Sarah Conarro is an artist and educator. Her practice focuses on direct personal engagement--experimenting with the inclusion of passersby (as with her project Everything Does Something), community entities (including her project Glitters), and collaborators (as exemplified by the Link:Link CAD Project). Conarro creates her interdisciplinary works, mixed media pieces, large-scale installations, and community-based projects while drawing from her primary mediums of painting and collage. Conarro is a Georgia native and until recently was based in Alaska for ten years. She now resides in Brooklyn, New York.
Conarro designed a community arts project focusing on cross-pollination between the Gustavus community & professional artists from in and out of Alaska. The project consisted of a series of smaller projects each with the goal of creating contemporary work through investigating Gustavus experiences/hobbies/professions. To kick off the project, Conarro lead the ten visitors (nine of whom had never been to Alaska) in an artist retreat in a U.S. Forestry cabin and an Alaska Marine Highway ferry trip. In Gustavus, Conarro paired ten visiting East Coast artists working in a range of disciplines including music, architectural design, culinary arts, and video with Gustavus residents with jobs ranging from a naturalist, to a carpenter to an inn owner. Through this project the artist collective Link:Link Club (LLC) was born. LLC highlights Conarro's ability and interest in curating collaborations between artists and people that otherwise would not have met. This project was funded by a Community Arts Development Grant through the Alaska State Council on the Arts.
Conarro addressed Coppa Ice Cream Shop's walls in the month of April by filling the room with over 100 small, highly detailed works ranging from 4x4 inches to 11x16 inches. Though Alaska's capital city has no true 'dry season', Conarro's knack for transforming spaces turned the temperate rainforest ice cream shop into a warm tropical space. By creating a conversation between the colors of ice cream and colors on the wall, the salon-style show furthered Conarro's experimentation with designing many works that are pleasing as a whole, while still offering reward to viewers studying an individual piece up close. The success of the textural/colorful atmospheric change was measured by tallying the number of times Conarro was told, "I feel like I'm in (fill-in-the-blank-with-tropical-location)!)" Tally:: 37 times in 30 days.
After discovering the Men2b's positive rap loop project, Conarro reached out to collaborate on an interdisciplinary video to express nine “positive personality traits” and to exemplify the flood of images surrounding society with ideas and aspirations of 'how to be'. Dreamers Welcome organizer John Michael Boling invited Conarro to travel to New York City to create this pilot project for Conarro/Men2b's larger idea of disseminating a repetitive abstract animation that encourages and inspires positivity. After researching positive personality traits, Conarro and Men2B member Julian Bozeman created a library of images gathered from google image search depicting nine positive personality traits. The video combines analogue title makers, traditional stop motion, music, and eighty-one rotoscoped appropriated images. Conarro received a Career Opportunity Grant through the Alaska State Council on the Arts for this project.
Using color, mirrors, and texture as tools, the time-based installation Nice Looking explores changing the perspective of the viewer. For the show at The Rookery in Juneau, Conarro designed the piece to be gradually installed from December to January. These are the darkest months of the year, with daylight lasting 6 hours in Juneau. As the days got shorter leading to winter solstice, The Rookery became brighter with each installment of the evolving piece. Juxtaposing bright colors with the darkness of winter, the piece is a respite for the audience, turning a familiar, well-trod cafe into an immersive, warm, new environment.
Nice Looking evolved in three phases: Phase one - the installation of floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall un-stretched painted canvases; yellows, oranges and reds applied with loose and expressionist gesture. Phase two - the installation of 4 sets of angled mirrored sculptures directly on top of the canvases. Each set has eight box-like sculptures. The sculptures are dressed with abstract shapes: some created with flat paint; others created with thick sand texture; others created by mirrors. This phase evolved over 6 weeks, with new pieces being introduced each week and culminating with all 32 pieces covering the entirety of the room. As new pieces were introduced, Conarro rearranged the sculptures, creating a unique installation each week using the same elements. Even the abstract shapes themselves are repeated and varied in application from sculpture to sculpture making the whole piece a reflection of itself onto itself. Phase three - a collaboration with Julian Bozeman who installed 4 projectors and created a video and sound piece specifically for the event evenings of the installation titled 'A Nice Looking Time'.
