U art students make SLC their canvas

A-Finch Lane Gallery Colby Patterson
Art on display at the Finch Lane Gallery. Photo courtesy of Amelia Walchli

Art on display at the Finch Lane Gallery. Photo courtesy of Amelia Walchli

From Jan. 24 to March 7, the Finch Lane Gallery will showcase a collection of community-inspired murals called “Perspective Realia: Ten Years of Urban Art.”

V. Kim Martinez, a professor of painting and drawing at the U, has been planning and implementing these public art projects through a mural class, which is offered each Fall Semester. In this class, students research, plan, propose and paint large-scale murals throughout the Salt Lake City area.

Martinez said the project was set up in collaboration with a few community partners and the Utah Transit Authority. Originally, South Salt Lake parks and recreation manager Tim Williams contacted the Department of Art and Art History and offered them a grant to beautify the TRAX corridor.

After painting a few unique murals along TRAX lines, Martinez looked to establish a sense of community in her hometown of South Salt Lake.

“Community art is about giving everyone a voice. [It needs to be done] in a way that becomes a social action for everyone involved,” Martinez said
Collectively, the students from Martinez’s mural classes are responsible for designing and bringing to life around 25,000 square feet of artwork. During the class, students gain many important skills so that, after graduation, they will have a competitive edge when it comes to creating art in the public sphere. They also learn the importance of teamwork, mentor elementary students in painting and educate the neighborhoods about the legal procedures involved in creating the murals.

“As a class, we worked hard this last fall to create a mural for the NICU at the University Medical Center,” said Judy Gustafason, a senior in fine art with an emphasis in painting and drawing and a student in Martinez’s class.

Every student creates a design. Then they present their design to the class, and the class chooses who gets to present to city officials, who offer feedback. The students revise their designs before unveiling them to the community. Finally, the citizens get to vote for whatever design they believe best represents the neighborhood.

Each students’ artistic style makes working collectively to produce a cohesive piece more difficult. Without a rigid plan, these paintings could quickly become chaotic and confusing. However, Martinez devises a plan months in advance, and she adheres to that plan throughout the entire process. The students and Martinez utilize either a specific color palette, a unique line or even a certain painting technique, which ensures a consistent style.

When it comes to these murals, nothing is done behind closed doors. The community not only receives a beautiful piece of artwork, they also get to watch the entire process from design to chalk-grid to finished product. The hope for these colorful scenes is that they will thrive both on the walls of the neighborhood and in the hearts of Utah citizens.

The gallery is open Monday through Friday from 9 p.m. to 5 p.m. The art house will also screen a documentary, which reveals the intensive process that went into creating the massive collages.