The Girl Behind the King

Sarah Grimes has always been the type of person to do things by herself. So as her peers on the second floor of Taylor Place residence hall twiddled their thumbs, unsure of what to do for the mural they were assigned, Grimes took charge and painted it herself.

“Everybody else was standing around not knowing what to do, so I kind of took charge,” Grimes says as she sits in the bright-orange chairs at the Taylor Place dining hall, having just finished an omelet. “I did have a reference picture, but it was really small. I decided to paint the Lion King, because we are the exploratory floor, and the whole African Safari thing – which I’m okay with because I love the Lion King.”

Grimes, a freshman art (intermedia) major, ended up painting the iconic scene in the Lion King in which Rafiki hoists up a young Simba to the animal kingdom bowed in reverence. The mural is tantalizingly intricate, and the cotton-candy-blue background grabs the eye immediately.

Grimes’ roommate, freshman elementary education major Olivia Bennett, helped paint part of the mural.

“We get together in our dorm and have painting parties,” Bennett says; collaborating is nothing new for the two.

It took Grimes four hours to finish, so to speak – the piece is incomplete because Grimes is too short to finish painting Simba, who is in the top left corner of the picture. One could say it adds a contemporary, ambiguous flair to the painting.

Grimes grew up in Willcox, Ariz., where she says being excluded from hanging out with her two older brothers led her to craft an imagination of her own.

“I had to figure out what to for myself. [And] I pretended a lot,” Grimes says. It’s no surprise, then, that she taught herself Photoshop.

“Freshman year of high school, there was a lot of pressure to join clubs and stuff because my older brother was really popular, on all these teams and clubs and stuff. I joined yearbook and I was the only person assigned to photography, so my whole freshman year was experimentation with photography,” Grimes says.

After that, Grimes became the editor of her school’s yearbook and published them on her own.

“I did the three yearbooks completely by myself, because I was the only person to step up to do it. In the end you just have to figure it out. You experiment for a while,” Grimes says.

Grimes doesn’t say this boastfully; she speaks with a distinguished confidence that’s certainly an anomaly for her age.

While growing up, her dad built houses and Grimes often would tag along to help.

“I didn’t do a lot of the manly labor but I did do drywalling and painting and tilling,” she says.

Another source of inspiration for the young Grimes was her second-oldest brother, who studies design in Oregon.

“He pushes me to do better. Even if I think I’ve done my best work, I’ll show it to him, and he will show my how to make it better," she says. "And he’s not afraid to hurt my feelings.”

In her free time, Grimes works at the Phoenix Zoo as an exhibit guide. It’s something of a place to escape the complexity of intermedia, a place where she can be around a group that she is most comfortable with: animals.

A quirky fact about Grimes is that her family owned many orange tabby cats – and named them all Orangey. Grimes giggles and tilts her chin shyly into her chest as cats most likely formed her tendency to feel more comfortable around animals than people.

“I hang out in a certain exhibit and teach people about the animals. I work with the sting rays, the squirrel monkeys, the giraffes and the goats. I’ve always loved working with animals. I don’t necessarily like the fact that my job requires that I socialize with a lot of people.”

Though she’s not sure of exactly what she wants to do in the future, Grimes is determined to be a part of National Geographic.

“I just want to be able to say that I was associated with that magazine,” Grimes says. “I want to work for the National Geographic even if it’s as a janitor.” Knowing her, she would probably be able to make collecting trash artistic.


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