2014 The Alaska Experimental Video Mapping Project (Master Works Series) - Gastineau Edition
In this project, Conarro explores her interest in examining multiple people’s perspectives of the same place as they simultaneously create a cohesive large-scale collaboration. Conarro developed this large scale project as a way to answer the question “What is one important place to you in Juneau?” through educating students on color, shape, and collage in relation to their sense of place in a community they share together. To address the K-2 learning level, Part II in the Master Works Series broadened the concept of 'how to depict a specific location’ that was employed in Part I DZ Edition (see below). By standardizing the format of the collage, Conarro and Brooklyn-based artist Julian Bozeman collaborated on the repetitive presentation of the work through a live video format. The 150 individual works representing each ‘important place’ combine to make a singular video for public use and, combined with Bozeman’s instinct for repetitive sound elements, references the hypnotic nature of early television education animations. This project was funded by the Alaska State Council on the Arts.
2013 The Alaska Experimental Video Mapping Project (Master Works Series) - Dzantik'i Heeni Edition
In Part I of II (see Gastineau edition above) of this video mapping project, Conarro designed a project for two hundred 6th-8th grade students to create individual works to become one large-scale collaborative video. Conarro lead students in learning how to employ color, texture, line, shape, and surface sheen in collage format to represent specific locations and answer the question “What is one important place to you in Juneau?” Conarro collaborated with Brooklyn-based artist Julian Bozeman and added these collages to a live video format and internet map for public use. Bozeman's knowledge of light and video allowed students to experiment with a flashlight to add dimension to their work within the video. This project was funded by the Alaska State Council on the Arts and The Rasmuson Foundation.
2013 Everything Does Something
By using the word “advice”, this traveling pop-up community engagement project explores word-connotation as a place-based phenomenon while highlighting over-arching themes that are not bound by location. Conarro toured along the East Coast with her homemade pvc-pipe roadside stand and asked approaching participants to share advice through writing and pinning their advice to the stand. The unpretentious stand structure and homemade sign reading ‘Come Say Hey’ created an unpretentious environment where passersby felt comfortable approaching and participating. Initially devised as a project to explore connectivity of people in different places, more questions arose as the project was being executed: Who was inspired to approach the stand? What did they say in conversation versus what were they compelled to write down? How does conversation with a stranger differ from the implications of leaving a record of ones ideas and ideas about advice? What are the differences in these responses from a church block party in Louisiana to a farmers market in Maine? These questions revealed a deeper element of the project that went beyond words on paper, and entered into the psychology of participation and sense of self. Cities included: Hammond, LA; Baton Rouge, LA; New Orleans, LA; Dahlonega, GA; Asheville, NC; Philadelphia, PA; Portland, ME; Providence; RI.
2013 Tsu Heidei Shugaxtutaan
The Sitka Native Education Program invited Conarro to lead eighteen classroom teachers from areas of study in creating a collaborative mural for the Tribal Youth Center in Sitka, Alaska. Conarro designed this project for schoolteachers to learn in-depth strategies for visual arts integration and collaborative community projects. Consisting of 18 self-proclaimed ‘reluctant artists’ coming from different fields, Conarro guided the educator team in choosing imagery and creating their own designs while simultaneously executing a unified image. The team finished a twelve-by-twelve foot painting titled Tsu Heide Shugaxtutaan (translation: We Will Again Open This Container of Wisdom That Has Been Left in Our Care) by working with the Tlingit community and considering important cultural questions identified by the Tribe. Though the team was inexperienced in creative collaboration, Conarro’s lead enabled each teacher to add their touch to a cohesive mural. ” As one teacher remarked ” Sarah allowed the mural to be the group's mural and not ‘hers.’ She guided and yet allowed us to figure some things out on our own.” This project was facilitated by the Alaska Arts Education Consortium.
