Watercolorist & photographer Sarah Marie Hawkins develops nonprofit to support Sacramento artists

I have walked past the 2110 Gallery countless times, but sadly have never seen past the sculpture garden and central showroom (shame on me!). On a Thursday afternoon, I finally indulged in all the incredible gems this space holds. The gallery offers room after room of specialized artist territories—each acting as an almost too personal feeling—and a glimpse into the minds of each painter, photographer or director. At the very end of the hallway, an immaculately white room is adorned with blotches of watercolors, beautiful drips of pale colors and bold black lines. This is the mind of painter and photographer Sarah Marie Hawkins.

The artist completely fits her work: she is a splash of color to any blazingly white room. Her presence itself is a full representation of the color spectrum. And she’s using that charm to become a godmother of sorts to other fledgling Sacramento artists.

Just a few years ago, the 25-year-old was going to college in Santa Clara, studying to be a teacher and working an entry-level position at Google. Bogged down by the books, and deciding it really was killing her art mojo, Hawkins started dabbling in photography and focusing more on aesthetically creative endeavors. Soon after, she was a professional photographer.

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“As soon as I knew it, I was in the same spot I was at before,” she says. “You hit a point where your art becomes your career. You’re left with no outlet.”

From there, she took it a step further and began working with a local nonprofit, where she had the opportunity to deeply connect with other artists as a curator. At this time she was solely a photographer. “An extremely beautiful yet expensive habit,” she says.

A mere two years ago, while constantly working around other inspiring painters, Sarah realized a passion for watercolors, and with quite a bit of trial and error behind the scenes, she honed her skills as an emerging painter. “I would stay up all night painting and completely lose track of time. It all just happened.”

Her work pays a lovely homage to femininity. Everything is light and whimsical, from the wisps of color in the featured woman’s hair, to the pale blue blotches of color that streams from her eyes. A personal favorite is a piece that shows two girls united by a balloon connecting their lifted ponytails, a piece that symbolizes the awesomeness of two friends being able to feel lifted in the presence of each other.

“I have tried to paint male figures, but in all honestly, they just didn’t do it for me,” she says. “The female figure is so intriguing. Men were just pieces of paper and paint to me.”

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A constant in Sarah’s pieces is the use of branches. The branches usually grow wildly entangled out of a woman’s head, intertwining with her hair and existing beyond the woman herself. “A huge discovery was learning that you are never rooted to just one thing,” says Sarah. “A lot of these things represent the feeling of growth. There is continuity throughout them, especially the branch pieces.”

With this, Sarah somewhat outgrew the nonprofit she was working for, even denying a stable and well-paying job offer. She explains, “I felt like as an artist, I had this vision of what I wanted when it came to helping artists share their art. I was grateful for what I learned with the non-profit, but I also saw so many things I felt that I could do, and that I needed to do to help other artists.”

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This is when Sarah Marie Hawkins started her new venture: become the fairy godmother to our town’s struggling artists with her very own nonprofit, Menagerie.

Menagerie will do a series of pop-up shows with dozens of different artist in different locations, or as Sarah puts it, “A circus of random things put together.”

Menagerie hopes to eliminate much of the business-type burdens that plague an artist while preparing for a show. “If you are taking $200 from 30 artists every month, where the heck is that money going? Stuff like that is what has always made me a bit uncomfortable in the art world, mostly because you often don’t see it actually benefiting the artist.”

Currently, Sarah is presenting the bill for the very first pop-up show for Menagerie on Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at District 30, ”a surprisingly awesome place to have an art show,” she says. “District 30 is super accommodating and very generous with their resources.” With this show, the artist pays no fee, and no commission is taken from a single thing the artist sells.

Essentially the pop-ups held by Menagerie will be a platform for artists to step up and support other artists. At the District 30 event, a photographer has even volunteered to do headshots of all artists for their portfolios for absolutely free.

“I know what it is like and how difficult it is to be a starving artist. But the cool thing about Sacramento is the unique relationship the art community has with each other.” Sarah elaborates. “I have seen a lot of the Bay Area art scene, and it is so cutthroat. It’s extremely competitive and everyone is against each other. Here, you have artists buying work from one another, and coming out to support others’ work. There is so much collaborating for a greater good in the art world. These are artists supporting artists here.”

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The future goal for Menagerie is to eventually expand beyond pop-up shows and establish a gallery space and rotating work space for artists. “My hope is that we can somehow work to utilize someone’s extra space with each pop-up show. I hope that someone can visualize an unoccupied space’s potential and allow us to fill it with art. I seek people in my community to help me accomplish this.”

Fairy Godmother Sarah Marie Hawkins says she gets by in the art world with a little help from her friends.“ If I could generalize what all my pieces are about, it’s just about being consistent and being continuous. They are about never ever grounding yourself to one thing. Always seek what you love and grow with it. I definitely encourage anyone who admires something, to let yourself jump into it. Your art is never going to be somebody else’s art. I always look at other people’s art and think ‘wow, I could NEVER do that!” And I’m right because these pieces that I’ve done are solely me and I’m proud of that and the diversity of work that pours out of my community. Embrace what you have and strive to be yourself is what I’ve always tried to do, and art and the artists of Sacramento inspire me to do this every single day.”

Menagerie’s first pop-up show is May 21, 2014, at District 30. Doors open at 7 p.m., tickets are just $5. For more info, visit