Featured Member: Sue Slagle

Sue at a Glance

Sue Slagle is an artist, co-owner of Kevin Slagle Design and Build (KSDB), and a property manager. Her dual interests in art and technology have led her down a fascinating path that reveals the power of saying yes and seeking out your community.

A recent move brought Sue, her husband Kevin, and their two children Jack (age 10) and Zoey (age 6) to Frederick. Living next to a farm in a 250 year old stone house has been a big but welcome change after their urban lifestyle in Portland, OR. The family still has ties to the west coast, which is where much of KSDB’s business is located, but they are forming new ones as they uncover the rich community of artists and makers in Frederick.

Her Journey

Growing up in Setauket, NY it was clear from an early age that Sue possessed an aptitude for analytical thinking. She was encouraged to take as many math and science classes as her schedule would allow. However her creative spirit and passion for the arts drove her to push back against the rigorous load, making room for at least one art class per semester.

In college she became fascinated with environmental issues. Sue graduated from Boston University in 1996 with a degree in environmental analysis and policy and a minor in math and philosophy. An intense study of California’s Environmental Protection Agency during her schooling motivated a move to California upon graduating. Once she began work in San Francisco Sue realized that the technical challenges she craved required a masters in engineering. She was accepted into University of California, Berkley’s masters program where she earned a graduate degree in Structural Engineering with a focus in recycled concrete. Her first job out of graduate school was working for Arup, an international engineering firm designing building facades. The work, while technically challenging, lacked the creativity Sue had hoped to find, and she was taxed by the rigid nine to five structure of a traditional office environment.

It was during this time that the art community in the San Francisco Bay area was experiencing an explosion of growth. Friendships with local artists provided Sue the opportunity to explore her creative nature in previously untapped ways. She began experimenting in MAX from Cycling ‘74,a software package design to program motors, lights and create digital instruments. Sue and her friends hosted regular gatherings in which musicians jammed while the artists programmed on the spot, responsive light pieces. Compared to the stifling structure of her typical corporate workday, this blend of art and technology was an exciting change of pace. When an opportunity came to tour as a video artist with a group of musicians, Sue knew it was time to leave her office job.

Going on tour was only the beginning of Sue’s career as a professional artist. She was awarded grants to create artwork in the United States and Europe and taught as an adjunct professor at the California College of the Arts. It was also during this time that she and Kevin started their construction business. With a degree in architecture Kevin is the visionary behind the residential and commercial projects they completed on the west coast while Sue helps manage day to day operations and bookkeeping for their business. During the years they spent living in Portland the couple learned a great deal about urban design and development, a knowledge set they to hope to share with developers in downtown Frederick.

Finding Community in a New Place

Moving to a new town has its challenges, but Sue has started fresh enough times to have picked up some important skills for finding community wherever she lands. Her first rule is to always say yes. Accept the invitation to dinner, out for drinks, or to hear a talk. Sue’s second rule is to actively seek out the kinds of events or communities you want instead of assuming that they don’t exist. It was that mentality that caused Sue to look for a solution when she discovered she needed a place to work outside of her home.

Coworking not only provides Sue with a distraction-free working environment to catch up on the mountain of bookkeeping that comes along with owning two companies and writing grant applications for future art projects, it also puts her in a city brimming with creative energy. Sue uses the two hour metered parking downtown to her advantage. She’s turned moving her car every two hours into an opportunity to explore new portions of the city and find inspiration in the vibrant maker/artisan community on display in shops, restaurants, and galleries.

Sue was also quick to get involved both at Cowork Frederick and in the art scene. She started a monthly Women of Cowork breakfast in an effort to meet and be inspired by her many female coworkers. She also participated in the TAG Gallery’s annual Box Show currently on display through March 23rd. Sue’s piece explored replicating the digital pieces she typically creates through Max with an analog adaptation. The gears from a repurposed music box replace lines of code, powering a shifting display of lights in one of the show’s few interactive pieces.

What’s Next for Sue

As Sue quickly closes in on the backlog of bookkeeping, she is casting her net wide for new opportunities. With years of teaching experience both formally in the classroom and casually through friendships, Sue is a passionate educator and says, “One of my superpowers is being able to explain technology to people who think they don’t understand it.” Her primary interest is developing teaching partnerships and programs to help women, families, and the elderly learn how to use technology to meet their specific needs.

Sue is also excited to have more time for her art. She wants to develop concepts like that of her entry to the Box Show, incorporating more tactile and mechanical elements and pushing the limit of what she can achieve outside of Max. She is also exploring her options in the public art field, applying for grants for interactive city displays on the west coast.

With her technically and creatively diverse background we are excited to see what the future holds for Sue and to have her expertise as a part of the Cowork Frederick community!