This performance installation created in collaboration with Ryan Conarro is a meditation on the Moments When Something Happens: shared memory; first-hand experiences; and spaces between. Joining forces with a team of designer-collaborators, Sarah and Ryan crafted a visual-sonic world with performance and visual components. This project was hosted by Generator Theater Company. Collaborators = Ellen Reid, J Bradley, Flordelino Lagundino, Kevin Riordan, Katie Basile, Giselle Stone.
2012 No Situation Just A Series of Choices
This series consists of paintings, drawings and collage incorporated with wood in various forms — from recycled fir floor boards to pieces of charred cedar. This project was made in collaboration with Matt Davidson.
2012 These Are the Paintings that Hang in My Living Room
For this project Sarah flipped her apartment walls inside out, recreating her own home onto the walls of both downtown Juneau Heritage Cafes.
Conarro designed, organized events, coordinated with performers, and conducted the execution of a large scale piece in collaboration with the public radio station KXLL/Excellent Radio in Juneau, Alaska. Conarro curated a three part project by carefully choosing the layout, parts of the events, and tangible materials in order to highlight inclusion and attractiveness to anyone and parallel the inclusive nature of public radio itself. Through Conarro's management and execution of this project, a cross-section of population, some of whom were coming for a family event, some of whom were coming for a late evening of music, and few of whom were coming to participate in a large-scale collaborative artwork, interfaced on the same project designed to hang on the exterior of the radio station. Viewable on the only main road into the city, the placement of the piece even involved those who otherwise would have no involvement with the project all. Part 1 = open to the public/all-ages event, live found-instrument percussion, bubble-blowing and the creation of a large scale work using glitter and school glue on canvas followed by a late night 'musical invention' performance by two bands on an in-the-round stage; Part 2 = installation of the work on the exterior of the downtown radio station; Part 3 = witnessing the ephemeral nature of the work as the elements gradually degraded the piece. Conarro chose the circle, one of the most familiar visual elements, as a jumping point for every decision from layout (stage) to materials (canvas). By strategically choosing the readily-available craft material glitter as the unifying visual element, the live event offered something approachable to anyone: card tables of dixie cups containing a total of 100 lbs of glitter, gallon jugs of Elmers glue, and 200 individual bubble bottles. This set-up paired with sound encouraged participation from even the least creatively motivated. The event, which started and ended, was a microcosm of the greater piece of identifying the public radio station (Conarro painted ’This is the radio station’ overtime as the painting hung outside) and then ultimately being destroyed by the elements of its setting.
2012 "Boys' Dleigu: Haandéi ax choonéitk'i" Window Painting
Sarah collaborated with Musician/Teaching Artist Ed Littlefield to create a window painting/backdrop in the Thunder Mountain High School commons in Juneau, Alaska. The visual component was designed to relate to Ed's three musical interpretations (one Tlingit, one jazz, one contemporary/body percussion) of the traditional Tlingit lullaby "Boys' Dleigu: Haandéi ax choonéitk'i" by Charlie Joseph, a Tlingit elder from Sitka, Alaska.
2012 Quanemciput Pilialput-llu
One hundred and fifty middle and high school students travelled from rural villages into Bethel, Alaska, to participate in the culminating grand theatrical performance based on cultural storytelling. Sarah worked with Juneau Theater Artist Ryan Conarro and Brooklyn Photographer Katie Basile on this project as the third and final phase of the Pilinguat arts-based education project investigating local history and current stories. Sarah lead students in creating the set for their performances in collaboration with Hood River Teaching Artist Shelley Toon Hight. This project was designed to increase relevance and motivation for students in cross-cultural classroom and was funded by the Alaska Humanities Forum and the Rasmuson Foundation.
