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Artist Profile: Rachel Sager

By May 14, 2020Blog

Rivers of Steel Arts is excited to launch the 2020 Mon Valley Featured Artist Series. Showcasing some of the exciting creative professionals working across the Mon Valley Creative Corridor, this weekly blog highlights multiple artists each month—from a variety of boroughs—to provide a snapshot of the region’s growing cultural vitality.

Rachel Sager in her studioAbout Rachel Sager

Sometimes the universe brings together artists with unique places, where each possesses the capacity to breath new life into the other.  This can certainly be said about Mon Valley mosaic artist Rachel Sager and her creative investment in the Ruins Project.  Cut from the same stone as Rivers of Steel Arts, Sager’s work harnesses the power of creative inquiry and exploration to re-imagine the future of a former industrial site and in doing so, challenge us to reevaluate our relationship with history. 

A Message from Rachel

About My Work

One of my favorite lines as an artist is that “a girl can never have too many hammers”. As a mosaicist who breaks rocks, glass, and most anything else that gets in my way, I have learned that there is a hammer for every material and every quirky job. Having spent some quality time with Italian mosaic maestros, I brought back that specialized knowledge to the hills and hollows of our little corner of Appalachia and its unique geology. I use stone to tell stories and glass to weave color into the intricate patterns of nature. As an artist who fell in love with the pieces of things twenty years ago, I love to tell my students that mosaic is the most powerful medium and with it we can change the world, one small rock at a time.

My Home in the Mon Valley

My home and studio are located in Whitsett, Fayette County, along the banks of the Youghiogheny River and the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail, at mile-marker 104ish.

My mom used to tell me that Belle Vernon, where I come from, means beautiful green in Latin. The rolling hills of the Mon Valley are in my blood. I have dug my heels into this patch of earth and consider it a great privilege to represent the people and land of Southwestern Pennsylvania through my art.

In the winter of 2015, I found myself the surprised owner of a giant cement canvas that covers several acres of land; the ruins of an abandoned coal operation originally run by The Pittsburgh Coal Company. These ruins have become The Ruins Project, which is the most significant challenge of my career. In the beginning I struggled to fit these walls and rooms of concrete and brick into some kind of category, but I have come to the conclusion that what we are doing here does not fit into any existing mold.

Myself, along with mosaic artists from near and far, are in our fifth year of using art to bring back to life the stories of this often forgotten little corner of the world. The coal that came out of Banning #2 mine literally helped to build Pittsburgh and fuel the Industrial Revolution. When I met the wonderful people at Rivers of Steel, we all recognized the poetic justice of my coal mine and the Carrie Furnaces project as being once connected through industry and once again connected through art. There is no doubt that the coal from this mine traveled by train to the furnaces of Pittsburgh. Our biggest project to date is a resurrection in mosaic of the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie locomotive, coal cars, and caboose that stretches almost seventy feet long and seven feet high by Stevo Sadvary of Pittsburgh.

There is no finish date and no budget. I am the guide for this lifelong intuitive art installation that encourages artists from every corner of the globe to express themselves while they help to tell the story of The American Coal Miner.

Tours of The Ruins are by appointment through the Sager Mosaics website.

Find Me Online


IG: @sagermosaics

FB: Sager Mosaics