create, I didn’t have any training. Originally, I earned my degree in elementary education. I bought art books and started incorporating art into the curriculum.

The students really loved creating, and it became a staple in my literacy centers. About a decade ago, another teacher launched my art career when she pointed me in the direction of obtaining my art teaching credential. I spent a year studying every waking moment to understand art processes, mediums, and history.

I was required to make and submit my own art as part of the state test for certification. I submitted several pieces, but the one that began my professional journey was created from repeating bird shapes that were taken from Our State magazine and collaged onto a canvas.

Eventually, I began using my own photography to create mixed media pieces that highlighted various locations found in NC. Each object contains separate photographs of different places in NC. Most of the time, the photos are from across the state, even if the background is a particular location.

The mix of locations represents how we travel to places in our state to see something beautiful and take a bit with it, and leave a bit behind. The bright colors, stylized landscapes, and black lines give a stained glass appearance. These objects and places are beautiful and represent the best memories.

Just as stained glass lights up when held to the light, my art gives off a happy vibrancy to bring light to the eyes of the viewer. The text included highlights the history of that place.

I have worked as a professional artist since 2018. I currently have work up at the CAM in Wilmington, the NC Natural Science Museum, and the NC Art Museum in Raleigh. Recently, my work was on view at Art Space in Raleigh, and Craven County Bank of the Arts.

My art is permanently located at the Cary Gallery of Artists. I have several public art pieces on view throughout the area. There is a mural on the outside of the Wake Forest Senior Center, one on a bus stop in Chapel Hill, and one on a recycling station in Raleigh.

My current project will use the entire gym wall at the Joyner Recreation Center in Wake Forest. This indoor mural will be 70″ by 720″ when it is completed later this month.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Being an artist is definitely a passion.

You have to take a lot of risks: spending your own money, rejection, process failure, learning curves, and stigmas. You have to really want it and not give a damn about every judgment. You have to look at your work and love it, believe in it, and fight for it.

You have to promote the heck out of yourself and be unashamed to let people know what you do. You have to take the time to apply to shows and be turned down for most of them. You have to work another job to pay for the supplies and work crazy hours.

You have to accept that people will walk into a gallery and mock the price, not understanding that some of the pieces took 80 hours to complete and that the artist only keeps 60-80% of the price. You have to accept all of this, and still find joy in the process.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I specialize in mixed media paintings that focus on North Carolina.

I am known for my use of personal photography collaged into acrylic paintings that resemble bright, stylized stained glass panels.

I am most proud of having my work sold at the North Carolina Museum of Art, and my public murals.

I use collage in a way that is different from others. Personal photography with hand-painted black lines is unique to my process.

What sort of changes are you expecting over the next 5-10 years?
I am working on my 4th public art piece. I would like to see my work used in more public spaces.

I really believe in art for all, and I really love having art in accessible places. I currently teach high school art and I see that as a service to my community. After 26 years of teaching, I plan to shift to a different line of work, but public art still would allow me to give back.

For people that don’t know, public art installation projects are usually given a small stipend, so they really are works from the heart of the artist.

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