2012 Heroes and Talents
Sarah lead with educators and students in grades 9-12 at Yaakoosge Daakahidi Alternative High School in creating six panels of paintings for the exterior of the school along the entrance walkway. The project received funding from the Alaska State Council on the Arts and The Alaska Association of School Boards for building community and assets through art.
2011 Words of Advice
This letterpress mixed media project consists of thirty different lines of text printed on an Original Heidelberg Letterpress at Alaska Litho in Juneau, Alaska. The four by four inch prints are all hand-stained as well as have individually done drawings.
The advice/opinions/demands on the cards falls (loosely) into five categories — kitchen, relationships, personal hygiene, active randomness and miscellaneous. This project was made in collaboration with Giselle Stone.
2011 I Choose Respect
Sarah was invited by teenagers to coordinate the creation of four 5 x 8 foot panels for the Nugget Mall in Juneau, Alaska. After completing the youth leadership in Anchorage “Lead On! For Peace and Equality in Alaska”, the teen group wanted to incorporate simple imagery integrated with local student response on how they choose and show respect, how they ask for help, how they set boundaries as well as why they love Juneau. Sarah ran the open-to-public painting sessions at the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council and at the University of Alaska Southeast.
2011 Swapping Fish Tales
Sarah coordinated visual design for Dear Fish, a project coordinated by Annie Calkins and funded by the Kennedy Center Partners in Education grant. For this project, schools in Alaska and Maine explored fishing cultures of both communities using integrated technology. Research collected from trips out in the field and interviews with local fishermen formed the basis for a play written by Dave Hunsaker performed by elementary and high school students in both communities in Spring 2011. Collaborators include = Brice Haberger, Ryan Conarro, Sarah Doremus, Lorrie Heagy.
2011 This is Who We Are
Over one hundred middle and high school students travelled from nine rural villages into Bethel, Alaska, to participate in the culminating interview-based theatrical performance based on cultural storytelling. Sarah worked with Juneau Theater Artist Ryan Conarro and Brooklyn Photographer Katie Basile on this project as the second of three phases of the Pilinguat arts-based education project investigating local history and current stories. Sarah lead students in visual components of the performance incorporating Yup'ik elders' portraits. This project was funded by the Alaska Humanities Forum and the Rasmuson Foundation.
2011 Complements Grid
Sarah painted fifty-six 2x2 ft panels with 375 K-5 students at Mendenhall River Elementary School for permanent installation on their school's outside covered play area in Juneau, Alaska.
2011 Patchwork Collage Grid
Auke Bay Elementary School invited Sarah to work with their 150 K-2 students in painting and collaging thirty two-by-two foot wood squares for permanent installation in the school interior. With Sarah's lead, students created individual drawings, tore their papers and shared the remnants with one another to begin the process of collage. Students painted the boards together to provide a home for the individual collages they had created earlier in the process.
2010 The Great Lessons
The Montessori Borealis School invited Sarah to work with their 120 K-8 students in Juneau, Alaska. Together they painted, collaged and wrote a continuous narrative of 'The Great Lessons' for permanent installation reaching from the entrance to the building, through the hallways, and up a stairwell. Chris Trostel, upper elementary teacher, lists the` lessons within the theme as the following: 1. The Creation of the Universe 2. The Coming of Life to Earth, 3. The Emergence of the Human, 4. and 5. The Human Gifts: The Story of Invention/Math & The Story of Communication in Signs (our alphabet).
2010 Sketches for Okie Pie
Dubbed 'Okie' by his almost 3-year-old sisters, Sarah's unborn yet-to-be-named son was coming in only a few short weeks. Sarah posted a grid on the walls of the Ruby Room Gallery for the city of Juneau to offer name suggestions. She surrounded the grid by sketches created each pregnancy trimester.
