Artist of the Week: Facing growth in Utah’s art community

Erin West

Salt Lake City is teeming with talented artists and entertainers. Each week The Daily Utah Chroncile sets out to highlight U alumni, past and present, currently involved in art to see what they’re up to now. This week will focus on Elizabeth Fine, one of three Honors College students who is dedicated to exhibiting and drawing attention to Utah art.

Professor Howard Lehman’s International Leadership Academy course inspired Fine, Samuel Bey and Logan Millar to take their required group project, Funding Art for Cultural Exposure (F.A.C.E.), and build upon it in efforts to increase funding and awareness for Utah art.

“[Lehman] is the one who inspired us to create something that would make an impact on campus,” Fine said. “We were asked to do something meaningful on campus so we decided the best way to do that would be to have art competitions and then exhibit the artists. That way, we could let the community and students on campus give their say on what they thought was significant or impacted them most.”

The group’s first art exhibit took place Nov. 21 in the Aline Skaggs Biology Building. The main goal was to inspire artists to share their perspectives while, at the same time, provoking conversation about diversity, culture and international issues. The competition was based on a prompt to discuss “something about your cultural identity or an international issue.”

“There is a lot of involvement with people within humanities, some business and definitely a lot with the fine arts,” fine said, “but less so with the sciences, such as engineers — I feel like they have a lot to say as well.”

The founders wanted the prompt not only to be about one’s cultural identity but also an invitation to discuss an international issue — something they believed could widen the competition’s contributors and audience.

“I’m a chemistry major and also a French major, so I can kind of see both sides of the story,” Fine said. “I’m able to see definitely that the arts people are involved because it’s in connection with who they are, but with scientists, if you provoke them only with culture, they get a little bit nervous. Our prompt is kind of how we reached out to those people who are more inclined with problem-solving. You get different perspectives when you reach out to those groups who are maybe less inclined to do some art.”

The Chronicle has a similar goal in striving to feature artists of all media. Featured art has included Native American pottery from Pahponee and Shelden Nunez-Velarde, murals and mindful meditation from Danny Stephens and, most recently, an EP release from Matt Mascarenas of Westing.

For F.A.C.E., Fine emphasized the importance of including prize money, or funding, when reaching out to artists because it creates an incentive for artists to feel creatively comfortable in sharing their opinions and viewpoints.

“What we found is that it’s a little hard for people sometimes to just go out and share something,” Fine said. “They don’t want to seem conceited like they’re just pushing their opinion over anyone else’s, so posting about prize money and making it a competition actually makes it more comfortable for them because people understand more why they would want to submit a piece. That’s at least what we found.”

According to Fine, what started as a required group project may soon grow into a larger community outreach program and the next step is spreading to a younger audience — such as local middle schools — to get students interested in art early.

“We’ve already had interest from a few other people who want to see more and keep the group going,” she said. “We want to focus on community outreach because the thing with art is that it crosses boundaries. Every single culture has a way of expressing themselves. In Africa, you have artists who are painting just as we do, or you’ll have musicians from around the world. Every single culture has their own artistic identity so in a world where sometimes culture can aggravate some groups of people, especially in our current world situation, [our competition and outreach] seems like a non-aggressive manner of being able to say that everyone is connected and art is something we all have in common. In that way, we should be able to empathize with everyone around us in some degree.”

If you are engaged in arts, are a student at the U and would like to be a featured artist of the week, contact The Daily Utah Chronicle Arts & Entertainmenr Editor, Casey Koldewyn at c.koldewyn@dailyutahchronicle.com.

e.west@dailyutahchronicle.com

@noteastbuterin