We had the good fortune of connecting with Sherrie Zeitlin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sherrie, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I’ve been working in clay and fibers since the early 1970’s. I flipped a coin and went for my MFA in clay but it was easier to start a weaving business in a small apartment after receiving my degree and hence had a weaving business for 25 years. I made large scale woven constructions for architects and Interior designers around the country until I got tired of matching the red white and blue weaving to the red white and blue interior. When my youngest daughter came home from school with play dough and called it clay I went out and got “real clay” and have been knee deep in the mud since the 1990’s. I started doing artist in residencies in museums and schools in the 1990’s and found that the funding for the arts, especially in the schools, was disappearing. I decided that when I could I would open a facility where we would collect and give away art supplies to schools and other nonprofits free of charge. THE ART RESOURCE CENTER, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit went hot in 2004 and we have been high beamed ever since that time. Although I still maintain my studio and work in clay my heart is at THE ARC helping to keep the arts alive in our community. People come from all over the state of Arizona to secure art materials for their facilities. “It’s all free and it always will be.” About 5 years ago and after hearing countless stories from artist friends about how they were nonprofits because they never made any money we opened up to anyone would wanted art supplies…….they give us a donation and it helps keep the doors open and the lights on. I am a volunteer and have a cadre of people who keep THE ARC floating along. Everyone volunteers no one makes a penny helping to “recycle art worthy materials for creative minds”. It brings me joy.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Sometimes I feel like a fraud and I surround myself with artists I admire so I look good. Clay is the elixir of all time for so many and I find myself as I get lost in the mud. My imagery is garden related and has taken flight in the bird world. I am also a Master Gardener with the University of Arizona and when I’m not In the mud out in my gardens then I’m in the mud in my studio. I don’t take myself very seriously anymore and just enjoy the process and what may come through the clay. My passion is THE ART RESOURCE CENTER and after 17 years it is still going strong. There is no better joy in life then seeing a teacher fill their car or truck with supplies that otherwise wouldn’t be available to the students. So many schools lack art classes and certainly appropriate funding to bring the arts to life. When a teacher comes in and spins around and starts to cry and says “I had no idea are you sure it’s free I just spent so much of my own money for my students!” I know it has all been worth the effort to keep the arts alive.
It’s hard work being an artist not really the glamorous life that the illusion paints. The balance is difficult at times and the older I get the harder it is to be at THE ARC all day then come home and work in the studio. My parents were doers, they were always on the go , they also volunteered in their community and it sunk in very early.
There is a phrase , tikkun olam, repair the world , it is very important to me to give back to our world and help in any way I can. THE ARC is helping to reduce, reuse, recycle and rethink how we approach our daily lives.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I often have friends coming to visit from far away places and the first stop on a city tour is the Desert Botanical Gardens. My husband designed the Plants and People of the Sonoran Desert Trail and it’s a wonderful wander around. The entire gardens are spectacular. A drive around the city to view the many wall murals is a must and a stop at the Heard Museum and The Phoenix Art Museum as well. Of course, there are always visits to the many studios of friends around the valley. Home is where friends gather and a meal and drinks on the patio are preferred. We have an aqueduct and a river run and the sound of water is delicious.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Everyone who has ever volunteered at THE ARC deserves recognition because it truly takes a village to pull this off successfully. When I was in undergraduate school my surface design professor, Bernice Colman, was instrumental in encouraging me to follow whatever dreams I had and has been a lifelong colleague and friend. Pamela Weir-Quiton was another strong force in my early career and Ron Landon who stands tall by my side. I could NEVER pull off THE ARC without Rons help.
Facebook: The Art Resource Center
Photo of Zeitlin taken by Ron Landon All other photos taken by Zeitlin