Ames native Sarah Grant’s art marks the ISU landscape. Her love of Iowa is captured in the many public works of art exhibited on campus and in her successful business, Sticks, Inc.
Sarah Grant was born in 1953 in Rochester, New York, where her father, John, was in medical school. She moved to Ames, Iowa in second grade and graduated from Ames High School. Following graduation, she enrolled at Colorado State University, but, after a few semesters, decided that she missed Iowa. Grant completed her undergraduate work at the University of Iowa, where she received a BFA in Intaglio Printmaking and Drawing. She stayed at the University of Iowa to pursue graduate work under the instruction of noted Iowa printmakers Mauricio Lasansky and Virginia Myers. She finished at the University of Iowa with a MA in printmaking and a MFA in painting.
Beginning as a young child, Grant was always doing something creative. She loved theater, music, writing, and was always making things. Her father was a beloved doctor in Ames, and her mother, Carol, a stay-at-home mom. Both of them encouraged her to always do what she loved, what made her heart happy. She was exposed to the arts in many different ways throughout her childhood, including elementary school art classes with textile artist Priscilla Sage and participating in Ames Community Theater with longtime arts advocates, Nancy Polster and Carole Horowitz. She was constantly surrounded by creative individuals who encouraged and nurtured her interest in art.
After graduating from college, Grant took on many teaching roles in the arts. She taught painting to children at the Des Moines Art Center and was involved with the Des Moines Public School’s Talented and Gifted Program. In 1980, she was asked to teach drawing at Iowa State University in the department of Art and Design, where she taught for the next ten years. While teaching drawing, she continued to focus her artwork on painting. In October of 1984, she had her first solo exhibition at the Olson-Larsen Galleries in Des Moines. She is still represented by Olson-Larsen Galleries today.
In 1985, Grant was asked to create a wood nativity for a holiday publication of Better Homes and Gardens Decorative Woodcrafts magazine. Originally intimidated at the thought of sculpting in wood, she found comfort in her decision to engrave and paint the wood, two techniques with which she was comfortable. When her nativity was published in the magazine, she was immediately flooded with requests for more. Beginning with the nativity, Grant saw an opportunity for customization with other decorative objects. Her American craft artworks continued to increase in popularity, and as a result of the high demand, in 1992, she incorporated and officially formed the company Sticks. The foundation of the Sticks signature style comes from Grant’s background as a drawer and engraver. The company provided her the opportunity to collaborate with many talented artists, at one time employing 180 artisans to help fulfill customer demand. Today, Sticks is represented by more than 150 galleries nationwide.
Originally Sticks focused on selling custom wood objects, including furniture and decorative art objects specifically designed for home consumers. In the early nineties they branched out to the realm of public art. Sticks’ installation at Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines was a turning point and the foundation for future public art projects. Grant recognized the project was about the users of the space and filled the hospital with positive and uplifting messages from floor to ceiling. She used her story telling approach to provide needed distractions and positive energy to children and families dealing with difficult situations.
At Iowa State, Sticks has significantly impacted the visual aesthetic of the campus and the campus experience through 12 major public art installations including more than 70 individual works of art. Additionally, Grant’s personal art as a painter has contributed 14 paintings to the permanent Art on Campus Collection. In total, no other artist has visually impacted the Iowa State campus to this magnitude. From her first public art project in the Veterinary Medicine Child Care Center in 1996 (My World is So Full of Many Things) to her installation in 2011 that transformed the atrium of the Horticulture building (ISU Horticulture…looking back, looking ahead…cultivating knowledge now), Grant has expressed the deep morals and values of the Iowa State community through her American craft style. She celebrates Iowa State history, customs, traditions, and students through her art and whimsical drawing.
In 2008, Sarah Grant was named Woman Business Owner of the Year at the annual Women of Influence event organized by Business Record magazine to celebrate central Iowa women. She also received an Honorary Alumni Award from the ISU Alumni Association in 2009.
Grant, Sarah. Personal Interview. 07 Nov. 2013.
Business Record. “Women of Influence Complete List of Honorees.” http://www.businessrecord.com/Content/RetailBusiness/RetailBusiness/Article/WomenofInfluenceCompletelistofhonorees/179/854/46668
ISU Alumni Association. “Honorary Alumni Award.” http://www.isualum.org/en/awards/distinguished_awards_celebration/honorary_alumni_award/sarah_grant_2009/
Sticks, Inc. https://sticks.com/