Sarah Peters was a City Arts (now Art for Social Change) student in the spring of 1997. She went on to earn her BFA from St. Catherine’s University, and to hold a number of positions within Twin Cities arts institutions and community hubs. Sarah sat down with us over coffee a few weeks ago to discuss the effects and impact of her ’97 HECUA semester. Read on to find out how HECUA helped Sarah discover a vibrant community of artists in the Twin Cities.
Sarah Peters came to Minnesota in 1996, from Lincoln, Nebraska, to study arts education at St. Catherine University (then still St. Kate’s). She chose arts education because, “I thought, well, that’s what artists do. They are teachers.”
By her sophomore year, Sarah found herself feeling stifled on St. Kate’s small St. Paul campus. One day, in the bathroom of the art building, she spotted a little flyer pasted to a mirror advertising HECUA’s City Arts program. Sarah enrolled for the spring semester.
Looking back on her experience now, Sarah says, “It’s hard to summarize the biggest impact. HECUA was hugely influential in convincing me to drop the ‘education’ part of my major, and focus on the fine arts. My understanding of what it mean to be an artist completely expanded.”
Alumna Sarah Peters circa 1996 in Washington DC at the AIDS quilt.
Sarah spent the spring semester in an intense, and occasionally fraught, learning community. “There were a lot of really hard interpersonal dynamics. It was my moment of learning about my privilege in a way I hadn’t experienced before.”
She spent two days a week in class with her HECUA cohort, and three days a week with her internship supervisor, the muralist Marilyn Lindstrom. Marilyn’s work demonstrated to Sarah the broad range of possible work for artists post graduation. The class in general, she says, opened her eyes to the richness of the arts community in Minneapolis/St. Paul. “People who I met during that semester are now colleagues, and that’s something I think about a lot. The program was so much about seeing the resources in the city. It made the Twin Cities seem like a place where it was worth staying.”
After she completed her semester in City Arts, Sarah returned to St. Kate’s and completed her degree, switching her major to pursue a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts. She graduated in 2000, and immediately found a job as an assistant to the education department at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. She stayed at the Walker, in various positions, until 2010.
Sarah Peters now, being interviewed with Northern Lights.mn Artistic Director Steve Dietz.
Sarah is now the Director of Public Engagement at Northern Lights.mn, and the Associate Director of Northern Spark, an overnight art festival that electrifies the Twin Cities each summer. She says, “My time at the Walker, my work with Northern Lights.mn, my roots in the arts community – all that started with HECUA.”