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In Memoriam - Sara O'Sullivan

Posted on October 12, 2018

A native of Northern California, Sara O’Sullivan was born in Sacramento on September 27, 1966. She soon moved to San Francisco and began attending CE in 1991, originally at the 16th Street location. O’Sullivan was a dynamic presence in the studio, and her utter fearlessness in talking to strangers—inside and outside Creativity Explored—had earned her the nickname of “The Mayor of 16th Street.” O’Sullivan left this world peacefully on September 18, 2018.

O’Sullivan was well versed in both drawing and painting media and was most recently been making multimedia work on wood panels. Her whimsical portraits, both human and animal, are recognizable by their characteristically lively lines and expressions. O’Sullivan’s jubilant nature is expressed in her dynamic, energetic artwork.

In 2005 O'Sullivan was one of the first CE artists to participate in an integrated work program in the studio, spending part of her day performing paid work activity as an employee of Creativity Explored. In 2008 O’Sullivan was one of four artists chosen by Recchiuti Confections, one of our community arts partners, to adorn their Artisan Series of chocolates. In 2010 she moved over to our second studio in Potrero Hill to continue her artistic practice. Over the years she contributed to, and participated in, many exhibitions inside CE and outside of CE.

To read Sara’s obituary click here.

A memorial service for Sara’s friends, family, and community will take place at 11:00 am on Saturday, November 3, 2018 at:

St. Brendan the Navigator
29 Rockaway Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94127


A personal remembrance by Francis Kohler, Studio Manager: 

When I first started volunteering at Creativity Explored in 1994, the CE artist I worked most closely with was Sara O’ Sullivan. She (along with fellow CE artist, Tonya Lewis) formed a kind of mischievous tag team, playfully stealing my wallet or untying the strings on my apron whenever they had a chance. In an art studio of over 50 artists, I don’t recall exactly how Sara and I came together in the shared adventure that is artmaking—but I do remember, at some point, encouraging her to create work that incorporated autobiographical source material (verbal accounts, reproductions of family photos, etc.). I was just as interested in witnessing Sara’s acts of creation as I was in learning more about her—not just as an artist—but as a person too.  Less than two years later (after I became a full-time employee at CE) that nascent connection evolved. Sara—incrementally but steadily—was becoming considerably more than an artist I would occasionally mentor; she was becoming a member of an extended family.

In addition to the incredible art, one of the striking qualities of CE is we’re not just an art program. We’re an art community—an art family even. I think many of my co-workers would agree that the interconnections that flourish between everyone here—whether it’s staff, artists, volunteers, or visitors—are of an exceptionally uncommon variety. Naturally, with that amount of familial closeness there often follows a proportionate measure of mourning when we lose a member of our CE family. Sara was without a doubt a dynamic, charming, and unforgettable member of our family (and if you knew her; your family too).

That’s just one of the reasons Sara will be missed by so many of us.

Francis Kohler

Sara, Francis, and Tonya

Sara O'Sullivan, Francis Kohler, and Tonya Lewis at CE2 Potrero Hill Studio


A personal remembrance by Amy Auerbach, former Gallery Manager:

I had the pleasure of knowing and working with Sara O'Sullivan for many years at CE. She had a strong streak of curiosity—usually for other peoples lives! Each time I saw her she would inquire about each member of my family, each of the employees of my husband’s business, and each of my pets. In my kitchen are cherished portraits of my cats past and present that Sara made over the years for me.

Ask anyone that knew her and they will tell you her memory was incredible. She knew the names of every Muni driver in SF, every van driver and which route each artist was on. None of us were spared her steel-trap memory at CE. She knew something about everyone- other artists, staff and customers. And when she would see you she would repeat that fact back to you or call you by the name she made up for you. Yes, she could be nosey, gossipy and frankly, a pain in the butt sometimes but that is what made her Sara. You could never be mad at her because she genuinely cared for you and the details of your life.  It was a pleasure having her in my life.

Amy Auerbach

Cats by Sara O'Sullivan

Cats by Sara O'Sullivan on display at Amy Auerbach's home

Sara with a sample rug design for CB2
Sara and Peaches Christ with her portrait of the drag queen
Untitled (Dog) by Sara O'Sullivan, 2009, mixed media on paper
Church Lady by Sara O'Sullivan, 2009, watercolor on paper
Milk by Sara O'Sullivan, 2016, mixed media sculpture, 16 x 7.75 x 8 inches
1995 Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile, 2011, graphite and watercolor on paper, 8.5 x 14 inches
Lung by Sara O'Sullivan, 2015, acrylic on paper
Untitled (Bird) by Sara O'Sullivan, 2009, oil pastel on paper
Dance Hall Dayz by Sara O'Sullivan, 2009, acrylic on paper
Happy Skeleton by Sara O'Sullivan, 2011, acrylic and ink on paper, 20 x 15.75

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