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Eric Betts, Deseret News
A glimpse into the exhibit "New Narratives: Recent Work From University of Utah Art Faculty," which will be on display at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts.
I think one of the things about my work is there's a playfulness in it, so from young to old, I am hoping that they can enter that way. They can see that there's this kind of child-like quality along with, I like to say, the heart of a child and the brain of an adult. —Brian Snapp

SALT LAKE CITY — Walking around looking at museum art might not be the first thing on kids' list of fun things to do. But what if, instead of "don't touch," they got the chance to see it from a hands-on perspective?

The Utah Museum of Fine Arts is opening young eyes to art appreciation in a creative way.

With paint and clay and paper and plastic and vision, the talents of the University of Utah art faculty are gracing the Utah Museum of Fine Arts in the “New Narratives: Recent Work by University of Utah Art Faculty” exhibition. Thirty-one artists are featured in a wide range of mediums, including paintings, sculptures, ceramics, photography and new media.

Ceramicist Brian Snapp's latest work is titled "The House of My Brother."

“I think one of the things about my work is there's a playfulness in it, so from young to old, I am hoping that they can enter that way,” Snapp said. “They can see that there's this kind of child-like quality along with, I like to say, the heart of a child and the brain of an adult.”

“The House of My Brother” is a large piece. From one side, it looks like it might tip over.

“There’s a bit of tension there,” Snapp said. “There’s a sense of fragility, even though it’s very massive.”

Snapp, an associate professor and chairman of the University of Utah Department of Art and Art History, said he hopes people will look at his work and look at their own world in a different way.

“When someone reads the title and sees the piece, can they then think, ‘Well, what’s going on in the house of my brother?’” Snapp said.

Carol Sogard, a member of the U. art faculty, created a piece from reclaimed plastic bags and calls it simply "Stop." It speaks, she said, of modern consumption.

"We are placing our mark on the Earth by what we do and how we consume and what we throw away and what can't go away," Sogard said.

Katie Lee Koven, director of the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Arts at Utah State University and a guest curator, said this exhibition comes from the Utah community.

The art not only shows "how these artists are really a part of the cultural landscape of Utah, but how they're also teaching the next generation of students," she said.

At the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, there is so much to see: paintings, sculptures, furniture. But experts say there are ways to help make the art more real and interesting for children who visit.

School groups visit throughout the year. These elementary students examine an installation from Tony Feher — hundreds of hanging fluorescent pink strips of landscaping tape.

For families, there is another solution: backpacks filled with creative ways to do hands-on activities in the galleries. They are filled with tools that are conversation starters.

"You get your telescope out and you look at artwork that's far away and describe it from far away and go up close and look at it,” education curator Virginia Catherall said. “So do you want to look at a work of art that’s far away?” she asked her 9-year-old son Liam Kramer.

Her sons, Liam and 5-year-old Tommy Kramer, think of the museum as a home away from home. Since the boys love to experience “new” art, they had questions and opinions on the new faculty exhibition.

They first saw Wendy Wischer's "Trapped Within,” a multimedia piece created with hand-cut mirrors and projected with surround sound.

“I can see a rainbow of colors. … I see blue, white, red, purple,” Liam said.

The boys had lots of questions like, “How does it make that light?" "What is that sound?"

And then they admired Lewis Crawford's "Geometry from Public Space," another multimedia piece. “Well, I have a stronger sense of danger,” observed Liam as the art started to shake.

When asked what kind of shapes the boys saw, Tommy said, “It kind of looks curvy.”

Both boys see the purpose behind going to museums.

"Every one of these exhibits is made for people to just be inspired and see just how great art is," Liam said.

“We get to see new things and it's really cool,” added Tommy.

“New Narratives: Recent Work by University of Utah Art Faculty” will be at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts through Jan. 11, 2015. For information on hours, ticket prices and free days at the museum, visit umfa.utah.edu.

Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc

Email: [email protected]