Sarah Steck’s artistic style was dark and Victorian, spiced with cobwebs, bat wings and music references. She created art to feel comfortable with her own style and to help others feel the same.
“I have struggled as an outsider and have been branded as the weirdo,” Steck wrote to his online design portfolio. “It took a long time for me to feel okay in my own skin and stop trying to shape myself into what our society considers acceptable and beautiful.”
Although her portfolio is gothic, she served as a shining light within the Metropolitan State University of Denvers Communication Design Program, according to her advisor Peter Miles Bergman. She graduated this spring with a bachelor of visual arts in communication design.
“She was not a dark person at all. She was a very sweet, positive, smart and fun person to be with,” Bergman said. “She was a confident and clear person who fit right in with us. Maybe we’re all weird too. “
Steck, 28, died Tuesday of gunshot wounds she sustained after police said Lyndon James McLeod began a shooting spree through Denver and into Lakewood. In all, McLeod killed five people, police said, before being shot and killed by a Lakewood police officer.
During filming, Steck had worked at the front desk at Belmar Hyatt House, but Bergman said she hoped to find work in a more creative field such as a design studio or an advertising agency.
She also worked at the hotel in the evenings while going to school, Bergman said. It was no easy task and serves as a testament to Steck’s ingenuity and perseverance. And she looked forward to using more of her creative talents.
Her colleagues at the Hyatt House also found that Steck was a personal young woman they will miss. Andra Alvarez, the hotel’s general manager, said the team is devastated by the sudden and tragic loss of a beloved colleague known for her infectious laughter and love of kittens, art and music.
Alvarez noted Steck’s love for the band Blink-182, but said she especially loved her boyfriend, family and friends.
In a very shared post on social media, Bergman added that Steck was a “super hip lady”, a “badass” and a “punk rocker.”
“Light a candle / say a prayer / throw a spell / blow up some punk rock for Sarah!” wrote Bergman.
Among those who shared Bergman’s postings were a couple of Steck’s classmates, who emphasized her creativity and the “bright light” she threw at those who knew her.
“The world lost another big one, and that’s just not fair,” Shelby Marie Shepherd wrote on Facebook.
With her work, Steck showed interest in politics, which became the focus of her dissertation project “Politics are Visual.” The environment and music also caught her attention. In a series, she created simple yet colorful portraits of famous musicians, drawing inspiration from their descriptions in Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards’ memoirs. These portraits include Brian Jones, Elton John, David Bowie, Freddie Mercury and Bob Dylan.
But perhaps most of all, Steck expressed interest in the past, taking inspiration from vintage art and putting her own modern spin on the genre.
“I am convinced that in order to appreciate who you are, you must learn about the past,” Steck wrote.