A Sterling Year with Sara Kessinger
by Mitzi Gordon
“Volunteers are the heart of us. What would we do without them?”
We couldn’t agree more with Sara Kessinger, whose longtime involvement at DFAC has helped our Sterling Society — and the overall Art Center — to thrive.
An active member group, the Sterling Society promotes interest in DFAC through day trips, conversation series, luncheons, and other programs. A charter member, Sara is again serving as the group’s president, setting goals for the future and developing new programs such as the Art Lovers Lunch Bunch.
“We’ve refined a lot of things over the years,” she said. “Our focus is to have fun and raise funds — raising awareness, bringing in new members, and keeping members happy.”
A self-described “consummate volunteer,” Sara also loves supporting Dunedin’s Friends of the Library and the Rotary Club of Dunedin. She has lived in Dunedin with her husband John for more than 20 years. In the late 1980s, she met former DFAC Director Nancy McIntyre while working at the Dunedin Community Center.
“She took me right over that minute to the Art Center,” Sara said. “My husband and I have both been members ever since.”
In previous years serving as a DFAC volunteer, Sara started the popular Founders Luncheon, the Sterling Society’s largest fundraiser. She also worked to develop the Patron of the Arts award, which recognizes supporters of cultural activity from throughout the greater Dunedin community.
The 2020 Patron of the Arts award was granted to Nancy and David Bilheimer at the “Founders Lunch to Value the Past & Dream the Future,” held in February at the Bon Appetit Waterfront Restaurant with featured speaker Jeffrey Hess of Hess Fine Art & Fine Auctions.
“I look at the Art Center as a home away from home,” Sara said. “They see
me there for lunch a couple of times a week. We want people to come and feel like that’s their home, too.”
Pre-COVID, the Sterling Society’s new Lunch Bunch brought people together at local restaurants once a month to enjoy featured presentations by Art Center staff. This allowed nonmembers to mingle with members in a fun and casual setting, learning about current exhibits or upcoming events while they dine.
“We want to catch their eye, we want to trigger their imagination, and we want to educate,” Sara said. “It’s just a wonderful teaching art center and there’s not one like it anywhere around.”
Since last year, the Society has raised $10,000 for the food arts program, and $9,000 for DFAC exhibits. The group also organizes intimate art excursions for up to 30 people, visiting regional gems like the Museum of Fine Arts or the Morean Art Center. Larger trips take members outside of Pinellas County, and in previous years the Society has visited Cuba, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, together with DFAC curator Cathering Bergmann.
“To have her go and keep you totally focused on art the whole time is really wonderful,” Sara said.
The Sterling Society is always looking for new members and volunteers, who can get hands-on making baskets for events, running the Coffee and Conversation series, or co-chairing art trips.
“When I started here, I approached it from a volunteer point of view,” Sara said. “‘I can make a contribution,’ is what I thought. I hope that I can continue to do so.”
There are so many ways to make a contribution to our DFAC community. Connect with us and learn more at www.dfac.org/get-involved
SCENES from the DFAC Archives