Being an artist and surviving in Utah is almost a paradox, but after experiencing the peace and natural beauty of Utah, many local artists would not live anywhere else.

"I searched until I found a place where the river flows upstream. If you find such a place, live there," said Jaime Reyes, a Salt Lake artist.Reyes and about 24 other artists met Monday in the University Mall at a ribbon-cutting for the grand opening of the expanded Framework.

Gary Price, a Springville sculptor, said businesses like Framework and other community projects are responsible for an increased interest in Utah art.

"It's not that people aren't buying art, they are just buying out of state," Price said. But he said people are starting to stay home when they decide to buy art.

"It's almost a paradox, but I think I have sold more art to Utahns through out-of-state dealers. It is a slow education process," he said.

Most of the artists agreed that surviving in Utah means selling out of state.

"The artwork is not ever easy. There is a high expense involved anytime you create any piece of art. It is almost like running a small business. What may seem like a high price isn't," said Marilee Campbell, a Provo artist.

"I think that we have some of the finest artists here in this valley and in Utah. I was talking to a dealer in Texas who asked me, `What makes the artist quality so high in Utah?' I think it has a lot to do with the steady lifestyle and good training. People tend to underestimate Utah," she said.

Jon Swindle, co-owner of Framework, said being in such a conspicuous spot as a shopping mall helps stir interest in art.

"People have often been afraid to look at art because they think they don't know what real art is. It's not a matter of like or dislike; they are afraid of it. But after they wander in here and look around they find that they already had a good idea of what a masterpiece is," he said.

Framework will display work by local artists until June 3. Framework is a part of Repartee Gallery and Framework Inc. with galleries in Orem, Salt Lake and Park City as well as a warehouse in Provo. The newly expanded gallery in Orem is nearly four times the size of the original store at that location.