New Image sue in tree

photo credit: Doug McCulloh

This site was created in 2012, when my 60th birthday was looming. I wanted it to be a memorable milestone so I decided to take a 52-week sabbatical from my 35 year old business and try to become an artist. A park became my classroom and 52 trees my muse. Below is a reverse timeline of the journey of the past three years. Reaching a goal, that I had harbored for 50 years, has been life altering!

Sue Mitchell

PS To follow this late in life journey,  you will find the SUBSCRIBE button to my “BLOG” at the bottom of this page.


June 2015

If you missed seeing my “52” exhibition at the Riverside Art Museum (12/13 – 1/14) or the resulting documentary, “Something Like A Sabbatical” here is a short video/ interview done by Sandra Carbonell-Kiamtia, a student in North High School’s Film Club. Sandra was just accepted into UCLA’s Film School….a class of 15 out of over 1500 applicants.

As the “52” exhibition came to a close in Jan of 2014, it hit me (a week before taking it down)… that even though filmmakers had videoed the two galleries for their documentary “Something Like A Sabbatical”… that footage would not be available to me to use on my website. Sandra was referred and when I called she was leaving in two  hours on a family vacation. She came by the gallery right away an had an hour. I just asked her to film as much as she could of a very extensive two-gallery exhibit and we would figure out what to do with it all when she returned.

Sandra Carbonell-Kiamtia...filmmaker of the "52" interview.

Sandra Carbonell-Kiamtia…filmmaker of the “52” interview shown above. Sandra was in high school when she filmed and edited this short. In September of 2015 she was selected for UCLA’s film school (15 out of 1500 applicants were enrolled)

As she finished filming, she asked if she could interview me. I hesitated, as the gallery was full of people, and I was uncomfortable. In a very quiet but firm way, she told me it would be very helpful if she could ask me a few questions while filming.

Sandra left with 45 minutes of exhibition and 15 minutes of interview footage and with that, she put together a seven-minute video for my website. Sandra had never met me before nor did she know anything about my exhibition, yet she came in as a high school senior with great professionalism and collected the information needed to produce a first rate product.

MAY 2015

The Kick-Off event for “The 52 Project” at the Riverside Art Museum May 2015

the 52 project LOGOPhase One of “52” is over…Phase Two started at the KICK OFF of “The 52 Project” on May 3, 2015 at the Riverside Art Museum. 143 people are participating.

“The 52 Project “ is a mini-52 experience for busy people! We will be journaling for a year capturing our creative ideas. The Project has OPEN ENROLLMENT.. registration at... https://www.suemitchellart.com/the-52-project/  

“The 52 Project” is generously sponsored by:

  • Ransom-McKenzie Team at Coldwell Banker Armstrong Properties
  • Karen Allen Salon
  • Riverside Personnel Services

April 2015

Zocalo Public Square,  “a not-for-profit daily digital site…52 opening 705 tackling important contemporary questions” looks for first person stories. For about a year, Zocalo has been encouraging me to write an article on my journey. I finally found the time and the nerve (I am not a writer) and it was published last week… It is a story of making a commitment, capturing my dreams in a journal, and the determination to accomplish something positive during tough times.

March 2015

This  Press Enterprise article announces the Riverside Art Museum’s ” 52 Project” inspired by the “52” exhibition held at the museum in 2013

Milka Soko print

Fairmount Park/ Press Enterprise March 2015 …photo credit: Milka Soko

The premiere screening  of “Something Like A Sabbatical” (a documentary based on the 52-week sabbatical I took during my 60th year) occurred on March 22 to a sold out crowd. It was a great event with the entire team of filmmakers were there as well as my sabbatical advisory team. The event raised over $10,000 for the Riverside Art  Museum’s “52 Project.”

crowd cropped

Premiere of the documentary “Something Like A Sabbatical” held at the Riverside Art Museum March 2015 photo credit: Zelma Beard

Filmmaker Pamela Beere Briggs wrote in her blog on release day…

Director Pamela Beere Briggs

Director Pamela Beere Briggs

“I have been thinking back to the moment when the film idea landed in my head and heart. We were driving home after walking through Sue’s two-gallery exhibit at the Riverside Art Museum. The exquisite solar etchings of the giant Montezuma Bald Cypress trees had been in one gallery and Sue’s day-to-day sabbatical was revealed in a swirl of calendar pages, photographs, sketches, journal entries, and trash (you have to see the film to understand) in the adjoining gallery. It was beautiful and inspiring and humorous and bold and surprising! It stirred up an irrational feeling I haven’t had in a long time: I wanted to make a film about this adventure. All films begin from an irrational place. I say that because films are difficult to make. They’re complicated and costly and consuming. But I see now that I needed to tell this story about not giving up on our dreams, no matter how afraid we are.”

