Sarah Hamilton (City Councillor, MAVCS 2013)

Visual and Critical Studies
Sarah Hamilton Headshot

Describe your path since graduating from SAIC, and what you're doing today.

Shortly after graduating, I had the opportunity to work for the Alberta Minister of Health and found the work dynamic and rewarding. Following that, I ended up working with Team Trudeau in advance of the 2015 Federal Election. Through a series of elections, I met people in my community, learned to organize and learned how government passed laws and made important changes. Understanding these processes had me hooked on governance and politics. in 2016, one of my friends asked me to run for city council, and I saw how I as a young person in our community could make a difference.


Describe how VCS has impacted where you are today.

I never would have described myself as someone who was interested in public life. I did my MAVCS thesis on internet memes surrounding the 2012 US presidential election, and through that I was introduced into political organizing and campaigning.  I found the type of thinking practiced in VCS, the ability to see connections between seemingly unrelated ideas, has served me extremely well in government, and helped me find solutions when others may not see the pathway. This is the reason I felt I needed to remain involved in government and politics -- so many people involved come from a very few fields (law or political science for example), and you rarely encounter someone from a fine arts or critical studies background, yet those perspectives are quite necessary at the decision-making table.


What is the most memorable experience you have from your time in VCS? 

As part of my research in 2012, I volunteered with the Obama for America re-election campaign. This gave me first hand insight into organizing efforts in Chicago, and I ultimately found myself at the election night events with the Obama campaign. It was a pretty surreal experience that I'm not sure I would have pursued if I hadn't been a part of the VCS program.


Describe what VCS students might expect from the program.

Looking back on my time in Chicago, I would describe VCS as an intellectual bootcamp. I found the program rigorous and challenging but the open-ended nature of the program -- you're not studying a "what", but a "how"-- prepared me for the open-ended nature of governance. Being allowed to pursue your own area of interest, and do your own research made me comfortable in approaching real-life challenges, because I learned the skills to address them. The safe environment that you work in allows you the confidence to see your ideas fail. Ideas fail in real life, but having the ability to see your way through that failure and to persist with an idea to eventually make it successful is an enduring life skill.


What do you wish you had known when you were still in VCS?

This program has such a diverse range of graduates because it allows you to purse your own interests and not be confined to a discipline. I have found myself around the table with lawyers, economists, CEOs, artists and activists and am able to hold my own in conversation because I graduated from such an intellectually challenging and diverse program. VCS taught me that being vulnerable to your own limitations is not weakness, it's a sign of strength of character. This allows emotional and intellectual growth, and ultimately makes you a better leader. Isn't that what our world needs right now?


Disclaimer: All work represents the views of the INDIVIDUAL ARTISTS & AUTHORS who created them, and are not those of the school or museum of the Art Institute.