Saige Baxter is one of the most badass women in this city, and one of Pittsburgh’s best underlying artists, and it’s time everybody knew her name. Strong and confident, she’s humble with her work and outspoken with her opinions, and will almost always greet you with a warm smile and big hug.
A native to the city, Saige attended school at Seton Hill University and Richmond in Italy being trained as a painter. However, it was a sculpture class at Seton Hill that turned Saige on to her current artistic focus. “It was new, exciting and dangerous, which drew me in,” she shared about her first experience with welding in the class. She described her style as linear with patterns and repetitive structure, with the frequent use of gold as a tribute to her love of the Byzantine style. At 20 years old, she received her first public sculpture commission: a 1,000-pound memorial for Jennings Womack located in Greensburg. “That was the pivotal moment for my career. I would have never had the chance to create this memorial without Ray Charley [the man who commissioned the project] believing that a college kid was capable of doing it.”
Saige also has a piece in the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, and just returned from a six-week trip to Portugal to create a sculpture for Messejana Village, which she was able to do through the Buinho Artist Residency program. With the purpose of designing and fabricating a permanent public sculpture – her first-ever international piece – for the community, she revealed a beautiful golden installation inspired by the crown worn by Lady Fatima, a worshipped woman in Catholicism in Portugal. “I spent my time diving into their culture and building relationships with the locals. It was such an incredible experience for both my art career and personal growth,” Saige recalled of her time there.
An artist for the people, her art is meant to be very personal to the community that it affects, just as it is personal to her. She said:
As a public artist, community fuels me. Every public piece I create is designed around the community’s needs or wants. Over the past few years I’ve learned that an artist cannot just push their way into a neighborhood. It is vital for artists to first see if they are invited, then take the time to understand the people and update the community during the project. Always listen to the people.
Her newest works in progress are going to be local, within city limits. Teaming up with the Deparment of Public Works and the Public Art and Civic Design Division, Saige is working on a project for the Art in Parks program which will put up two of her sculptures behind the Forbes and Braddock playground in Frick Park, which are set to be unveiled in Fall of this year. “I’m really excited for this project! Before creating my design, I surveyed neighborhood locals and park staff to better understand why Frick Park is important to Pittsburghers,” Saige explained, noting that all of her public sculptures are interactive, so as to invite children and adults alike to be a part of art in a natural environment.
Saige is off to a fiery start, constantly doing big things every time I see her. However she did note that her success isn’t how it happens for all artists; not all artists are given the same opportunities and resources, and so artists must be self-reliant, but also supportive of others. “Every artist struggles, so you have to be your own motivation in order to succeed. Artists are also a team; so work together if you see a fellow artist struggling, then help lift them back up. You will never stop failing, and you should never stop learning,” she said, also adding, “To the young female artists out there: don’t be afraid to break stereotypes, cross lines and push boundaries.”
Saige would like to give a special thanks to Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council for professional development support from the Artist Opportunity Grant program. Follow her Instagram @saigebaxter!
Photos by Nicolette Kalafatis