At scaredycatart.com, Burlington-based artist Sarah Brunkhorst sells prints and stickers at prices starting as low as $2. Her bright, often humorous digital illustrations, by her own description, contain “a lot of visual gags” while also touching on “subtle social issues” with a hint of “punk and feminism.”
“I try to make things that are fun and colorful and that have to do with disability. I take a lot of inspiration from my cats as well,” she said.
Brunkhorst, who originally moved to Vermont from rural Missouri to attend Champlain College, identifies as autistic.
“Talking about things with other people can be really hard, either important things or even just making that first impression,” she explained. “So being able to kind of create what I want to say at my own pace, in my own time, not in the moment, and having that to put out there and show people – that’s kind of a way for me to communicate that’s less hard and scary.”
Selling her art in 2021 at the Ramble, an annual festival in Burlington’s Old North End, inspired her to start a business, which she called Scaredy Cat Art.
Since then, Brunkhorst has brought her work to Art on Park in Stowe and the Downtown Winooski Farmers Market, where she serves as the market’s manager. Buyers can also find some of her creations at Thirty-Odd in Burlington’s Soda Plant at 266 Pine St.
“Selling art,” she said, “has been, I think, really therapeutic, being able to connect with people in a way that I never had before. That feeling when someone comes up to my booth and I can see that they understand and relate to something that I made is just a really amazing experience that can be hard to come by, so I’ve really enjoyed that.”
In July, she tabled at Vermont Mad Pride.
“I feel like there aren’t a lot of events like Mad Pride, unfortunately, and I would love to do more like that,” she said. “I definitely dream of organizing, like, a disability market or something like that.”
Autism affects the way Brunkhorst sees the world, which in turn affects her art.
“I think art is a really sensory-heavy experience, and experiencing sensory input differently because of autism – I think those things are definitely intertwined,” she reflected.
Since 2020, Brunkhorst has worked part-time at Howard Center, where she serves as the Exhibitions and Community Engagement Coordinator for the agency’s Arts Collective. Members of the Arts Collective, according to its website, have “lived experience with mental health and/or substance use challenges” and have worked together to mount shows at the Fleming Museum and the Fletcher Free Library, among other locations.
“Before my autism diagnosis, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and PTSD. And now, I don’t know if those were things that really were different experiences or if they were part of being autistic, but they’re still things that I do experience,” Brunkhorst said. “And I think that just being around people that understand what those things are like is really great, and having those experiences definitely helps me understand some – definitely not all – of what the people that I work with are going through.”
The Howard Center Arts Collective’s current exhibition is taking place at the Flynndog Gallery at 208 Flynn Avenue in Burlington from Aug. 4 till the end of September. The Collective will host a reception during the South End Art Hop on Sept. 8 from 4:30 to 6 p.m.