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Daily Inspiration: Meet Sarah Rodriguez

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sarah Rodriguez.

Hi Sarah, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
Hi, I am Sarah Rodriguez and I am an artist and art educator living in Cincinnati, Ohio. I was born and raised by my mom in Marion, Ohio. Although artists and art institutions were not readily available to me, my family has always loved making crafts and doing DIY projects. This love for making still plays a role in my art practice today. For a long time, I have looked to the world around me as inspiration for my paintings and drawings. I used to look at pictures from my grandma’s nature magazines to make paintings, and create still-life setups in my room.

After high school, with encouragement from my art teachers and mom, I moved to Dayton, Ohio to study studio art at Wright State University. It was there that I learned about art history, painting in the landscape, and practiced working from observation. I graduated with my BFA with a focus in painting in 2014. The relationships that I made with fellow students and faculty gave me the support I needed to continue my studies in art. Following undergrad, I attended the Chautauqua Institute, School of Art as an artist-in-residence. That experience helped me to continue my studio practice, build connections with other artists, and learn from an array of visiting artists. Once arriving back in Dayton I took a year to work and see how my studio practice would evolve and grow outside of academia. That was an important time for me to rely on myself and test my dedication to an artistic practice. I applied to grad school and began the painting program at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Grad school provided the tools, skills, and confidence I needed to pursue being an artist. In 2017 I graduated with an MFA and moved to Cincinnati. Immediately I was excited by the thriving arts community and looked for opportunities to be a part of it.

Over the years I have found the best way for me to contribute to the arts community is through visual art education. The first time I became interested in art education was as a Bill and Dorthey Yeck Fellow with the Dayton Art Institute (2014). Together with the other college fellows we created and led art lessons for a group of high school students to prepare their portfolios for college submission. After that first opportunity, I saw the joy that comes from teaching art, especially in an alternative classroom setting like a museum. I have been teaching art since 2014 and seeing someone discover something new about the world or themselves through art is something that I am happy to encourage.

Upon moving to Cincinnati, I have worked several arts and non-art jobs including working as an art handler, art instructor, and library service assistant. I had my first solo exhibition at 1305 Gallery in 2017 and was the winter artist-in-residence at the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) in 2019. I continue to make work and keep a dedicated studio practice; take advantage of every opportunity to share my art, and instill a love for making with others.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
There have been many ups and downs in pursuing something that doesn’t have a clear path. Many people question your decisions and it is easy to fall into a place of self-doubt. One of the hardest parts was the time following grad school. Finally, being finished with school was an adjustment and I put a lot of pressure on myself. It’s common to get into that headspace where you question why you do it and times when failure gets the best of you. As I continue my journey, I have found the importance of cultivating powerful relationships with those around me. If you are there for others, they will be there for you and that’s a special thing.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
As an art educator, I create art-making activities and have worked with students from kindergarten to adult. I am currently the School Program and Tours Manager at the Contemporary Art Center. Working with the museum allows me the opportunity to help create ways for students and teachers to access concepts being explored in Contemporary Art. Sharing the love of art-making with others is the best thing about being an artist.

In my own practice, I create work that exists as a series of tangible memories, investigating human connectedness with space, nature, and relationships. The root of my practice can be shared through things familiar. Everyday objects and encounters present themselves, honest and beautiful, spurring a need to gather each one. Whether for interest or love I archive these fleeting moments.

When I think about my family’s influence, they taught me to be playful with materials and find joy in using one’s hands. Touch is something felt, a lasting mark that becomes layered in time. Working across mediums allows me to explore the way touch alters materials. Collage, drawing, and painting preserve my mark-making, a record of my touch. The sewing machine takes hold and veils my clumsy fingers nestling me safely as a beginner to the craft. It is a tool for creating objects that adore our sacred places. I chose materials that locate me in tradition and have an emphasis on tactility. As I create an archive of objects; existing in pieces it transforms into a repository of memory as I pin, cut, and form the pieces into parts of a whole.

In my current body of work, I use home as a metaphor for memory. Built through altars and offerings, home is a place prepared and shared. Keepsakes and relics bind us to the past as we layer our present. We shift with each new phase but the structure of our home holds fast, grounding us in times of reckless joy and deep sorrow. I seek for my work to encourage connectedness with the world around us and I hope to push myself to find the best way to reach that goal.

Let’s talk about our city – what do you love? What do you not love?
I love being in Cincinnati. The city has fun things to explore and yummy things to eat. The best part is being in the same city as some of my great friends. They make all the hard parts manageable, and the best parts better than I could ever imagine. I also love the amazing arts community that fills the city. I see all the passion and creativity that exists here and am constantly inspired. I don’t love parking downtown.

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