Inside the Arts: Sarah Powers, life support to VAE

Sarah Powers.Sarah Powers; photo by Beth Mandel

With Visual Art Exchange’s annual For the Love of Art Auction and Gala just around the corner, ArtsNow went to get the scoop on the people who throw this celebration of the arts. We visited VAE’s Raleigh Warehouse District gallery and office space to go “Inside the Arts,” a series that focuses on the people behind the scenes in arts organizations. Read more in the series

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Sarah Powers | Executive Director, VAE

Sarah Powers.
Photo by Beth Mann.

How did you get this gig?

There was a really vague ad in the classified section of The News & Observer for an Executive Director of Visual Art Exchange. I clipped it out and let it sit on the keyboard of my computer … for a while. I contemplated it and found that VAE’s mission aligned with mine, then I went for it and got the position.

How has the Triangle’s perception and/or interest in the arts changed in the last year?

There has been more involvement and conversation on planning and rendering of new strategies. To me, it seems like we are all about to start on the next iteration of the arts scene here. What VAE is trying to do is see what else is going on and ask ourselves, ‘Who’s doing what now?’ We want to ask, ‘What else needs to be done? Who else needs to start? What [do] artists need to open that next space?’ All in order to diversify. People are taking risks again which is the only way to do it.

[Related: 2015 Red Carpet photos]

Since you mention risk, what is one that VAE wants to take?

Our big risk is to try and not do all the little things. We want to focus our efforts on bigger programing — bigger and bolder. That way, space is freed up for new programming that our artists need, like fiscal sponsorship for artist programs and advocacy for the creative community.

How has being the executive director of an art gallery affected your art production?

Being around art all the time reminds me of how important it is to stay in it. It’s also a calming because I know there are going to be highs and lows in my levels of productivity. There are times when art can (and should) come first in life but if other things need attention then that’s what you do. The ebb and flow is natural and you’ve got to go with the momentum that is taking you. And, most importantly, not feel bad about one thing getting more attention than another. I never want to stop making art. I think my role at VAE, a mother and artist all add together for a pretty big life.

[Related: 2015 social media posts from the gala]

What about the gala do you look forward to most each year?

Ah, it’s an annual reunion! I get to see people that I love but don’t get around to seeing all that often. It’s also really nice to see everyone cheering for visual art. It’s a quiet medium that is kept in quiet museums, so getting to see people cheer for a painting is fun.

For the Love of Art Auction & Gala

When: February 20, 6 to 11 p.m., Raleigh Marriott City Center
Attire: Black tie optional, creative attire welcome.
Honorary Chairs: Dan and Fairley Bell Cook
Co-chairs: Melissa Matton and Angela Kuo

Gala Fast Facts
– 170 original works of art, all donated by artists who support VAE’s programs.
– Featured artist is Nancy Hughes Miller.
– Special Exhibition: For the Love of Cake – for all the aspiring culinary artists and Cake Boss fans.
– 50 + community sponsors.
Preview the art here on flickr.


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