Sarah Rovang, Program Officer

Meet the Staff: Sarah Rovang

August 14, 2020

Tell us a little about yourself. What did you do before joining the Thoma Foundation staff?
After receiving my Ph.D. from Brown University, I taught at the University of Michigan for a few years, and then traveled around the world for a year on a postdoctoral fellowship from the Society of Architectural Historians. Since moving back to New Mexico (where I’m from originally), I’ve held a research fellowship at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe and worked as the Publications Editor for Fresh Art International, a contemporary art podcast.

Can you explain a little bit about the type of work you do at TAF?
As TAF’s Program Officer, I oversee the grantmaking arm of the Foundation. That means not only administering existing initiatives, but also putting forth new programs and developing innovative grants. I also think about how we communicate our grantmaking goals to the public and how we attract prospective grantees to apply.

The Foundation provides grants and awards to individuals and organizations that provide insights into the fields of art which we collect. What has been the biggest challenge so far in working with such diverse grant and award requests? The biggest reward?
On any given day, I might be thinking about funding a big museum initiative, a scrappy nonprofit startup, and awarding an individual fellowship in a particular art historical subfield. There’s a lot to learn, since our collecting areas are so diverse in terms of geography, chronology, and media! But the payoff is very high—TAF’s focus on entrepreneurship extends to its grantmaking approaches, and it’s exciting to be part of the process of researching and creating new grants.

Do you have a favorite piece of artwork in the collection?
My current favorite is Refik Anadol’s Machine Hallucinations — Study 1 (2019). In my training as an architectural historian, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the deep structures and patterns that pervade the built environment. Anadol’s machine learning algorithm generates new architectural designs based on almost three million images Gothic and Renaissance cathedrals. It’s positively hypnotic.

Where is your favorite place to see art in the Santa Fe area?
If I’m in a maximalist mood, I love to take in the Girard Wing at the Museum of International Folk Art. I spot something new every time I visit! If I’m feeling more minimalist, a visit to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum never disappoints.

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