Fall is the time of year when art museums in Utah spotlight top-notch exhibitions. The reason is obvious; two of the museums are located on university campuses and gallery directors want to start off the new school year with a big bang.

Opening Sunday, Oct. 21, at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, University of Utah, will be a blockbuster exhibit, "Masterpieces of the American West: Selections from the An-schutz Collection."Currently on display at the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art, Utah State University, are "A Dozen and One Utah Furniture Makers" and ceramic bowls by John Neely.

Determined to share the spotlight, the Springville Museum of Art has just opened three new shows: "The Geneva Steel Autumn Exhibition, Utah Art 1950-90," "An Eclectic Exhibit of Utah Panoramas" by Rod Millar, and a retrospective of the artwork of Robert Barrett.

- Vern Swanson, director of the Springville Museum of Art, said that the Geneva Steel exhibition is not a juried show. In fact, almost all the art for this show has been in hiding in the museum's vaults.

"But it's going to be a growing show. It will be constantly curated until it closes at the end of the year," Swanson added.

He says he is using the museum's collection to "jump start" the show. During the next three months, Swanson will be contacting artists throughout the state and inviting them to enter works of art. Then, when the show closes at the end of the year, some will be purchased for the permanent collection. So what you see on the walls today might not be what you'll see tomorrow.

After looking closely at the museum's permanent collection, Swanson found some gaps between 1950 and 1990. In other works, some Utah artists are not represented. And some of the works were not indicative of the artists' best work.

"So this exhibit is an attempt to fill some gaps as well as increase the quality of our collection," Swanson said.

But Swanson disclosed another purpose for the show. "There is madness to my method. I am using the exhibit to help me write a chapter on Utah art from 1950-90." He said it will be one of the chapters in the book "Utah Art: Springville Museum of Art Collection." Other art historians working on the book are Utahns Robert Olpin and William Seifrit as well as William Gerdts of New York City College.

The project is a challenge for Swanson. He approaches it uneasily because he knows he must limit the number of artists to 400.

"That means 400 artists will love me, and 5,200 will hate me," he said. After a pause, he added "I expect crosses will be burned in my yard."

One look at the show will reveal that the museum already has a number of quality paintings. Artists whose exhibited work was done during the 1950s and '60s are Florence Ware, Paul Salisbury, George Dibble, Dale Fletcher, Gary Smith; and during the 1970s - Alvin Gittins, Tony Smith, Ken Baxter, Everett Thorpe, Kent Goodliffe and others.

Popular art works dating between 1980-1990 are hanging in the Step-down gallery. Artists in this group include Jenni Christensen, Susan Carroll, Paul Davis, Wulf Barsch, Gregory Abbott, Frank Huff and Marion Hyde.

- The Lower Clyde Gallery has undergone quite a transformation. Not long ago, it was filled with nude drawings and paintings by Francis Zimbeaux. Now it is filled with religious art by Robert Barrett.

Most of these works illustrate themes taken from or inspired by the Bible. Some of the best are "Isaiah," "Christ Walks on the Water," "Mary Magdaline Anoints the Feet of Christ," "The Resurrected Christ," as well as paintings for the book "The Other Wiseman."

Although Barrett is a freelance illustrator, he has done many assignments for LDS Church publications - the Ensign, New Era, The Friend and others.

After receiving an assignment, the artist does extensive research to make certain such details as wardrobe, house furnishings, landscape, etc. are authentic.

And he has to paint fast. Although he would like to work on a painting for six months, he might have a deadline of six days. This means he doesn't have time to build up textures or glazes. And he must apply paint thinly so it will dry quickly.

The public is invited to an artist's reception on Wednesday, Oct. 24, from 7-9 p.m.

- Freelance photographer Rod Millar is exhibiting in the museum's Works on Paper Gallery. His photographs are highly unusual and intriguing because they cover a 360-degree panorama.

Millar said, "After photographing the wonders of the canyon country for 20 years with conventional format cameras, I began to be dissatisfied with their limitations." As a result, he began using a 360 degree slit scanning panorama camera to capture the total scene.

"I see the world in 360 degrees now. Everywhere I go I am aware of the total scene around me . . . It has given me a different perspective of the world I live in."

- Here is a brief look at current and upcoming exhibits at Utah museums.

NEH Museum of Art, USU, Logan - "A Dozen and One Utah Furniture Makers" spotlights 19 pieces of furniture by artisans known for their craftsmanship and ingenuity. Participating in this exhibit are Jim Banta, Robert Bliss, Jeffrey Karl Cobabe, Andrew H. Glantz, Stephen Goldsmith, Michael Iannone, Glenn D. Leonard, Kaethe Radomski, O. Rhees Ririe, Earl V. Sevy, John and Ruth Sundberg and Tom Tessman. In conjunction with the exhibit, Goldsmith will present a gallery talk on Oct. 18 at 4:30 p.m.

John Neely, head of the ceramics program at USU, is displaying approximately 20 bowls. Known primarily for his teapots, Neely wanted to show thew public that "teapots are not all I do or am interested in."

Utah Museum of Fine Arts, University of Utah - Opening Sunday, Oct. 21, a traveling exhibition "Masterpieces of the American West: Selections from the Anschutz Collection" includes works by George Bellows, Thomas Hart Benton, Albert Bierstadt, Nicolai Fechin, John Marin, Georgia O'Keeffe, Jackson Pollock, John Sloan and many other artists.

For closing dates of shows as well as addresses and telephone numbers of the above museums, look under GALLERIES in this section of the paper.