Sarah Mottalini, Union’s curatorial assistant of art collections and exhibitions, was exposed to art at a young age. Her parents often took her and her brother to museums, and there were always voluminous art supplies around the house to stir her creativity and imagination.
“As a child, I was mostly interested in making books and drawing horses,” she says. “Neither of my parents is artistic, but my dad played trumpet, and my brother is a photographer.”
It was as at Boston University where Mottalini felt the pull of the art world more intensely.
“My first year, I took an amazing University Professors Program (UNI) art history course, taught by an emeritus professor. I took it by accident really; another course I had wanted to enroll in was full, and they let me in. After that, I changed my major from English.”
The rest, as they say, is art history.
At Union, Mottalini curates and produces all exhibitions in the Wikoff Student Gallery and assists with all Mandeville Gallery exhibitions and programming. She also has curated numerous shows in Schaffer Library and manages the College’s Permanent Art Collection.
Before joining the College a decade ago, she held positions in urban and university galleries, as well as at the renowned Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass. For several years, she worked in the photography field in New York City. She is also an artist who draws, paints and makes artists’ books, and she has exhibited her works in New York and other states.
Meanwhile, the passion for horses she cultivated as a child who loved to draw remains strong. “It’s something I hope to be able to pass down to my young daughter someday,” she says.
FIRST APP YOU LOOK AT IN THE MORNING:
The weather channel. I don’t know how we survived growing up without this, and having to rely on only the morning news on the TV or the outdoor thermometer to go on. I need “hourly!”
ONE BOOK YOU HAVE READ MULTIPLE TIMES:
“Divisidero” by Michael Ondaatje. I’ve read most of his books. My other favorites are “Coming Through Slaughter” and “In the Skin of a Lion.” I have also read WG Sebald’s “The Rings of Saturn” many times. I prefer writing that combines prose, poetry and non-fiction. Ondaatje’s books are so full of well-researched historical details that they feel true, but at the same time, his perceptive prose is philosophical.
BEST ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED:
If someone tells you something or gives you advice, it is important to check in with yourself and ask: Is this true for me? Does it align with my values and with my experience?
FAVORITE SPOT ON CAMPUS:
There are so many beautiful niches where the landscaping grabs your attention that I often have garden envy as I walk around campus. But my favorite new spot would have to be the pollinator garden corridor, which is sandwiched between ISEC and Steinmetz Hall. I hope there will be many more eco-conscious plantings like this in the future.
Coffee and chocolate
I have a long commute, which allows me to listen to podcasts every day. “EquiRatings” sounds dry, but it is actually very funny and keeps me up to date with all the goings on in international equestrian three-day “Eventing” competitions (where a single horse and rider compete against others in dressage, cross-country and show jumping). A close second, but probably my true favorite due to its wisdom, though sadly no longer active, is “In the Spirit of Horse.” I also listen to “Alternative Radio” (Boulder, Colo.) as much as they post.
ONE SKILL YOU WISH YOU HAD:
I would love to find the time to become a certified wildlife rehabilitator. I’ve rescued so many birds over the years but would love to be able to help small mammals and birds of prey. I used to live near a woman who rehabbed coyotes!
LITTLE KNOWN FACT ABOUT YOU:
I love classic cars. My first car was a ’74 Beetle, which was followed by a ’73 Corvair Monza.
THREE DINNER PARTY GUESTS (living or deceased):
My great grandfather who walked down to Maine from Québec and was a farrier who raced his trotter on the frozen Androscoggin River; Caravaggio because his art and life were so fascinating; and the Greek philosopher Xenophon, who wrote an early and surprisingly compassionate treatise on how to train horses.
The Beach Boys when I was 7, at Lake Compounce, an amusement park in Bristol, Conn.