As we build the Ticco community, we're excited to be highlighting members along the way. Sarah Marsom is a Heritage Resource Consultant based in Columbus, OH who has become a strong advocate for young people in historic preservation. Over the past few years Sarah has gone beyond her own role as a consultant to speak out against unpaid internships, all-white panels, and general disrepect/exploitation of the next generation of practitioners in the architectural and preservation space. We interviewed Sarah to gain some additional insight into her work and perspective!
Ticco: What project are you most proud to have worked on and why?
Sarah Marsom: When working for the German Village Society in Columbus, OH, I led the creation of educational programs (tours, lecturers, etc.) and assisted property owners with the architectural review process. I also worked to find solutions to challenges the neighborhood was facing, one of which was the deteriorated condition of its historic brick sidewalks - a constant concern for pedestrian safety, an obstacle in the path of tourism, and a harm to German Village’s historic integrity.
As I researched and identified strategies for educational outreach and sidewalk repair, I looked to the neighborhood’s recent past for a solution. In the 1980s, its brick streets were in very poor condition. The city planned to pave over the bricks after a practical joker planted a tree in one of the potholes. Neighborhood residents rallied together and started relaying the brick streets themselves in an effort to let the city know how important they were to the community. Their actions ultimately resulted in the preservation of the brick streets.
To repair the brick sidewalks, I developed a program where homeowners could sign-up to volunteer and repair a sidewalk. Participants would obtain required permits and purchase needed replacement bricks. Volunteers, led by a professional landscape company, could then relay a sidewalk in a single day. This strategy not only made sidewalk repair affordable - it built camaraderie.
Volunteers participated, and they were everyone from neighborhood residents, to local corporations who encouraged employees to participate on their behalf, to students who earned community service hours.
My passion is to create educational programs that connect people to the past through hands-on experiences, but the icing on the cake is when a project like this one is able to result in a larger community benefit.
T: What is a project or initiative you’re working on, or hope to kickstart in the near future?
SM: Students in our public schools are taught national history from a limited perspective, and I believe that historic preservationists must participate in the creation of dynamic programming that teaches the full story of America.
Though traditional trades and crafts (such as sewing, printmaking, or basket weaving) aren’t regularly discussed in preservation, the stories associated with them are powerful, and they can and should be told in creative ways. As cultural histories expressed through hands-on mediums, the stories associated with these traditions resonate with a broad spectrum of people. In researching them, I have been discovering lesser-known histories and the ways that these crafts are intertwined (for example, quilting as a way of queer community healing during the 1980s AIDS epidemic.) What I’ve learned has allowed me to develop site specific educational programs.
In partnership with Spoonflower and Modern Phoenix, I implemented “Sew Modern,” an interactive workshop that paid homage to the impact of women on Mid-Century Modern textile design, at this year’s Modern Phoenix Week. The workshop officially launched my, “Storytelling Through Crafts” initiative. As I move forward with this initiative, I’m actively seeking collaborators to create programs in celebration of the 100th anniversary of women's' right to vote, LGBTQIA+ history, resiliency during the Great Depression, and more. Send me a message on Ticco if you or your organization are interested in collaborating, or else sign up for my newsletter to learn about upcoming workshops!
T: What’s a favorite motto or words to live by that you frequently find yourself coming back to?
“If historic preservation it is not accessible, it is neither relevant nor revolutionary.”
Advocating for and producing work that ensures people learn about the past through self-exploration and/or facilitated opportunities is critical. The above-referenced accessibility refers both to the access of information and the ability of anyone to protect the historic places and stories that matter to them.
My work focuses specifically on education and outreach within historic preservation because I feel my role is to prevent research from sitting on collecting dust. Whether I’m thinking of accessibility as a way to mitigate gentrification, or as a way to share the full story of America, this phrase pushes me not to settle for the status quo.
T: Where can we find you when you’re not working?
SM: If it is warm outside, you can find me riding along Ohio’s bike trails. I love to explore nature and architecture, and visit small cities along the way. Otherwise, you can find me tending to my vegetable garden or doing some kind of home-improvement project on the 1925 bungalow I share with my partner and our cat, Raja. You also might not be too surprised to hear that my passion for craft extends beyond the workshops I coordinate - I love to spend a weekend expanding my sewing skills by crafting a new outfit to wear.
T: Where can our members find you on social?
Interested in being featured in next month’s Member Spotlight? Get in touch with our team at firstname.lastname@example.org!