Sarah Steck’s artistic style was dark and Victorian, peppered 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’ve struggled as an outsider and have been labeled as the weirdo,” Steck wrote for her online design portfolio. “It took a long time for me to feel okay in my own skin and to stop trying to mold myself into what our society deems as acceptable and beautiful.”
Gothic though her portfolio might be, she served as a shining light within Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Communication Design Program, according to her advisor Peter Miles Bergman. She graduated this spring with a bachelor’s of fine art in communication design.
“She wasn’t a dark person at all. She was a very sweet, positive, clever and fun person to be around,” Bergman said. “She was a confident and poised person who fit right in with us. Maybe we’re all weirdos too.”
Steck, 28, died Tuesday of gunshot wounds she suffered after police said Lyndon James McLeod embarked on a shooting spree through Denver and into Lakewood. In all, McLeod killed five people, police say, before he was shot and killed by a Lakewood police agent.
REMEMBERING THE VICTIMS
- Alicia Cardenas
- Alyssa Gunn Maldonado
- Danny “Dano” Scofield
- Sarah Steck
- Michael Swinyard
During the shooting Steck had been working the front desk at the Belmar Hyatt House, but Bergman said she hoped to find work in a more creative field like a design studio or advertising agency.
She worked at the hotel in the evenings while she was in school as well, Bergman said. That was no easy task and serves as a testament to Steck’s resourcefulness and perseverance. And she looked forward to using more of her creative talents.
Her coworkers at the Hyatt House also found Steck to be a personable young woman whom 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 laugh and love of kittens, art and music.
Alvarez noted Steck’s love of the band Blink-182 but said she especially loved her boyfriend, family and friends.
In a widely shared social media post Bergman added that Steck was a “super hip lady,” a “badass” and a “punk rocker.”
“Light a candle / say a prayer / cast a spell / blast some punk rock for Sarah!” Bergman wrote.
Among those that shared Bergman’s post were a few of Steck’s fellow classmates, who underscored her creativity and the “bright light” she cast on those who knew her.
“The world lost another great one and it’s just not fair,” Shelby Marie Shepherd wrote on Facebook.
With her work, Steck showed interest in politics, which became the focus of her thesis project “Politics are Visual.” The environment and music caught her attention as well. In one series she created simple but colorful portraits of famous musicians, taking her inspiration from their descriptions in Rolling Stones guitar player Keith Richards’ memoir. Those portraits include Brian Jones, Elton John, David Bowie, Freddie Mercury and Bob Dylan.
But perhaps most of all, Steck expressed an interest in the past, taking inspiration from vintage artwork and putting her own modern spin on the genre.
“I’m a firm believer that in order to appreciate who you are, you need to learn about the past,” Steck wrote.
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