A founding member of Denver’s Tank Studios and former RedLine resident, Colorado native Sarah Wallace Scott is an artist, teacher, curator and businesswoman who makes the time to create print, installation and mixed-media works that often speak to the tentative connection between society and disappearing nature. Read on for her answers to the 100CC questionnaire.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be and why?
Sarah Wallace Scott: I would have to say either Jim Henson or John Cage. I’ve seen some old television appearances of Jim Henson with Kermit, before Kermit was really Kermit (more of a sock, really). He created all of these simple, ingenious special effects. There was one with baby powder and tubes to make it look like smoke was coming out of the puppet’s ears. That kind of play with handmade objects and the sophistication and simplicity of the materials used is something I would really enjoy. Plus, it would be a lot of fun to employ my background in theater and dance with my love of making and the fabrication of objects and environments.
As for John Cage, I don’t know if there would be as much collaboration as there would be me, sitting in awe of him, and hoping that some of his genius might rub off on me.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
I think Bernie Sanders is pretty interesting. He’s the first politician I’ve ever seen who is outwardly compassionate, and that fascinates me in this formidable election. Also Bill McKibben, who is leading an uphill battle in educating the masses on the state of our world’s climate. His organization, 350.org, is doing some really important and interesting work.
Rain Dove, an androgynous model and activist, is also incredibly interesting to me, and is amazing to look at. It is very exciting to see how the fashion industry is beginning to be inspired by queer fashion and more unconventional ideals of beauty.
Joe Sartore is a photographer whose work I also spend a good deal of time looking into. He’s creating the Photo Ark, a project for which he documents endangered species. He’s like a modern-day Audubon to me, racing around the world trying to take portraits of all of these animals before they disappear.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
Clouds. Just kidding.
I suppose all trends are a valid expression of the time in which we live, and thank goodness that the nature of trends is to pass away in time — otherwise, some of the stuff I really dislike would stick around forever. However, it does bother me when artists use toxic materials without doing their research about those materials and what happens to them when they are washed down the drain or linger on after the project is complete and set aside. The damage imposed on the environment and our health for the sake of experimentation or a new art trend is saddening to me.
What's your day job?
I'm a realtor with Ideal Properties of Denver, a small real estate company with some of the best women I know.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
First, pay off my student loans, my wife's student loans and our house! Second, I would buy a permanent home for Tank Studios. Then I would set up some investments and index stocks in order to have a stream of income so that I wouldn’t be reliant on additional funds from the patron. And then I would give the money away in set amounts to any project or person that needed it. I'd have the chance to support all of the good things that people around me are doing. I'd support projects in Africa that are working to bring everyone clean water (the privatization of water is disgusting) and essentially pass the money along for creative, environmental and health-related projects. I'd keep working, because that's the kind of person I am, but I would slow down. I’d learn to play the banjo, spend more time in the garden, and take more classes.
Denver (or Colorado), love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
Love it. When I graduated from high school in 1997 I wanted to get out of Colorado, and I didn't really miss it for the twelve or thirteen years I was away. But when I came back I was surprised at how many amazing things were happening in Denver. It's a small-enough city that you feel like you're a part of its development and growth. I feel like you have a say, or at least a part, in what it could potentially become. Denver is growing really rapidly, which sadly means that it is becoming less affordable. I worry that with the loss of affordable housing in Denver we might lose some of the people and the creativity that makes this city so great.
What's the one thing Denver could do to help the arts?
Denver is already doing a lot to help the arts, but everybody can always do better (I see shortcomings). For example, First Fridays are always jam-packed with artists and non-artists alike. It’s become one of the greatest date-night activities in Denver. But there are so many other art-related offerings that are amazing and free, and attendance is not nearly what it should be.
Maybe people aren’t aware that there is arts programming like the VASD lectures at RMCAD lead by Gretchen Marie Schaefer that bring world-class artists and designers to the Denver area. These events are typically free, open to the public and sometimes there’s even free food and booze! Other examples include events produced by Black Cube, RedLine, PlatteForum and the Center for Visual Art. All of these organizations help to put Denver on the map. In order to truly support the arts, you have to learn more about it. Being smart is sexy, and if you’re already attending the First Friday openings with your date then you should do yourself a favor and attend these other art programs, too. Just think of how sexy you will be!
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
Besides all of my pals at Tank Studios and in the extended RedLine family, I would have to say my favorites are co-curators Chinn Wang and Heather Doyle-Maier. They are wickedly smart, talented and amazingly generous people. Some of my other favorites include Steve Sumner and Louise Martorano, who work harder for the arts in Colorado than any others I know. I would also include Roger Ambrosier, who has been my mentor/teacher/friend for many years.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
Learning how to use and follow through with the word "no." I have a big problem with over-extending myself. I made a promise to my wife to focus on my own artwork and not agree to volunteer for any more community projects for the foreseeable future. I want to slow down, make some good work, and take care of the garden and the people and animals that I love.
Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
Tya Anthony. She’s talented, ambitious and flexible. She works really hard, for her community as well as herself. Edher Alan Paniagua is another incredibly talented artist that I love and, although I have lost track of him recently, I think he has the potential to grab a lot of attention. Viviane Le Courtois, who is already well known in our local arts community, is going to have an exciting year and I can’t wait to see what’s in the works.
Conveners, a Mo’Print exhibition curated by Sarah Wallace Scott and Chinn Wang, runs through April 4 at RedLine Gallery, 2350 Arapahoe Street. Scott’s own work is currently on view in another Mo'Print group show, Off the Page, at the Center for the Arts Evergreen, through March 31. Learn more about Sarah Wallace Scott online.