Best Of 2010

Best Local Artist: Sarah Paulsen

Collaboration is a formidable art, as Sarah Paulsen has proven through her distinct community-minded approach. With works that range from the organization of a newly minted annual event — the People's Joy Parade (which celebrates the general, creative effusion of Cherokee Street in tandem with the neighborhood's Cinco de Mayo festivities) and the Chautauqua Art Lab (an annual series of events, lectures and performances involving a wide array of local artists, urbanists and other masters of assorted expertise), Paulsen has minted a unique brand of integrated creativity, equal measures civic-minded and aesthetically carnivalesque. The Washington University MFA grad is a painter by training but a teacher, facilitator and occasional performer by nature. With an irrepressibly affable enthusiasm for bringing together disparate elements with a strong current of faith that they will not merely coalesce but successfully yield something, Paulsen makes things — from a video of an ant circus to a contemporary quilting bee — happen. Past accolades include the successful completion of RAC's CAT Institute, a residency in Lexington, Kentucky, regular arts instruction at a south-side public middle school, collaborative projects with her partner Cameron Fuller at Laumeier Sculpture Park and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (yes, that was Sarah in the bear suit, booty-dancing in the ersatz-historic video installation), and a mural project in Peru. And there seems to be no end in sight to her enthusiastic output: Paulsen was awarded the Critical Mass Creative Stimulus grant this year, with which she is in the process of planning a documentary piece on the 2008 Kirkwood City Council meeting shootings, with the help of local eyewitnesses. Like her paintings — which often include elements that trail off the canvas and onto the floor — there is a sense that whatever she makes will not merely satisfy its purpose on a gallery wall but will eagerly take flight and hit the (St. Louis) streets.

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