Sally Thielen, “South Eagle Woman”, of Chippewa descent was born in Sanford, Michigan. Her family’s Indian name is Mashue (May-zhu). Sally Thielen had a childhood most people dream about. She recalls going barefoot all summer long, and she attended a small country school in Sanford. Her father, Floyd Smith ran a sporting goods store. Her mother impressed upon her the richness of her culture, heritage and identity, while she was young.
She graduated from high school in 1956, and went onto the Michigan Practical Nursing School in Flint, Michigan. She met and married Robert Thielen upon graduation. She worked in nursing for ten years, and becoming disenchanted with nursing, she wanted something more identifiable with her creative and cultural heritage. She began looking through the newspaper, and saw a class being offered in pottery and sculpture and enrolled.
Thielen learned from that experience that artists expression was important to her, and she was determined to seek more training. She entered the Flint Institute of Arts studying pottery and sculpture from 1969-1974. Her creative interest eventually led her to weaving, which she also studied under Christine Maier. She greatly influenced her commitment to a career in art. Sally Thielen mastered the art of weaving, although her main interest has focused on clay, sculpture and hand made paper.
Sally has works in permanent museum displays in the following locations: San Diego California; Denver, Colorado; Rapid City, South Dakota; Moscow, Russia, St. Petersburg, Russia; Olanada, Russia; Traverse City, Michigan; Alpena, Michigan; Cherokee, North Carolina; Muskegon, Michigan and East Lansing, Michigan. She has won numerous awards across the country for best of show, best booth, best classification, award of excellence, highest slide score, theme award, notable mention, honorable mention and many 1st, 2nd and 3rd place showings. Her exhibitions have been around the country as well as in Russia.
In 2004, Sally was invited to the White House in Washington, DC for the 40th anniversary of the Art in the Embassy program. She was invited to meet then first lady Laura Bush and Colin Powell at the State Department. Her work was exhibited in Asmara, Eritrea; Ljuljana, Slovenia; Lima, Peru; Capetown, South Africa and Guana, Africa.
Sally and her sister (Susan Clinthorne) collaborated their work and did numerous exhibitions on homelessness and human trafficking at churches, museums, galleries, the Flint Public Library and Art Prize in Grand Rapids. In addition to the installation exhibits, they have produced a performance titled “Bedtime Stories” centered around human trafficking victims. A new book in poetry form about human trafficking entitled “Broken, Bedtime Stories” has been printed and Sally and Susan have made art covers for the books.
In 2013, Sally was inducted into the Genesee County Women’s Hall of Fame by the Zonta Club of Flint, a part of Zonta International. Her photo and biography are part of the permanent kiosk at the Sloan Museum in Flint, Michigan.