2010 Raven From Downtown
Sarah designed and executed a one-percent-for-art mural for the Zach Gordon Youth Center in for the City and Borough of Juneau in Juneau, Alaska.
2010 Art Shops
Sarah taught for an arts-in-education program for at-risk youth in low income housing developments. Her focus was student learning through art projects and field trips, community collaboration, multicultural awareness, and parental and familial communication and involvement. During this program, children created a backdrop for the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council Savikko Park Concerts. This program is funded through a Drug Elimination Program Grant from the Alaska Housing Finance Corp. and facilitated by the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council.
2010 We See Our Tundra
The White Mountain, Alaska community and school invited Sarah to fulfill a Cultural Collaborations Project Grant from the Alaska State Council on the Arts. White Mountain, an Iġaliuŋmuit (Fish River tribe) Iñupiat village with a population of 200 located by the Bering Strait, lost their school in 2006 to a late-night furnace room fire. The new school, built in 2009, is set on a slight tundra hill on the perimeter of the village with a 90 foot chain link fence separating it from the rest of town. Sarah collaborated with over half of the White Mountain community -- from elders down to pre-K students --in creating 89 colorful shape cut-outs representing their community on the fence to visually connect the school to the village.
2009 J'taime Mon Petite Chou
This project centered on spiritual vs. secular, busy vs. calm. Sarah created an atmosphere through arranging collages/drawings in a plant store, The Plant People, in Juneau. She provided fortunes and viewers brought offerings including written thoughts, oranges, apples, beads, and coins.
2009 Thunder Mountain
During the 2009-2010 academic year, Sarah taught drawing, mixed media, and painting in Juneau's newest high school with an emphasis on community involvement. Students created work under three main objectives: 1. Here We Are -- To broaden experiences of their own community, students took their work out into the community by creating the backdrop for Juneau's 36th annual Folk Festival featuring local sea life. Out of 104 students, 87 were born in Juneau, and prior to this year, only 4 had yet to attend the free music festival in their town. 2. Come On In -- To broaden interaction of the Juneau community within the schools and to highlight the importances of Juneau youths' voices in the world, students hosted an open-to-public evening to present Current Events Works. Students showed individual mixed media works to raise awareness on local to worldwide current events, and performed a live interpretive painting and music to fundraise for the Art Creation Foundation in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake. Results from the event attendance poll showed 215 of the 407 visitors that night had never been to Thunder Mountain School before. 3. I Am Me -- To broaden personal art creation and awareness of how individuals create work, students drew a series of self portraits exploring style, scale, perspective, and metamorphosis. Students also kept sketchbooks and studied the positive impact of personal art practice, including having individual correspondences with artist Samuel Stabler about his own sketchbook. Student-written questions to Sam included: 1. Do you ever second guess and erase the sketches all the time? When I draw in my sketchbook I think to much about what to draw and if I do have a good idea my drawing isn't as good as the image in my mind. Do you have a trick you use to just not be so tough on your own work? 2. On sketch book 7 page 55, what were you thinking when you drew this? Was it that people see everything or that people look but the aren't really seeing? Also, I am wondering if you make yourself draw every day or if you just really like to draw every day?
2009 Hands, Mud, Found
Sarah taught mixed media and painting to middle and elementary students during three summers in Sitka, Alaska. Every year, Sarah also coordinated a participatory/performance-based visual arts event for the Sitka Fine Arts Camp Teaching Artists and students as well as the Sitka community.
Sarah lead fifty 6th-8th grade students at the Anvil City Science Academy in the creation of a 320 square foot exterior painting. The painting served the role as a scenic backdrop in the interview-based production Nometown Tales and is now permanently installed on the exterior of the public swimming facility. Students designed the painting through reading interviews featured in the play.
