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Sarah Beckstrom


Sarah is a creative catalyst and collaborator, originally from Chicago, currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area, with some years spent in Santa Fe, NM in between. Her creative work is interdisciplinary and has roots in the photographic process; having traveled from traditional photographic study -- years in the darkroom learning the intricacies of silver and light processes -- to creating installations and performances that incorporate video, sound, sculpture, and movement. She now works in a wider interdisciplinary field and is most interested in capturing radiant energy, documenting experience, and transforming spaces through creative engagement with physical and psychological locations.

Sarah graduated from Lake Forest College (IL) in 1994 with a BA in Studio Art. She opened her first studio/gallery, Gallery S, in 1996 in the Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago and in 1999 moved Gallery S to the Flat Iron Arts Building in Wicker Park, where she co-founded Vital Projects, a community-based photography studio that offered darkroom and studio rental, classes and workshops and exhibition opportunities. Through Vital Projects, Sarah worked as the director of the studio and taught classes and independent study workshops in photography and creative process. She also began to develop a deeper interest in the vital role arts and creativity play in reawakening the human spirit and in building community. In 2003, she moved her studio to the Switching Station Artist's lofts in the Garfield Park neighborhood and began working more in community-based arts, collaborating on interdisciplinary projects with local artists and organizations. From 2006-2008 she coordinated and taught arts programs for youth at the Association House of Chicago, a large social service agency on the west side of the city. She also served as a committee and task force member on Chicago's Building Communities through the Arts Humboldt Park Task Force, the Garfield Park New Communities Program and the Center for Community Arts Partnerships at Columbia College's Urban Missions Program.

Sarah moved to New Mexico in 2008, where she deepened her interest in incorporating elements of our natural environment into her installations and in creating public works of art.  Sarah was involved with Cut+Paste Society, a women's collaborative arts group, as well as taught classes at The Institute of American Indian Arts, New Mexico School for the Arts, and Warehouse21. In 2012 she moved to Oakland, CA to attend Mills College for her MFA in Visual Arts. While at Mills she expanded further into her interdisciplinary practice, diving deeper into elements of performance, video, sound art, and sculpture. Since 2014 Sarah has been part of Anna Halprin's performance scoring lab of multi-disciplinary artists, creating and developing performances based on the RSVP Cycles for creative collaboration. She has received awards from the Mills College Visual Arts Department (Hung Liu Prize), the Santa Fe Arts Commission, the Illinois Arts Council, and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs. Her photographic works are in many private collections as well as in The Prentice and Paul Sack Photographic Trust at SFMOMA.


Artist Statement

My work emerges as a response to place, merging perceptual recognition and personal inquiry with location in ways that look to document and transform spaces of experience - physical locations as well as psychological places such as memories, perceptions, and beliefs. I am interested in initiating a relationship between the seen and the unseen, the past and the present, the energy and the form, the physical and the spiritual in order to create an entirely new point of reference and place of experience.

My artistic roots are in photography and I have often combined photo imagery with other media and material to make installations.  My true creative interests though are not so much anymore in the form of a photograph but in photography as a process of capturing radiant energy and as a way to affect transformation through the bringing together of energy and matter. I now work in a wider interdisciplinary field, documenting the expression of energy moving through the physical body – building, playing sports, dancing –  and finding relationships that transform a space and shift the experience of it.   I am less interested in specific media or methods as being central to my work because I see anything as potential media for creating, documenting, and transforming. For me, it matters not so much anymore how or what, but that creative energy unites with physicality to generate, make, connect, interact, move, respond…



questions or inquiries, please contact sarah@sarahbeckstrom.com