Spring Campaign Artist Spotlight: Sarah LaPointe
Sasha LaPointe is from the Upper Skagit and Nooksack Indian Tribe. Native to the Pacific Northwest, she draws inspiration from her coastal heritage as well as from her life in Seattle. She writes with a focus on trauma and resilience, ranging topics from PTSD, sexual violence, the work her great grandmother did for the Coast Salish language revitalization, to loud basement punk shows and what it means to grow up mixed heritage. She has completed a memoir in which she explores the aftermath of sexual assault, first love, and drawing strength from her lineage. Her work has appeared in Hunger Mountain, The Rumpus Literary Journal, Indian Country Today, Luna Luna Magazine, The Yellow Medicine Review, The Portland Review, AS/Us Journal, THE Magazine, and Aborted Society Online Zine. She has recently graduated with an MFA through The Institute of American Indian Arts with a focus on creative nonfiction and poetry.
We interviewed Sasha about her relationship with risk and with Artist Trust, and about her hopes for artists in Washington State. Learn more about Sasha and her work here.
How did you first find out about Artist Trust? What was compelling to you about the work of Artist Trust?
I first found out about Artist Trust through my friend and mentor Elissa Washuta after she had been awarded a grant. She brought me as her plus one to the anniversary party where she read. I was immediately so thrilled to be in the company of so many other Seattle-based artists. I found the community of artists, all varying in age and discipline and all in different stages of their careers, most compelling.
What has Artist Trust support meant to you? In addition to funding, how has the AT community been meaningful or beneficial to you, and to other Washington State artists?
Support from Artist Trust has meant such a great deal more than simply funding. As an emerging artist, the funding of course is necessary and I have an immense gratitude for the financial support. But it’s so much more than that. Support from Artist Trust has made me feel seen, heard and taken seriously as an indigenous woman and a writer. For me it means people are listening, interested in what I have to say, and believe in the work that I’m doing.
This spring, we’re focusing on the role of risk in artistic practice. What has risk meant to you?
Risk is what happens every time I come to the page. For me, I take risks in the truths that I am exploring within my work, regarding my own personal narrative. Whether it takes the form of personal essay, memoir, or poetry, my vulnerability and my experiences as a survivor are always present. To explore themes around indigenous identity, trauma, PTSD, colonization, and survival is absolutely a risk, and it’s one that I take every time I delve into a new project.
What do you need to be able to take risks in your practice?
In order to take these risks, to make myself vulnerable and honest in my writing, I need to know that someone is reading, listening, and engaging. I need to trust that the emotional work that I do, necessary in writing my story, is supported. I need to feel that as an indigenous woman my voice matters, that I’m heard and not invisible. I need to feel validated in order to fight against the silence that I’ve been conditioned to. In simply knowing that a panel of judges read the opening of my memoir and believed in the strength of my sentences enough to select my project for funding, is reassuring. It’s evidence that the risks I’m taking are worth it.
How does support from Artist Trust and other organizations/communities make risk possible for you?
The funding provides me with the time necessary to rewrite and revise, or to start the draft of something new. To dedicate so much or yourself and to pour yourself into something so fully without the certainty of its success is such a huge risk. Artist Trust helps to remind me that people are interested in the work that I’m creating, and believe in it. That helps me take risks.
What are your hopes for the future of artists in Washington State?
My hope is that Washington artists continue to get the support they deserve. It’s hard out here in the world trying to make it as an artist. It’s my hope that we continue to hold each other up, as we create, as we pour blood sweat and tears into the work we love, as we go to our day jobs, support our families, pay our bills, that we are able to have a sense of community and feel like the work we’re doing matters.
What would you say to someone who is considering a gift to Artist Trust?
As you consider making a gift to Artist Trust I would hope you consider the last really beautiful book you read, or poem, or the last piece of art you saw, visual, literary, music, or performance that moved you. And try to remember that intense gratitude you might have felt for this one piece of beauty, and know that that feeling is what we as artists experience knowing that our work has moved you in some way, and help us keep creating.
Washington State artists like Sasha depend on taking risks, but making the jump requires a strong safety net. That’s where we can make a difference. Join our spring fundraising campaign now and support the future of artists across Washington State.