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2020 20 Under 40: Sarah Dresser

2020 20 Under 40: Sarah Dresser

  • Photo by Anthony Jinson

Manager, Office of Cultural Affairs, City of Columbia

Sarah Dresser is a classically trained musician who majored in piano performance in college.

Thanks to her college piano teacher, however, rather than pursue a career as a professional pianist, she headed down the path of art administration.

That decision paid off, and today Sarah serves as the manager of Columbia’s Office of Cultural Affairs.

“I oversee the city’s public art program, annual funding for nonprofit arts organizations, and a number of special events throughout the year,” Sarah says.

Sarah’s current public art projects include the Columbia Sports Fieldhouse, The Molly Thomas-Bowden Neighborhood Policing Center, and the new Columbia Regional Airport terminal. 

Sarah believes it will be a fun challenge to assist with the new terminal. “It will be our city’s first impression for many visitors,” she says. “I’m excited to send the message that the arts are vital to our community.” 

Sarah started with the organization in 2012 and was promoted in 2017. Her department of three is small, but she enjoys working with such a tight-knit team.

“Since hiring Sarah, I’ve witnessed her blossom into an accomplished city leader,” says Carol Rhodes, assistant city manager. “Her collaborative leadership style embraces a culture of teamwork while also allowing her to express her individuality.”

Tootie Burns works with Sarah on several art-related committees. “I have known Sarah for over five years,” Tootie says. “I continue to be amazed at her efficiency, creativity, and ability to do so many things well.”

Sarah believes there’s no such thing as too many local festivals. In fact, she’d love to see a front porch music festival that expands the footprint of Columbia’s music scene from traditional venues into neighborhoods. ”If anyone wants to get that going,” she says, “I’d welcome the chance to help make it a reality.”

In her free time, Sarah is involved in the MU Choral Union, singing in the alto section. She enjoys coming together with other community members and MU students to learn large-scale choral works each semester.

“No matter what’s going on in our personal lives or current events, creating music together helps remind me that the arts can build bridges and encapsulate the human experience,” she says.

Age: 34

Fun Fact: Sarah’s favorite piano piece to play is Maurice Ravel’s “Sonatine.”

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