Sally Dark Rides is proud of our talented team. Many members of our team have been working with us for years—some even for decades. One of those dedicated team members is Luda Budnik, Art Finish Supervisor. Luda has been part of the Sally team for over 25 years. We recently interviewed Luda to learn more about her background, expertise, and interests.

About Luda: A Lifelong Passion for Art

Luda has been an artist all her life. She grew up in Minsk, the capital of Belarus in Eastern Europe, where her mother put her in art classes starting in the first grade. She recalls how she loved toy making and sculpting class. Luda graduated with her art degree from Glebov Art School in 1985. She then began her career as an artist, teaching in children’s art school looming and textiles to third, fourth and fifth graders.

Luda left her home country in 1989 to make her way in America. Once she landed in Jacksonville, Luda enrolled in classes at Florida State College of Jacksonville to improve her English skills and learn new techniques in graphic design. Everything changed when she saw an employment advertisement in the paper for Sally. “It was everything I was interested in,” she says. “It was amazing. When I toured this place for the first time, I couldn’t believe it. It looked just like a workshop from my school.” She was thrilled to take the position in the art department, and has loved it ever since.

Role at Sally Dark Rides: Art Finish Supervisor

Luda began her time at Sally in the art finish department, working her way up to Art Finish Supervisor. She wears many hats in her role, serving as a painter, sculptor, costumer and all-around artist as she works to ensure projects are polished before handing over to the client. On any given day, you might find Luda painting silicone skin to look real, making sure that the eyes of a character are perfectly adjusted to look and function correctly, or making costumes to work with all the moving parts. “All the robots need to be accessible, and we don’t want them to wear out their costumes or come out of them!”  

Luda loves working at Sally. She especially loves her workshop, where she has access to all the best materials available so her creations can live up to her imagination. She considers herself a craftsman who puts all the pieces together to bring someone’s dream and design to life.

Some of Luda’s favorite projects have been the ones where she helped sculpt the character from the start, like Papa Tiger for the White Tiger Show at the Chimelong Hotel in Guangzhou, China. She also loved working on the Great Wolf Lodge project, because it was an entire spectacular scene assembled completely at Sally. But Luda has worked on so many projects, it can be hard for her to name favorites.

Luda and Papa Tiger

“I love to look back at our collective pictures of what we’ve done in the past. I can point at everything I worked on and finished,” she says. “To make something is not easy. When I look at it, I think, wow, I did it. I did it all from the beginning to end. It’s an accomplishment.”

For Luda, success is when someone loves her work. She loves to see people happy or fascinated with her characters. But she also takes tremendous satisfaction in working for a company that operates like a family. “It’s like being part of a team of very talented, very creative people,” she says. “They are also wonderful friends too. They’re not just coworkers. That’s really special.”

Insights Into the Industry

Luda would love to continue working as an art technician and with animatronics for the rest of her career. It’s hard for her to say how the theme park industry may change in the future, but she absolutely believes Sally and its partners will continue to entertain children and families around the world for generations to come.

“Sally’s rides are special,” she says. “Our rides come from the combined experience of talented designers, mechanics and artists. Everything is designed to the last detail. There’s something enjoyable for everyone, of any age and interest. We create rides and characters that speak to the imagination.”

Life Outside Sally

Luda enjoys restoring her collection of antique dollhouses. She also loves spending time with her daughter, who lives in New York. They both share love for art. “We like to travel, cook delicious things and take pictures and brag about our current projects. My daughter always gives me ideas and inspiration.”