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Meet Sunny Strader

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sunny Strader.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I’ve been stumbling through adulthood for the past five years or so. My journey has included writing obituaries, flipping burgers, working as a newspaper photojournalist, moving from Illinois to Los Angeles, interning with a documentary filmmaker making coffee runs for the film crew, photo retouching, walking dogs, producing exercise videos, and — most recently — making a helluva lot of art.

Please tell us about your art.
I document every-day people living in the every-day world. My tool is a small point-and-shoot 35-mm film camera; the subtlety of my equipment allows for people to become more open with me and less intimidated by the prospect of being photographed. For the past year I’ve been photographing members of my fifth-grade class in their adult lives. Of my sixteen classmates, six are parents. Eight graduated from college. Nine live in our hometown of Danville, Illinois. Zero are married. All seventeen students scored a 120 or higher on an IQ test.

I started making this series — The MATS Project — because I have strong ties to Danville (my family lives there), and I want people from towns like mine to be fairly represented in the art world. Danville is not unique in that it is a former manufacturing powerhouse that’s fallen behind in the internet age/service economy. Up until moving to LA, I’d only lived in small, struggling Midwestern towns just like it. These towns are now and will always be part of me, as they underscore my entire worldview.

A common theme throughout my work these days is dreams; the ones we chase, the ones deferred. Perhaps it’s because I’m obsessively chasing my own dream of being an artist and I wish to express that desire by learning about other people’s dreams. That way the work can ultimately be presented as a more collective truth.

Given everything that is going on in the world today, do you think the role of artists has changed? How do local, national or international events and issues affect your art?
1.) There are a lot of people out there who do not make art/interact with the art. We are taught from an early age that the arts do not turn a remarkable profit, and therefore they do not matter. And I don’t know if that’s changed or if it ever will change. As long as we live among capitalism and consumerism, artists are always going to face a lot of financial, political and societal resistance in their pursuit for truth, meaning, experience, etc. But for artists — the ones I respect, anyway — pushing through the resistance is what it means to make good art.

2.) For now, I like to show local stories that reflect the national picture. So, photographing my fifth-grade classmates in all their different life paths is indicative of how a lot people our age our living all over the country. Approaching my work with a local-to-national method usually results in people tell me about their fifth-grade classmates and how their experience is similar or different from mine. I love those conversations.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
I’m showcasing some of The MATS Project on Friday, Oct. 20 at the Art of Freelance HQ in Highland Park (5507 York Blvd). It will be the first time I’ve had an exhibition.

People can support the work by purchasing limited edition prints (the average cost is $100) through me or my website. Venmo donations are always welcome, @sunnystrader.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Sunny Strader

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.


  1. Nana

    August 27, 2018 at 18:27

    So proud of you Sunny Bunny


    August 28, 2018 at 12:45


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