Sarah Cohen uses many materials but mainly works in glass to investigate the everyday American experience in the 21st century. She's been experimenting with art, materiality, and perception from a very young age. We visited her home-based studio on a classically humid Pittsburgh summer day to learn more about what she's working on right now.
Where are you from?
I am from a very, very diverse place in New Jersey called Freehold, NJ. It’s on the shore and there’s probably a mall every 5 minutes. So everything was a consumer culture. It’s a very hustle bustle place. Everyone works in New York City. Everyone’s parents work in New York City and they commute.
What neighborhood do you live in now?
Why do you choose to make art in Pittsburgh?
Pittsburgh Glass Center, for one, was the biggest pull just because of the studio access and the space accommodations for people who work there as staff. Also, the artists who do work at the glass center was a major draw for me. Everyone is so supportive here. When I started working as a Technical Apprentice, I was overwhelmed by the support when I had questions about anything. Also, the affordability…although, I shouldn’t even say that because I don’t want people to know because then it’ll become a major city and I won’t be able to make work here anymore.
Also, the history of the city is really cool with art and sculpture.
What is your favorite part of being an artist in Pittsburgh?
The community that I have built up around myself here. I used to live in Boston and I just didn’t have the same kind of community as I do here. So, for sure, it’s the resources I have here. I love the museums. Also, just how approachable everyone is here. If you wanted to have a studio visit with someone, you could just call them up. There’s no “I’m better than you” kind of feeling.
What would you love to see more of in the Pittsburgh arts scene?
More collaboration. And more community gatherings for artists. I also just joined Chatham’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship and I was blown away by the resources they have for starting your own business. And it just really made me think that artists need something like that- collaboration with not only artists but with non-artists in business.
What’s your favorite music to jam to in the studio?
Right now, I really like Kurt Vile, although he’s a little depressing. So I’ve been switching it off between Kurt Vile and Odessa. I’m really into kind of strange electronic music.
What other things do you do when you are not making art…that is, IF you have any free time?
If I’m not making art, I’m always doing something that will feed into it somehow. Like looking at how I can improve my business, either through marketing or looking at what banks will serve me best. This is literally what I do in my free time- I don’t really have much, so it’s always focused on how I can improve my business. Even if that means going to the park and picking flowers to use for my work. I’ve made a lot of friends around the neighborhood because I want their flowers when they die. Also, just going to exhibits like the new Ai Wei Wei exhibit to fuel inspiration.
What would you tell other artists who are just starting out?
This is hard but I don’t think I’ve ever been happier in my whole life. I don’t have the identity that I used to have that was ‘museum assistant’ and that is ok. It’s just a hard road but it will all work out in the end, because if you put your passions first, there’s nothing that can beat your passions, even money. So, stick with it!
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