Two Artists Put Their Mark on The Enclave in Torrance
- Written byAmber Klinck
- AboveThe Elephant Wall by Sarah Robarts, a tribute to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
There was never a question about what Sarah Robarts wanted to do. Her love of art revealed itself early—a passion that evolved into years of dedication while she focused on earning her bachelor’s degree and Master of Fine Arts. After graduation, Sarah worked as a painter in Manchester, England, where she rented a studio in a warehouse shared by multiple artists.
Photographed by Lauren Pressey
“It was freezing cold with no heat,” she remembers. “And then I moved to London and had a studio on Brick Lane. I absolutely loved it.”
Sarah began to exhibit her artwork as a professional painter. “But there was a lot of hardship,” she explains. “Sales were few and far between.”
“Public art connects people to a space, to each other, and even helps them reconnect to themselves.”
To bridge the gap, she relied on teaching jobs or other creative design work, eventually leading to an opportunity at the Conran Shop—an internationally celebrated design store established nearly 50 years ago by Terence Conran. At first Sarah was able to juggle between her artwork and the day job that supported it. But when she became a mother, her children became her #1 priority.
“I had two babies back-to-back, just under a year apart,” Sarah says. “And I ended up as a single mom. There was just no feasible way to support my kids off my artwork.”
Providing for her family took precedence, but Sarah never lost her passion for art, which she shared with her children. “It became a group effort. There was a lot of painting with the kids growing up,” she says. “They are both super talented.”
Sarah kept her family’s home a fun and happy space while she worked hard behind the scenes to build a successful business—and she succeeded. As the president and founder of Ballantines PR, an award-winning agency founded in 2000 with offices based in California and New York, Sarah has been able to provide a beautiful life for her kids, Daisy (18) and Jamie (19), while maintaining a connection to the art world.
“I’ve been lucky. There’s been a lot of crossover representing galleries, artists and world-class museums,” she notes of her PR work. “I often think that my fine art degree and my respect for other artists who succeeded and stuck with it is huge—because I lived it and maybe failed at it. But I’ve kept it up, and I’ve always prioritized a studio space in my home.”
When the kids were little, Sarah would wrap up her work emails after they’d gone to bed and sometimes find herself painting till 2 a.m. “I don’t do that anymore,” she says. Now that her children are older Sarah carves out time to paint in the evenings and weekends.
“I’m very excited about this next chapter,” she says. “It’s going to be much more about developing my career as an artist, alongside public relations.”
Sarah has started to do more public art. Her most recent project, a collaboration with local artist Kenyan Armitage, is showcased at The Enclave—Torrance’s newest dining and retail destination. Kenyan, a born-and-raised Angeleno, describes painting murals as a way to “extend my work beyond a gallery space and make my art accessible, available and even part of people’s lives from all walks of life. Public art connects people to a space, to each other, and even helps them reconnect to themselves.”
Sarah and Kenyan hit it off immediately. “It’s a really nice chemistry and working relationship,” Sarah says. “I like her style. I like what she stands for. I like her work ethic. And her color palette is different than mine, her work is less abstract than mine, so we complement each other very well.”
Sarah’s painting assistants, Juan Sanchez and Alan Sanchez, also contributed to the project. “They are house painters,” Sarah notes. They helped put up the scaffolding and all sorts of things, but what I’m learning about these guys is how creative they are. They are a delight to work with.”
One of the murals displayed at The Enclave, the Heart Wall, features a collection of recycled paint lids arranged in the shape of a heart–each one showcasing its own abstract painting. “I wanted to do something with these lids because they’re gorgeous and rusty. It’s just perfect that it all came together.”
Another mural, the Love Wall, boasts a striking red canvas with the word “love” written in 98 languages—a celebration of togetherness in the face of the global pandemic. “It’s definitely inspired by a need for more love and collaboration and goodwill, and everyone working together in a more unified way,” Sarah explains.
The Elephant Wall is a tribute to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. “They adopt baby elephants and rhinos whose parents have been poached,” Sarah says. “Our amazing client is a huge supporter of all things wildlife and conservation.”
These are just a few of the projects Sarah has been working on as she finds herself filled with creative inspiration. “Maybe now I have to be patient, but I’ve never stopped thinking about it. I literally will dream of things I want to paint. It’s never left me.”
Perhaps Sarah never stopped thinking about her paintings because she never put an expiration date on her dreams. She allowed herself to do exactly what she needed to do, when she needed to do it, without extinguishing her creative aspirations.