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Former swimmer still makes waves, now with art

By Mark Anskis, athletics communications director


Skye Fulkerson Tarr ’96 checks out new landscapes at a nature trail near her home in Louisville with daughter Rivers and son Sawyer. Photo by Pat McDonogh

Seventeen years after capping one of the most remarkable careers in Swarthmore athletics history, Skye Fulkerson Tarr ’96 is still making waves—this time in the art studio, not the swimming pool.

While on the Swarthmore swim team, Tarr, who specialized in the breast stroke, became one of the College’s most decorated female student-athletes, earning six All-America honors and six Centennial Conference gold medals. Today, she pursues her other passion developed at Swarthmore.

Tarr, who majored in biology and is married to former Garnet basketball player Chad Tarr ’95, took many studio-art classes but did not pursue painting seriously after graduation, instead jumping into business consulting. She eventually gave up her business career to focus on her family and moved to Savannah, Ga., because of her husband’s job. That move prompted her rediscovery of art.

“I was so inspired by the coastal marsh landscape [of Savannah] that I just kept getting that itch to paint. I got out my easel, brushes, and paints that I still had from school and got started,” Tarr says.

Her art mainly consists of impressionist coastal landscapes and abstracts, inspired by her southern home.

“While in Savannah, we had to cross the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway to get home,” she explains. “Coming over the drawbridge and seeing the expanse of the marsh and the rivers was awe inspiring. The colors, trees, smells were so different from anywhere I’d lived. Although I hadn’t painted any landscapes at Swarthmore, I was eager to try.”

Skye’s itch to return to painting resulted in lush, vibrant images of the low country’s landscapes that resonated with local residents. Her artwork was featured in galleries throughout the city—including several solo shows—earning awards and critical acclaim from the local press.


Coastal vistas inspired Tarr to take up landscape painting.

“I really just went out and created something for myself, which was amazing,” she said about her art. “I had a supportive husband and two kids, and to be able to paint at the same time as raising a family was just a remarkable opportunity.”

Tarr says that many of the lessons she learned from her days in the pool translated directly into her art career.

“In my first trip to nationals, I had a terrible race,” she recalls. “It was a disappointment to me, but it was a good lesson to learn. Finding that space for relaxed focus helped my sprints in college, and it is also the best way for me to paint. I make the most progress on a painting when I am not trying to force a result.”

Tarr, who says that the swim program was the main reason she chose Swarthmore over similar institutions, remains connected to College athletics mainly through her family. She is related to a staggering number of former Garnet athletes, including her sister (Erin Fulkerson Robbins ’99), cousin (Nancy Rosenblum ’96), sister-in-law (Katie Tarr ’02), and brother-in-law (Andy Robbins ’98).

Due to nagging shoulder injuries, she no longer swims. But her passion for the sport has now transferred to her children, Rivers, 10, and Sawyer, 7.

“My children joined the local swim team and swam for the first time last year,” Tarr says. “When I take them to the pool and smell the chlorine, I get a sudden rush, and it feels like ‘Whoosh, I’m back!’”

Due to the family’s recent move from Savannah to Louisville, Ky., Skye’s art career was on hold. But now that she’s had time to settle into her new Southern city, she’s getting back in the swim with art, recently joining a local artist’s guild.

“The challenge for me is getting adjusted to the new landscape,” she says. “I don’t see much of the coastal marsh, but with the rolling bluegrass hills and horses, I am sure I will find something to paint.”

To see the art of Skye Fulkerson Tarr ’96, click here.

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