Robeson County retired educator hopes to inspire other Black artists

By Kerria Weaver

Sandi Carter’s personality is shown in her artwork, which uses muted tones of color and circles to illustrate life cycles.

After teaching art for nearly three decades in the Robeson County school district, Carter still focuses on her creativity. Her work is on display at Robeson Community College during Black History Month. 

The Border Belt Independent recently spoke with Carter, who grew up in Cincinnati, about her experience as an artist and how she was able to turn her passion into a career. Her responses have been edited for clarity and brevity. 

What made you interested in being an artist? 

I grew up in a family where I was always doing or was around art. In high school, I really developed the notion that I was going to be an artist when I grew up, and I was really lucky. 

My high school had three art teachers, and it was a small school of about 500 kids. One taught drawing and painting, one taught ceramics and textiles, and then one teacher taught mill metal works. She did enameling so we were able to work with metal. In high school, I learned how to solder with pewter and silver and copper, and I fell in love with that process. 

I went to art school in Rhode Island, then I got married, had kids and when I moved to North Carolina I decided to get a degree in art education. At what was then Pembroke State University I majored in printmaking. I love printmaking, like silkscreen, and etching and lithography.

What was it like to be an art teacher in Robeson County? 

I got my first teaching job in Lumberton High School and I taught there for 10 years. I absolutely loved teaching high school kids. They were fun to work with and they did some amazing work. I even had a student who won a national award. 

In 2004, the school district had a position for the arts education supervisor. They supervise the whole arts program for the county, including music, theater, dance, and visual arts. I got really convinced to apply for the job, because I never foresaw leaving high school. I stayed in that job for 18 years until I retired Aug. 1.

Why is it so important for children to have access to art classes?

It’s important because kids develop confidence when they’re able to create things. If they’re given an art project there’s no wrong or right answer. The thing about art is we give directions, we get certain supplies, but basically everybody has the opportunity to take those things and make what they want to make. If you never got to make a choice in your life, by the time you get to be older, you don’t know how to do it. Being able to make choices and decisions yourself – that’s something that we have to develop, and art is a great vehicle to do that.

Sandi Carter uses clay to create her artwork.
Contributed photo

What inspires you to create art? 

For most artists, including myself, I think we all have something that’s inside us that we have to communicate, whether it’s thoughts on a theme, or even to deal with personal issues. Art has been my vehicle to kind of work through all that, and say things in a visual way that I can’t even verbalize to somebody, like growing up as a child, or just the process of being a mother.

How does your art represent you as a person?

It represents my personality. I’m a very layered and quiet person, but if I need to be, I can be talkative and loud. My color choices are in that moodiness of quietness. I’ve never been a person who likes really big bold colors. I love circles because circles kind of represent this whole cycle of life and seasons. I do a lot of broken dotted and line circles to represent how we all kind of go through cycles. Sometimes they’re not these perfect circles. We have blips in our life, but that doesn’t mean we still don’t complete those cycles. I think those little pauses in a circle make us who we are, they make us stronger. 

What does it mean to have your work displayed during Black History Month?

It’s great. In this area, there probably are quite a few Black artists. For the longest I was the only Black art teacher in this county. We had Black music teachers, but we didn’t have any Black art teachers, except me. To be a part of this makes me feel really proud that I could show the work that I do, and show the community that there are Black artists in our community. It represents both my Korean and my Black culture. I like to be a role model for other young people, especially up and coming young Black artists.

Sandi Carter’s artwork is on display at Robeson County Community College during Black History Month.
Contributed photo