ARTIST. FEMINIST. MUM. A COAST WOMAN’S MISSION TO STRENGTHEN COMMUNITIES ACROSS THE WORLD THROUGH STREET ART
It’s almost like a plot line for a romantic comedy. An artist goes to design school, graduates and takes the corporate route, only to realise it’s not at all what she wants. So she takes a brave risk to go it alone. She starts her own creative business. Along the way she finds struggles and successes, she falls in love and later welcomes a baby son.
This is the story of local artist Sarah Sculley.
I chat with Sarah inside her new studio located inside two massive shipping containers that have been dropped in the middle of nowhere in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. It’s mid-renovation and things are (as always) taking longer than expected. Her son sits in the corner occupying himself by creating his own grand designs – obviously he’s inherited the creative genes.
Sarah’s on a mission to finish the renovation by herself. She’s had to learn how to weld, she’s spent hours watching Youtube videos on cladding, drilling and fencing. And don’t even ask how much a glass sliding door weighs.
But despite the challenges that come with renovating a studio completely solo, Sarah is smiling ear to ear.
Just like there’s passion in her work, there’s a determination to build this studio inside and out with her own hands. A space to bring out her creative side that is completely made by herself, for herself.
She’s chasing that feeling all artists are familiar with – the sense of fulfilment when you step away from a completed project and admire it from afar.
Sarah is known throughout Queensland for her distinctive street art style. She’s been commissioned by many councils and businesses to create public murals all through the state and has been invited to create live paintings for events such as the recent Big Pineapple Music Festival.
However, what sets Sarah’s art apart is how it connects the communities she creates for.
Instead of taking a space as her own, Sarah holds workshops with those in the surrounding community to find out what’s important to them.
She teaches them technical skills in stencil art and spray painting, so they are then able to assist her in the actual creation of the mural.
The artist said it’s an inclusive way of bringing people together.
“There’s such a difference between doing a mural yourself and standing back and going, ‘Yep, I’m awesome’ whereas, going in and working with the community, building relationships and creating something together, there’s so much pride in that,” Sarah said.
She said this approach helps her to meet many different personalities of all diverse backgrounds, which ultimately feeds the inspiration for many of her other works.
On a recent project commissioned by Queensland Rail, Sarah was joined by 18 “lively” assistants.
“I worked with the Redlands Floral Artistry Group – who were the most lovely bunch of ladies, it was like working with a group of my mum,” she said.
“I did two workshops with them. I taught them how to do up stencils and how to use spray paint. None of them had used spray paint before.
“With their help I designed up the mural and they all helped me put together the wall mural as a team.”
Sarah has taken this community concept all over the world, targeting countries where women may not have equal opportunities. There she works closely with females in the community, teaching them new skills and allowing them to express themselves as individuals through her project Women on the Wall.
On her most recent trip to Kathmandu in Nepal, Sarah said she was shocked to learn many of the local women had never picked up a paintbrush.
“We go into communities who don’t often get the opportunity to see art. I usually liaise with someone from a women’s group there and we talk about what voice they want to have and what they want to talk about,” Sarah said.
“Then I design something up, I usually just do an outline and then we run an event where all the women come out and actually paint on the wall. We usually run this in communities where women don’t have as many opportunities that we do here.”
“I am a huge feminist and I love finding ways to let women speak for themselves. I think giving someone a creative voice is so important.
For a busy mum who’s running all over the state (and the world) to keep her creative business thriving, Sarah said her own creative voice is nourished by the support of her husband Mogzy (Michael) and four-year-old son Koda, as well as her supportive band of friends inside and out of the industry. When Sarah met her husband, she was caught up working the corporate lifestyle and dedicating more than 12 hours a week of training to her roller derby team. “I met my husband at a roller derby game in Brisbane. It was my final match before I retired,” Sarah said.
“He is the brother of one of the girls I skated with. Good timing. He did a terrible karaoke number at the after party and won me over.”
Living in a house with an artist isn’t easy, according to Sarah. She said quite often there are paint pots all over the house, adding an explosion of colour to its aesthetic. Sometimes her husband will have to move the furniture around to make way for her large canvases and stencils.
“The boys are such an amazing support. Both of them are the most positive, uplifting humans you will ever meet,” Sarah said.
“They both always want to help – keeping me company during murals, carrying supplies, giving me encouragement. My son brought me home a flower from a bike ride the other day and gave it to me because ‘I had worked so hard on my lovely painting’.
“Mogzy is colour blind, but that doesn’t stop him from saying things like ‘I love the colours – what colours are they’?”
After relocating to the Sunshine Coast six months ago, Sarah’s business, her studio and little family are beginning to settle in at their new home.
But so far it’s just the beginning of one adventurous journey.
I AM A HUGE FEMINIST AND I LOVE FINDING WAYS TO LET WOMEN SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES. I THINK GIVING SOMEONE A CREATIVE VOICE IS SO IMPORTANT.
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Sarah Sculley working on a piece in her studio in Ninderry. BELOW: Sarah Sculley with a finished piece of work, Adele. BOTTOM RIGHT: Women painting for the Women on the Wall project in Nepal. BOTTOM LEFT: The Redlands Floral Artistry Group helping Sarah create a mural for Queensland Rail.