Nevada artist finalist for statue

An Elko woman is the only Nevadan among four finalists in a competition to create a statue of Sarah Winnemucca for display in the National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C.

Sarah Sweetwater is an art instructor at Great Basin College in Elko and a Nevada resident since 1967.

The 63-year-old has sculptures in several public locations, including a six-and-a-half-ton stone and metal sculpture she did for the River Walk that was later moved into a Reno courthouse and 9-ton granite monument on the Elko County Courthouse.

The other finalists named on Wednesday are Gareth Curtiss of Olympia, Wash., Ed Dwight of Denver and Benjamin Victor of Aberdeen, S.D.

The four were selected from among 16 people who sent applications to the statue selection committee.

The selections were based on the artist's qualifications and their ability to complete the project.

Each of the four sculptors will create a scale model of what they propose and make a presentation to the committee on Feb. 20, 2004.

"I'm very excited to be nominated," Sweetwater said Wednesday.

Sweetwater is from Texas and had her name changed in 1988 to that of her hometown.

"If I'd known how expensive it would be I might not have done it," she said. "They even amend your birth certificate. But I loved the name and I felt it was right the minute I walked out of the courtroom."

She has been an art teacher at Elko's Great Basin College since 1971, two years after it opened.

"I taught art in the boys locker room in the old grammar school," she said.

She works in bronze and marble and studied in Italy in 1988 during a year's sabbatical.

"I had eight tons of marble shipped to my house in Elko," she said. "When the movers arrived, they asked me where I wanted my rock."

Sweetwater said she has a special feeling for Sarah Winnemucca from her research on the Paiute princess.

"I have a passion for Sarah Winnemucca," she said. "I've been working on the sculpture, and through that work I've come to know and understand what she's about."

Sweetwater said her work on the statue is helping her picture her subject.

"As you are working there is something magic that happens with artists, things are revealed to us," she said. "It feels like Sarah Winnemucca has inspired me to create the piece of her."

Sweetwater said Sarah Winnemucca requires bronze to portray correctly.

"The detail of the beading in her dress to show her in full regalia will require bronze," she said.


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