2009 Statehood Celebration: Tundra Style
Sarah collaborated in an interdisciplinary performance project featuring students from nine villages in the Lower Kuskokwim district celebrating Alaska's 100th year as a state. Sarah lead visual design including preliminary work painting/collaging a 160 sq. ft. painting with 100 K-12 students in Kasigluk, Alaska. This painting was flown into Bethel, Alaska to act as the backdrop for the Statehood Celebration: Tundra Style production and then returned to Kasigluk to be permanently installed in Akiuk School lobby. Collaborators for this project include Stephen Blanchett, Ryan Conarro, and Project Pilinguat. This project received funding from the Alaska Humanities Forum, the Rasmuson Foundation, and the Alaska State Council on the Arts.
2009 Sea Creatures
Working with 200 K-1 students, Sarah created 380 sq. ft. of sea creatures for permanent installation on their chain link playground fence. This project included community involvement and students of Sitka's local alternative school, Pacific High.
Sarah guided the thirteen K-10 students in Klukwan, Alaska in writing and illustrating a continuous narrative about Xóots (bear). The group painted & collaged a 2’ x 45’ continuous narrative for permanent installation in Klukwan School's community room. Students translated character names into the Tlingit language.
2008 I Ate the Moonlight
This show at the Juneau Arts & Humanities Council gallery speaks to Sarah's first year as a parent, that her time to herself was at night. The show was complete with a hook for her daughter's johnny jump up.
2008 Thread the River Through
Sarah conducted a 500 square foot exterior mural for permanent installation on the community gym with Gustavus School. Approximately seventy-five K-12 students, teachers and community members participated and all participants had the opportunity to add their designs. This project received funding from the Alaska Brewery Company and the Alaska State Council on the Arts.
2008 Between The Gastineau Channel And Mount Roberts
This project is a mosaic created in collaboration with 80 students in grades K-5 for Capital City Park, a public park in downtown Juneau, Alaska.
2007 Margot on My Mind
This project was a series of twenty mirrored carved paintings for The Canvas Gallery in Juneau, Alaska. Sarah created these pieces as a reflection of waiting for her first child, Margot, to be born.
2007 The Sea as They See It
In conjunction with 'Sea Week', Sarah worked with 350 students in grades K-5 to design and create an imaginative painting/collage for permanent installation in the school commons. This project received funding from the Alaska State Council on the Arts.
2007 Village by the Cliff
Sarah created 192 sq. ft. painting/collage for permanent installation in the Hoonah, Alaska cafeteria with 200 children in grades K-12. Imagery includes salmon trollers, fish and birds, all inspired by the place-based connection for students. This project was funded by the Alaska State Council on the Arts.
2006 Outside the Box
Sarah consulted, curated, and taught with The Canvas, as they were getting their feet off the ground and determining aspects of their identity. This Juneau, Alaska art studio and gallery has since gained national attention for providing arts-based training for persons with disabilities. Sarah curated The Canvas's first exhibition, an interactive art, video and sound installation created by 30 REACH artists entitled Outside the Box.
2006 An Image You See When You Look in the Mirror
This project was a series of pencil/pastel/acrylic /ink portraits and self portraits shown in the Ruby Room Gallery in Juneau, Alaska.
2006 Kids in Movement
Sarah created a painted/collage piece for permanent installation of the exterior school entryway with 350 K-5 students at Harborview Elementary School in Juneau, Alaska. Students' design drawings were based on the school's theme 'Kids in Movement'. Design images were collaged into the final image. This project was funded by the Alaska State Council on the Arts.
An arrangement of lithography, entaglio, and relief prints moving into paintings, drawings and an installation. This project was made in collaboratoin with Julian Bozeman.
2004 That Time
This project is a series of collages ranging from 3 x 3 feet to 4 x 5 feet. The pieces were included in a group show Public Space, Private Dynamic in Athens, Georgia.
2003 Because It's Beautiful
This project is a series of wood panel collage/carving/paintings ranging from 3 x 3 feet to 6 x 4 feet. The pieces were included in a group show Let Freedom Ring at the Lyndon House Arts Center in Athens, Georgia.