Inside the Vault:
Truths & Myths from the Utah State Fine
The State Fine Art Collection, begun in 1899 as the Alice
Merrill Horne Collection, now consists of over 1,100
works by Utah artists in all media. The pieces
are on display in various state and office buildings
throughout Utah and many travel with the Utah Arts
Council Traveling Exhibition Program.
The continued acquisition of artwork
comes from purchases made through the visual
arts program and donations from patrons and artists
of the state of Utah.
This series is an effort to preserve
and share the stories and experiences surrounding
the artwork and artists of Utah as seen
through the eyes of the Utah Arts Council staff.
Compiled by Laura Durham
Assistant Visual Arts Coordinator, Utah Arts Council
Steel Wool Doesn't Get Everything Off
George Dibble (1904-1992)
Dibble grew up in Layton,
Utah. In 1941, he began a long career as an art professor at the
University of Utah. In addition to being an artist, he was the chief
art critic for the Salt Lake Tribune for some time.
Dibble submitted this piece to the Utah State Fair back in
1938. One of the State Fair authorities disliked the painting so
much that he attempted to scrub the surface off with a piece of steel
wool. He succeeded to some degree and the water stains are evident,
but the painting obviously survived the abuse.
No effort has been made to repair the damage, mostly because
the painting has seen too much trauma. But at this point, the story
is almost worth more than the painting. The Utah Arts Council displays
and travels the piece in its current condition.
David Edward Linn on the spot:
WHAT ARE YOU READING LATELY?
Bills and financial statements. Ah, reality . .
WHAT IS HANGING
ABOVE YOUR MANTEL?
A dried up, dusty wreath on the verge of spontaneous
combustion. No, really.
WHO WOULD YOU CHOOSE
TO PAINT OR SCULPT YOUR PORTRAIT?
Peter Paul Reubens.
Not because he was the greatest portraitist of all time, but it would
give me a chance to talk with him about how he crammed so much
into one relatively short lifetime. He was an amazing artist
and remarkable human being.
Gallery Profiles: Salt Lake City
The Art of Shopping
by Linda Bergstrom
a time in every good shopper’s life when they need to head to the
mall to pick up an essential item. Perhaps something from Bath and
Body Works, or Victoria’s Secret that you just can’t get at your local
Target or Walmart. Maybe it’s that sale you’ve been waiting for at Nordstrom.
During your grueling shopping day, you suddenly trip upon something
that’s fairly unique and often unprecedented in the mall experience.
It’s a gallery. An art gallery. How does fine art co-exist in a world
of disposable consumer goods?
The downtown Crossroads Mall has three diverse galleries,
each of which offers a distinctive art experience. The Art Is
In , and the two Mainly Art Galleries
couldn’t be more different from each other, but together offer
a complete picture of the mall gallery experience.
If you happen to be at the Crossroads Mall and heading
to the Southwest corner on your trip to the makeup counter at Nordstrom,
you’ll run smack into two new galleries called Mainly Art
, and Mainly Art 2 .
Perhaps you remember the Mainly Art name from last summer’s weekly
outdoor event where artists converged to sell their wares on Main
Street in downtown Salt Lake City. Two of the participing artists decided
to take the art (and the name) indoors during the winter, and started
a co-op gallery called Mainly Art inside Crossroads Mall. Renee Shaw
and James “Dr. Torg” Torgerson have recently expanded the initial Mainly
Art gallery space in the mall to a second, 5000 square foot space directly
across from the original gallery. Upwards of 60 local artists and artisans
(with more coming each day), participate in this co-operative effort.
One level down from the Mainly Art spaces is a beautiful
gallery and frame shop called, “The Art Is In.” Clever play on
words, and a cleverly utilized space. Firmly wedged between various
clothing stores, it’s almost a relief to walk into such a serene
atmosphere. Though the smell of Cinnabuns wafting by can make even
the most disciplined shopper dizzy, seeing the art in this gallery
is worth passing up on those extra calories. Be prepared to digest
some tasty art at this savvy gallery.
