Open Spaces, Open Minds

Sarah Buckius Roles & Biography

Founder Open Spaces, Open Minds, Chief Creative Officer of The Epicenter

Insatiably curious, Sarah Buckius always loved two things: engaging in observation and play in the natural world and making things. Her parents thought she might be an entomologist or biologist when she was a child because she spent her time playing with insects and slugs, observing and catching frogs, building tree-forts, digging in the mud, and even building trust with ground squirrels to the point that she was able to pick them up. As a child, she loved acting in plays to be filmed by camera, instigating absurd enactments that always included groups of friends or classmates performing cockamamy shenanigans. Always a math and science lover, she loved solving problems and asking questions about the world. Also an art-lover, she gravitated towards any project that involved creation of any form, from videos to drawings and paintings.

She began her adult career by studying mechanical engineering because of her love of solving problems, making things, math, and science. After finishing her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, she still felt there were problems to be solved that weren’t quite within the scope of traditional engineering realm. She studied Industrial Design at UIUC because the problems she wanted to solve related to helping people and she felt this approach would be closer to her goals. Discovering the interdisciplinary M.F.A. program at The University of Michigan, she discovered that she gravitated toward a place that valued the bridging of disciplines. Here, she made everything from wearable sculpture and installations to photography and video. Rediscovering her love of performance for the camera from her childhood, she finished her thesis by reenacting the roles she played in her past and obtained her M.F.A. from The University of Michigan, Ann-Arbor.

In graduate school, she also discovered that she loved teaching in a way that helps guide students to create artwork and designs that respond to questions that are important to them and helped facilitate a learning space that encouraged problem-solving tailored to each student. Very passionate about teaching art & design, she taught art, photography, digital media, video at various schools, as a Lecturer at The University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University, and Washtenaw Community College. Her classes encouraged experimentation and problem-solving as a means by which students developed their own voice through their work. She took a one-year position as an Assistant Professor at Michigan State University and taught photography to college students of all levels. She moved to South Carolina for a short time and taught the Art History component of an interdisciplinary class at Augusta State University, as a lecturer. This course further cemented her interest in education in an interdisciplinary context.

While teaching, she continued to make artwork. As part of the collaborative team, The ManosBuckius Cooperative, The MBC, she works with Melanie Manos to make videos of performances that seek to reveal absurdities and contradictions in everyday systems through playful, humorous labor that is very productive, while being simultaneously unproductive. Through their videos, they construct and deconstruct systems of objects with a sense of humor that connects back to her childhood engagement in video creation.

Her own creative work includes performances for the camera that are about the roles she has played in her life and take a playful, absurd perspective. Sometimes she feels trapped inside the digital world of the screen. Sometimes, she notices the absurdity of the everyday actions she performs. She is constantly building and rebuilding with objects. And even building with human bodies to tell stories about how people feel.

After having three daughters, she began examining the role of women in contemporary society through her artwork and education projects. She established a project to create new myths about “Women & Innovation” through making projects for children. The projects incorporate stories of historical women role-models (with an emphasis on American Minorities) using art-making, engineering, and storytelling called “Kids R Feminist Makers”.

Her latest creative work is about “Mothers & Innovation”, specifically how technology impacts women their lives and how mothers CAN innovate to impact technologies with an emphasis on caregiving for people and the world.

Sarah’s creative work, both individual and collaborative, has been exhibited in video and art festivals nationally and internationally. Notable video screenings include: The State of The Art: Accademia di Romania in Roma (Rome, Italy), InsideOut Step2: White Box Museum of Art (Beijing, China), SIMULTAN #6: Past Continuous, Future Perfect | (Timisoara, Romania), Visions in the Nunnery: Nunnery Gallery (London, UK), EXiS 2010 International Film & Video Festival (Seoul, Korea), Images Contre Nature 2011: P’Silo International Experimental Video Festival (Marseille, France), and AC Institute Rotating Video Project (New York, NY).

Prior to having children, Sarah volunteered at Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, (MAH), in downtown Santa Cruz, leading groups of elementary school students in hands-on art and history activities. She also worked at Scotts Valley Recreation Program as a leader of after school programs for elementary school children. In both of these contexts, Sarah learned that she was passionate about education for children in a hands-on, workshop-style space.”

As Chief Creative Officer of The Epicenter, Sarah works to empower children through development of creative experiences that help children explore themselves and the world. In this role, she gets to be herself ALL DAY, playing in nature with children, asking 1,000,000,000 questions, and building and making things, while sharing in this empowering experience with others, especially children.