Sally Bowring: Arts Missionary 

Women in the Arts

If Sally Bowring won the lottery tomorrow, she'd spend all her time holed up in her North Side studio creating her trademark large, abstract oil paintings. But until that happens, Bowring will have to content herself with what she considers the next best thing: spreading the gospel of the arts.

"I like being an art missionary," she says. "This is something I can put my heart and soul into. I like explaining what art is to people who don't think it's valuable in their lives."

Most recently, Bowring has been doing this as the public art coordinator for the city of Richmond. In this position she administers the city's 1 Percent for the Arts Program in which a percentage of the budget of any new city building must be devoted to public art.

"Public art really sets the identity of a city," Bowring says. "We have some extraordinary public art on Monument Avenue, but that's it. ... Public art can really be a great way to link areas [of the city] together."

While Bowring is excited about choosing public art for sites such as the police department's 2nd Precinct, the Richmond Ambulance Authority and Pine Camp, she has hopes that under her watch, the public art commission will become more proactive.

Another of Bowring's missionary duties is teaching four art classes at VCU, where she has taught as an adjunct faculty member for 18 years. "I can't think of anything better to do than going in and talking with a bunch of students about painting," she says. "The next generation of artists is very important to me."

While some may describe Bowring as nurturing, she says she just plain cares about the thriving art community she discovered after moving here from her native Manhattan in 1980. She cared as director of 1708 gallery from 1996-99, and in the variety of positions she held during her 10-year tenure with the Arts Council from 1986 to '96.

And then of course there's her painting, Bowring's raison d'ˆtre. She grabs every spare second in the studio she can in-between obligations with the arts commission, and her 14-year-old son's soccer games and other family obligations. But some things are sacred. Bowring has christened Saturday "a religious day of painting" to make sure her painting never gets overlooked. "I really believe that art is what remains," she

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