If you’ve ever been involved with the classes and programs at the Art School over the past three years, chances are you also encountered Sarah Smith. Previously a graphic designer and exhibition coordinator at the Art School, she’s now the studio program manager on the Learning and Engagement team.

What’s it like working at the Art School? “It’s never boring, it’s always fun,” Smith says. “You always meet new people with a lot of different interests who just really love art and that’s why they come every day.”

When asked about her favorite piece in the museum, Smith heads right toward our Impressionism and Post-Impressionism Gallery to Wheat Field by Vincent van Gogh. “This piece was part of my first beginnings here in Honolulu.” Coming from a family of coffee farmers on the Big Island, Smith grew up in a family that worked hard and also valued having artistic outlets. Her father woodworked and her mother did ikebana. As a kid, Smith’s mom used to set up a small table with art supplies for her to play with. Naturally, she moved to Honolulu to study graphic design at the University of Hawai‘i and had a bucket list of seeing art by masters like van Gogh. As with any BFA, she was told to head to HoMA and check out the art. As she walked through the galleries admiring the art, she spotted the van Gogh and broke down into tears.

“I actually never thought I’d see a van Gogh in my life, just growing up on a coffee farm where traveling and seeing famous pieces of art by famous artists aren’t really things,” she said. 

“That was my first interaction with the museum, coming here for class, seeing this and being like, ‘Wow this place made one of my dreams come true to see a van Gogh,'” she continued. She loves the depiction of golden wheatfields because the rural landscape reminds her of her family’s farm. “I love how he captured it and just beautified it,” Smith said.