Elko County Art Club (775) 753-8170

Monthly Meetings start at 4pm on the 3rd Tuesday of each month!

Mission: Support and nurture local artists by providing opportunities for socializing with other artists, pursuing artistic growth, exhibiting and selling their art, and by developing the appreciation of art in the community. 

ECAC is committed to supporting the ECAC Gallery, open 5 days a week, Art in the Park held in July every year, and the provider of Art Scholarships for high school students in Elko County. 
Become part of the best place for artists in the Northeastern Nevada region.

Visit the gallery or order online for some of Sarah's paintings, photographs, sculpture or jewelry.

To purchase online visit


Sarah Sweetwater
February 18, 1940 – November 18, 2015

Sarah’s strong, capable hands are stilled for now but her art and the experiences she provided for thousands of student travelers will remain – maybe forever.

In 1967, she brought to Elko her ceaseless energy and curiosity that she imparted to thousands of art students and student travelers whom she guided to more than 40 foreign countries and other places in and out of Nevada.

She founded the Art Department at Great Basin College when it was Northern Nevada Community College and taught there 34 years, from 1971 to 2006. Through the auspices of the college, she was first to take her students traveling to foreign countries and to places in and out of Nevada to visit museums, hear music and see plays; and she continued as a travel guide after she left the college.

She always had a great appreciation for the ranching cowboy culture and decided to share it with the public with a Pioneer Arts and Crafts event in Elko City Park starting in 1975 and lasting for six years. There she had a horseshoer, a storyteller, a mecate maker, rawhide braider, Dutch oven and Basque cooks, musicians and poets singing and saying their original work. At the time, many townspeople and urbanites had no idea about this way of life. The Pioneer event grew into the Cowboy Poetry Gathering that began in 1985 and continues today having spawned Gatherings all over the West. Sarah hosted, in her home, artists and musicians from the livestock culture from China, Australia, Tibet and other places. She loved cowboys from anywhere.

This year she is the first recipient of the Mayor’s Art Awards as “individual artist.” Her public art in Elko can be seen in front of the court house where local War Dead are honored and in the downtown corridor near the train locomotive. There is a labyrinth in Elko’s Peace Park and the Sarah Winnemucca sculpture can be seen at the California Trail Center west of Elko. Reno also has a Sweetwater stone mural on its River Walk by the Truckee River.

Sarah’s self-remodeled home is a museum displaying original works of art she gathered from all over the world. (She calls it the Sweetwater Museum of Art and Kuriosities) and her sculpture studio across town features more than the tools needed to carve stone. She has a raised herb and vegetable garden and a maze outside – too many interests to mention.

She received the International Award for Peace Through Service from India because of her involvement in the Delhi Rotary (vaccinating children against Polio in an effort to rid the globe of the dread disease). In 1985, she won the Nevada Governor’s Arts Award in Folk arts, and among numerous other awards, she was named Outstanding Woman of the Year in 1998 by Northeastern Nevada Museum.

She was born to William Bernard Whisenant and Opal Pearl Young Whisenant on Feb. 18, 1940. When she was six years old, she contracted Polio – a frightening, debilitating paralytic disease and was sent away to live with other affected children in isolation in Dallas, Texas.

Even after many surgeries, she spent her life limping – with one foot smaller than the other and one leg shorter. Nevertheless, it was in that hospital that she determined to become an artist and it was there that she lost any prejudice against people of any stripe. Her caretakers were Hispanic or Native American or black and they were her life line. She has since loved them and sought to understand their cultures and their arts and to explain it to others. It was while she was confined to bed, they taught her beginning handicrafts and set her on her life’s road. Her sculptures of Sarah Winnemucca and Rosa Parks are expressions of strong women as well as of different cultures.

She took her under graduate work in Texas but went to graduate school at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City in 1976 when she was 38 years old. “That’s where I found my voice,” she said. “I thought I was a painter, but when I carved my first piece in alabaster, I knew what I would do.” She subsequently took a sabbatical to study marble in Italy and brought back tons of marble that remain uncut.

Sarah says she wants to keep educating the people of Elko about the importance of the arts. Undoubtedly her lifetime of creativity and teaching, of kindness and willingness to share will live on in her many friends and students and in her art.

Sarah is survived by daughters Keri (Mark) Meranda and Melissa Campsey of Reno and Alice Digenan of Elko. Her grandchildren are Mitch and Camille Meranda, Shay and Garrett Digenan, Calvin, Cosette and Carys Cook; a sister, Mary Gunn of Lipscomb, Texas; and brothers W.B. Whisenant of Sweetwater, Texas; and Don Whisenant of Dallas, Texas; and numerous nieces, nephews, grand nieces and grand nephews.

Sarah’s family thanks the “wonderful staff at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, Genesis Home Health, Highland Manor and Billie Jean Crawford. A very special thank you to all the friends who helped with her care and spiritual well being. You made her last dance a good one.”

Donations may be made in Sarah’s memory to The Desert Sunrise Rotary Club of Elko, P.O. Box 1241, Elko, Nv. 89803; to the Elko Art Club, or Western Folklife Center.

5 photo(s) Updated on: 29 Sep 2015
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