Mark Weiler is the gallery owner, and a seasoned
veteran of selling fine art in the mall. They show local artists,
as well as artists from out of state. For Weiler, and his wife Heather,
“in this particular mall, we draw a few more tourists, which tend to
buy more artwork than locals, and 80 percent of our sales is to out-of-staters.”
The last thing many people expect in a mall is a fine
art gallery. “You expect poster shops, and that sort of thing so
most people come in, and it’s a surprise to them. The mall likes us
very much because we add to the mall experience, and people come in and
see great artwork.” Weiler’s plans are up in the air regarding how long
they will stay at Crossroads, as the mall will be undergoing major changes
soon. “I’m not sure we would survive...away from the downtown tourist
area”, Weiler says, adding that “there are a lot of really great artists
here, but they don’t have a lot of venues in which to show their artwork.”
Noting that the up and coming artists seem to have a more difficult time
showing their work. Weiler says, “There is a greater need for more co-op
type galleries, where the responsibility is shared for artists to get their
work shown. As they get a name and their work gets better, then they can
move up to bigger galleries.”
But how is art selling in a mall situation? Are people really willing
to stop in and buy artwork when they are on their way to Tabula
Rasa to order wedding invitations?
“What I like about the mall setting,
is that there is a lot of walk-by traffic. That’s the biggest single
advantage.” says Torgerson. Mainly Art is also starting to develop
their own fame as a smaller, more diverse gallery. Since it sells various
items besides fine art, the average person can wander into the gallery
and see that there is something for almost everyone. Occasionally, people
will walk into the larger gallery and do a “gallery stroll”. Peeking
around timidly, and almost treating it as a museum, not wanting to touch
or buy the very same items they can also buy in the smaller, more intimate
Mainly Art gallery/store.
Regarding the larger, more open
gallery, Torgersen says, “This is about sales, it’s about artists
making a living at what they’re doing. So we need to make sure that
people are aware that things are for sale here.” Torgerson feels that
the more “filled-in” the new gallery gets with more of a variety of
items, the more that feeling will go away with the general public. From
his experience running the galleries, the artists seem to like more of
an “open” feel to the gallery, while the patrons prefer it to be more
congested. They tend to feel more comfortable touching items and buying
them if there are more items in a smaller area. One only needs to go to
the neighboring stores to see how much merchandise they have crowded into
unusually small areas. It seems that the average mall-goer is quite visually
oriented, and the more there is to see, the more they want to buy. This
shopping mentality tends to be quite an advantage for a mall gallery,
especially a co-op like Mainly Art. So much art to see and buy, so little
According to Torgerson, the gallery’s sales were excellent during
Christmas, and even in the “dead” months following Christmas. Being
in a mall during high shopping season has its definite advantages.
However, during downtime and slow months, you “basically, have to hang
in there” Torgerson states.
There are obvious benefits to being a gallery in
a mall, and once shoppers get over the odd juxtaposition of seeing
fine art next to a t-shirt shop, these types of galleries can continue
to thrive. According to Shaw, being downtown next to the Convention
Center hasn’t hurt business one bit either. Shaw notes that, “We
get a lot of people from out of town looking for local art as a souvenir.”
Once again, this large volume of walk-by traffic, combined with tourists,
has made a huge difference in the sales of the gallery. Being a new
gallery, this helps tremendously in establishing a clientele.
Shaw also believes firmly in helping the artist to
establish themselves, and wants to provide various venues for
this besides being in a gallery. She is spearheading the upcoming
Seagull Fest, which enables artists to decorate their own Seagull,
then have it shown in the downtown area by a specific sponsor, similar
to the buffaloes that were seen a few years ago. The Mainly Art 2 gallery
is the home-base for this event, and it is fortunately also a working gallery,
which enables the artists to come and work on their individual seagull
projects in the main gallery space. This is also a definite eye-catcher
to the mall shopper.
So, even though the big sale at Nordstrom might
be beckoning you, a visit to one of these mall galleries might make
you decide to enrich your traditional mall shopping experience. Passing
up the Spring shoe sale might be more worth your while after you see
your purchase of a gorgeous photograph or unique painting from a local
artist. Now that is the true art of shopping. City.
-- Linda Bergstrom
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