Photograph from the Carnegie Museum of Art, Film and Video Department archive (source: www.cmoa.org)
Sally's story began in the 1960's when she received a small hand-held movie camera from her father-in-law and started making films, which she later called "Film Poems." She studied art at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University), Bennington College, and Chatham College (now Chatham University). Sally is known as a trailblazer in the "film as art" movement and created the film program at The Carnegie Museum of Art in 1970. She founded the program with the purpose of "promoting a greater understanding and appreciation of film as an art form and the filmmaker as an artist." It was one of the first museum-based film programs in the country.
In 1973, she began the Film and Video Makers Travel Sheet (1973–1987), a monthly circular that CMoA distributed to alternative cinemas, museums, media centers, and universities across the country. It listed contact information and screening/lecture dates and locations for film and video makers. The Travel Sheet made it possible for filmmakers to book additional screenings and in-person presentations, which became primary sources of income, exposure, and dialogue for artists during this early period of new media’s institutionalization. Later that year, she toured Europe as part of a United States Information Agency funded program to showcase the arts. She toured with three films by artist Stan Brakhage: eyes (1971), Deus Ex (1971), and The Act of Seeing with One's Own Eyes (1971). Titled collectively the "Pittsburgh Trilogy," these films feature footage shot in Pittsburgh at various local institutions. Sally was pivotal in helping Brakhage produce his “Pittsburgh Trilogies”. During the production of these documentaries, Brakhage often stayed with Dixon and her family in Pittsburgh and they remained close friends living down the road from one another when Sally took a position as a professor in the mid-70s at University of Colorado Boulder. She co-founded the Filmmakers Preview Network in 1975 and was a board member of Pittsburgh Filmmakers. Later in 1975, Dixon left the film department to William Judson, a film professor at the University of Pittsburgh, who succeeded her as curator.
In 1978, she moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, to become interim director for Film in the Cities, a media arts center that screened independent films and trained young artists and filmmakers. While she was there she created Filmmakers Filming, a screening and workshop series with the Film In The Cities accompanying booklets that was co-presented by the Walker Art Center.
In 1980, Dixon became the first director of the Bush Artist Fellowships at the Bush Foundation and supported artists from Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota in literature, visual arts, and performing arts.
Dixon worked with artists such as Stan Brakhage, Hollis Frampton, Gunvor Nelson, Robert Breer, Willard Maas and Marie Menken, James Broughton, Joel Singer, Ken Jacobs, Peter Kubelka, Paul Sharits, George Kuchar, Mike Kuchar, Roger Jacoby, Bruce Baillie, Storm de Hirsch, Joyce Weiland and Jonas Mekas.
Sally Dixon, now in her 80s, has resided in St. Paul Minnesota since the late 1970s. She struggles with the onset of Alzheimer's and reflects on her life. The one hour biographic documentary reflects Sally’s life as a woman in a man’s art world. The film beautifully weaves in archival footage of Sally as her love of film first emerged as she captured her first images on Super 8 as well as archival footage of her collaborations with artists in Pittsburgh, and finally St. Paul. The documentary threads in contemporary footage of Sally, her family and her friends as they reflect on her enormous impact.