February 2015

The date and time for the PREMIERE SCREENING of “Something Like A Sabbatical is Sunday March 22 at 4:00 at the Riverside Art Museum. There will be a reception and Q&A with award-winning documentary filmmakers Pamela Beere Briggs and William McDonald. View the documentary trailer here: “Something Like a Sabbatical”


photo credit: Doug McCulloh

It won’t surprise you that the screening is a fundraiser. It was just too awkward to say “come look at me”…so by turning this into a fundraiser for the Riverside Art Museum (RAM) it is now way easier for me to cajole you to attend. 

What is special to me about this film is the universal story that has emerged of dreaming, doubting, visualizing, struggling and ultimately prevailing. Watching their documentary has inspired me to get on with my next creative endeavor…“The 52 Project”

February  2014

52 filming 050

Sandra  Carbonell-Kimtia, recently accepted into the UCLA film school, Bill McDonald, Chair of the UCLA Film School and cinematographer and Pamela Beere Briggs, Filmmaker/Producer

The “52” exhibit is down but not over…

  • Currently working with filmmakers, Pamela Beere Briggs and William McDonald. They visited the exhibit on November 2013 and then offered to film a documentary on my sabbatical.
  • Organizing the “52 weeks” portion of the exhibit as it has been acquired to be archived in the University of California, Riverside library .
  • Distributing sold prints…40 “TREES” found homes throughout the United States
  • Setting up my studio again after moving it out of the Riverside Art Museum (big job!)
  • Starting to formulate my next project…coming together, will share in a few months

December  2013

  • The 52 exhibit has been extended  thru January 5, 2014. Thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation the Riverside Art Museum will be able to
    THE TREE (Medium)

    photo credit: Doug McCulloh

    offer FREE admissions from Dec 20th thru January 5, 2014.

  • LA filmmakers have offered to make a short documentary film about my 52-week sabbatical!
  • The UCR Library is interested in archiving the 2nd gallery…that exhibits details everything during my 52-week sabbatical. This room-size diary, journal, sketchbook, scrapbook is really resonating with viewers:

Some thoughts from the 200 pages of comments by exhibition visitors…

“I am exhausted but inspired!”…”The curatorial voice is both loud and calming.”…“inspiring, authentic, engaging, moving, intelligent”…“ It will take me 15 trips to see everything”…“ Moved to tears”…”Super crazy for an exhibit, my eyes were drawn everywhere.”

September 30 2013 MIDNIGHT UPDATE: 

Photo: M Elderman

My sabbatical is officially over …we installed both galleries over the weekend…it is done...“52” is up to be seen!!! THE SMILE YOU SEE TO THE RIGHT IS A COMBINATION OF RELIEF AND PURE HAPPINESS! Now I start my  museum adventure…Oct 3 – Dec 31 2013. Be sure to go to my blog and get the updates on the installation, opening and all the programming tied to the exhibit.

What an amazing year! Come visit me during the show and you will physically see my journey as I saved everything from the year….sue

blog 535 (Medium) (2)

Taken minutes after completing two days of installation… I am exhausted and elated!

September 2012

Dear Old and New Friends,

On October 1, 2012, I start on an exciting journey  to celebrate my 60th year. I will be taking time off from  Riverside Personnel Services, the firm I co-founded in 1978, to engage in a year-long arts sabbatical.

photo credit: Eric Reed

photo: Eric Reed

The sabbatical will kick-off in October with my first ever exhibit “a love affair” (video) at the RCAA Gallery in Riverside, CA. The year of art will end with a two-gallery show “52” at the Riverside Art Museum in October 2013. The following articles will help explain my art adventure…

The photo above is of the Montezuma Bald Cypress trees at Fairmount Park in Riverside CA …500 steps from my front door. (“as the crow flies”) These trees play a big part in my 52-week project. “Last year I had  “a love affair” with rocks…this year it’s trees … “52” of them!” To read the story behind the love affairs go to my “exhibits” link.

I am hoping that those of you with continued interest in my undertaking will subscribe to my blog (subscription button is at the bottom of this page) giving me some much needed accountability. You don’t even need to read it…I just need to think you are! :)

I embark on this journey with great excitement and a healthy dose of anxiety. I am determined to enjoy every moment.

Your support ROCKS my world…sue

MASTHEAD PHOTOGRAPHS BY: Rock/ Zelma Beard… Face and Tree/ Doug McCulloh