SALT LAKE CITY — For most of the 80,000 or so visitors to this year's Utah Arts Festival, the festival means art and fun in the sun. But for the more than 170 visual artists, the festival is a chance to show and sell their creations to the public.
The festival, which runs June 20-23 at Library and Washington Squares, is packed full of interesting things: short film screenings, performance artists — this year, giant dinosaurs — music and dance performances, art workshops, poetry readings, food and activities for kids, but the real attraction of the festival is the Artist Marketplace, and local artists are representing the state in good form this year.
We met four of Utah's standout artists who will be at this year's festival, each of whom creates remarkable art and has just as interesting life stories. As you get ready for Salt Lake's biggest arts festival, we introduce you to a metal sculptor, a glass artist, an artist who works in flower petals and a ceramist. Check out their stories below.
Mike Beals uses drip-welding to create unique metal sculptures and wind chimes, but he wasn't always a full-time artist.
"As a matter of fact, I have a pretty in-depth background in business," he told the Deseret News. "I was formerly a vice president and board member of Fujitsu out of Tokyo."
Working for Fujitsu, a Japanese multinational information technology equipment and services company, helped Beals to thrive now that he's working as a full-time artist in St. George.
"I think I'm a better business person than I am an artist," he jokes. Beals also uses that business sense to support other artists. He is the president of the Association of Independent Artists, which has a membership of just under 700 artists working in a broad range of mediums.
"It's my core responsibility (and) mission for the association to help artists understand where they're failing," Beals said. "In most cases, you're finding that an artist does something very, very good, but they don't market themselves."
Beals started experimenting with art over 20 years ago, trying his hand first at pottery and glass blowing before settling on welding and beginning to make metal bells.
"It just made me happy to see other people happy with the work that I produce," he said.
Beals still makes the bells that started his career — "I've sold thousands and thousands of bells," he said. The bells hold a special place in his life, and he hopes, in the lives of those who purchase them.
"It's a reflection on them just appreciating life and wanting to slow down," Beals said. "When they hear that chime, it just reminds them that we're only here temporarily, and you might as well enjoy the journey."
Sarinda Jones has art in her DNA — her mom was a watercolor artist, and as a result, Jones grew up doing watercolor, pen and ink drawing and other artistic mediums at home. After taking a break from art for a few years, Jones started collecting glass marbles and became enamored with the art of glass.
It took meeting famed glass sculptor Dale Chihuly at a book signing in 2002 to get her back into it. Jones applied to his school, Pilchuck Glass School, and spent four weeks during the summer of 2003 in Stanwood, Washington, studying the basics of glass work under Chihuly himself.
"I started doing glass, and then it was like there was no other choice," Jones said of her career. "I couldn't not create."
To create her pieces, which range from jewelry to sculptures to large installations, Jones cuts pieces from large sheets of glass, adds powder glass in certain places for color or texture and then bakes the glass in a kiln at an extremely high temperature — between 1,250 to 1,890 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the glass is fused, she alters the shape by putting it in a mold and refiring it at a lower temperature.
"Part of the glass medium that got me was also the processing," Jones said. "The math, the science, the chemistry that goes into the glass arts (is) stuff that the patrons don't really see from the outside."
Jones is an advocate for public art, which is part of why she participates in the Utah Arts Festival.
"I believe that art is for everyone," she said.
When you first see Ingra Draper's artwork, you might think the lush, vibrant pieces are photographs or digital artwork. But when you get closer, you'll see that her unique creations are made of individually pressed flower petals.
"It's not the traditional pressed flowers, the kind that people associate with your grandmother. It's more of a modern approach," Draper said in a phone interview.
Twenty-one years ago, Draper and her husband accidentally killed their lawn. After getting rid of the damaged grass, they planted a variety of flowers and bushes.
"It was so beautiful," Draper said. "I thought I should do something with all these leaves and petals and flowers, and so I started pressing (them)."
Draper was artistically inclined and completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts program at the University of Utah, studying lighting design. When she finished her art degree, she did lighting design for Pioneer Theatre Company for six years before taking on the role of lighting designer and stage manager for the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company, which she held for three years.
Though she had experience with lots of art forms, pressing flowers was new to Draper when she started in 1998.
"It's been years of trial and error," she said with a laugh. "The technique of how I press each individual flower … has all been self-taught." Draper grows all of her flowers and presses them in presses she has built herself before layering them in complex patterns.
"It's a little different medium in the sense that I don't go to an art supply store to buy paint or pencils, but I have to grow and press my material first," Draper said.
Although he started making ceramics in junior high, Adam Addley tried to find a different career path when he first arrived at Utah State University.
"I spent four years studying biology. I was almost finished with it, and I realized that I wasn't super happy with what I was doing," Addley said in a recent phone interview. "So I started back and took sculpture class."
Now, he describes his work as "a childhood passion turned into a career choice."
Addley makes functional ceramics, meaning his pieces — bowls, pitchers, cups and more — are meant to be used in everyday life. These are all thrown on the potter's wheel and then air-dried. After the clay has hardened, Addley sometimes alters the original shape. From there, they get fired to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, glazed with mixes Addley creates himself, and fired again at 2,300 degrees.
Addley checks each piece individually as it comes out of the kiln, and then adds striking finishing touches.
"(For) some pots, I'll go back and make copper lids that I hand-hammer," he said.
Addley's clean, simple style and earthy glazes stem from his time in Japan, where he lived for six months as an undergraduate exchange student studying ceramics.
"The work I was making before traveling to Japan has a lot of surface decoration and line work, which was something that I was trying to get away from," Addley said. "Japan kind of gave me that push. There's a very clean, minimalistic style that's present in Japan."
Beyond the style influences on his art, Addley also learned focus in Japan.
"The dedication and effort that's put into everyday aspects of life in Japan influenced my work probably the most. It doesn't matter if you're sweeping the street or if you're working in a grocery store, everybody's doing their absolute best," Addley said. "That was a really inspiring thing."1 comment on this story
If you go …
What: The Utah Arts Festival
When: June 20-23, noon-11 p.m.
Where: Library Square, 200 E. 400 South
How much: $15 for adults, $8 for seniors and military, free for kids under 12; discounts and packages available online
Note: The festival offers an $8 lunchtime special on Thursday and Friday from noon-3 p.m.
Correction: A previous version incorrectly stated that Ingra Draper did not finish her Bachelor of Fine Arts. She completed her BFA in lighting design at the University of Utah.