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Spotlight: Sarah Moody
NPAA member profile:
Sarah MK Moody
By Pat Bywater
The social isolation caused by the COVID-19 pan- demic and the rise of the racial justice movement in the wake of George Floyd’s murder have left no artist untouched.
Some find inspiration, some experience creative disruption and others are connecting with the energy to transform their communities.
Erie’s Sarah MK Moody may be one of those in touch with the transformative flow. These historic moments have given her renewed sense of purpose.
She has a studio at the Performing Artists Collective Alliance (PACA) at 1505 State St. in Erie and she’s activated exhibit space in the building in the past. There’s little doubt what she’ll use it for next.
Moody founded what’s now known as Maggie Knox Western in Miami in 2014 to serve, as her website explains, as “an incubator, studio and gallery space with artist residencies, workshops, gatherings and creative happenings. I am committed to sharing space as a way to foster community with creativity at its core.”
In Miami’s Little Haiti community, Moody worked to bring artists together with residents of the neighbor- hood to find common ground and understanding
as the area experienced gentrification. Connections made there got her involved in the Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator and arts travel and work in Cuba, the Bahamas and Suriname.
Through those experiences, integrated, cross-cultural art communities became the norm for Moody.
Just how different the landscape is in Erie, which she made her home in 2017, came into sharp focus recently. Moody attended the initial peaceful protest for racial justice in Erie and was particularly struck by a speaker who highlighted the fact that the event had brought residents from across the city together under the banner of a common cause, yet those same people rarely interacted on a day-to-day basis. Those comments “made me rethink how I organize events,” Moody said. “What is the purpose and what is the audience?”
“How do we mix up the segregation in Erie?” she considered. How do we “come into each other’s space?”
Moody’s clear that building trust and signaling inten- tions lies at the heart of breaking down walls in Erie, and she knows how difficult and personal the effort will be. There’s “nothing comfortable there,” she says. “Get comfortable being uncomfortable. This is a marathon, not a sprint.”
“It’s the artist’s job to work through issues for the community,” Moody reflected. Now “is a moment to be creating space for showing black artists.”
Being in that sometimes uncomfortable space of breaking down walls and forging new connections does not intimidate Moody. She embraces the role. It is part of what motivated her to become one of the youngest members of the Northwest Pennsylvania Artists Association and to serve on its membership committee.
By joining and serving, Moody hopes to show young artists they may not have to reinvent the wheel by creating their own organization. She also hopes to lead NPAA members in embracing generational change.
Part of Moody’s willingness to take on these challenges stems from her art, which often leads her to deeply personal disclosures. She describes her work as so personal that it transcends the personal and becomes universal.
An example residents of the region may recall is “CLAIRE,” a project documenting the life of Moody’s sister, who died in 2016 at the age of 24. She was di- agnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare soft tissue bone cancer, in 2012.
“CLAIRE,” which was exhibited at Erie’s 419 Arti- facts, includes photographs taken by Moody dating back to when she was 10, as well as photos taken by friends and family showing Claire’s name spelled out in natural materials in a variety of settings. That part of the project took on a life of its own when friends shared their images on social media, inspiring othersto get involved.
“This becomes a universal story that remembers a person that you love,” Moody explained to a review- er for the Erie Times-News.
Moody’s long history with Erie, which she visited regularly for years to see relatives, became deeper as she travelled between Miami and the city frequently to support her sister.
Impressed by the city’s effort to revitalize, Moody relocated to Erie and hasn’t looked back.
Since moving, Moody’s forged connections with women who are working for change. “That’s inspiring to me,” Moody said. “There is a lot of opportunity to do new things in Erie.”
2021 NPAA Board of Directors
President: Alexa Potter
Secretary: Amy Hahn / Sarah Everett
Treasurer: Coleen DiCenzo / Carol Courtney
Exhibitions: Greg Zbach / Kris Risto
Standards: Kathe Umlauf
Archives: Lisa Austin
Membership: Gary Cardot / Sarah Moody
Technology: Joe Krol
The Northwestern Pennsylvania Art Association is a non-profit, aesthetically non-partisan, non-political and non-discriminatory organization of artists whose purpose is to represent the aesthetic standards and economic interests of visual artists.