You can barely make out the mountain horizon this past of couple weeks due to all that gray junk in the air, but that didn't stop people from heading out to Gallery Stroll this past Friday. --- The monthly event usually slows down in the summer because, to be blunt, people wuss out and can't stand the heat while walking around to a couple of galleries. However, that was surprisingly not the case for what is typically known as the hottest month to go strolling, as a lot of the galleries I hit up were packed!
This month, I made our my over to Spy Hop Productions on 500 West, where they were having an open-house Street Party to show off the artwork, music, games and more made by the students who attend, along with activities for everyone to get involved with like movie showings, screenprinting and more. I chat with Spy Hop staffers Virginia Pearce and Chris Manfre about their careers and joining the organization, the work they had on display this past Friday, and thoughts on the art scene -- all with pictures of the event that you can check out here.
Chris Manfre & Virginia Pearce
Gavin: Hey, Chris and Virginia. First thing, tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Chris: I love creating fun things and then breaking it down into bit-sized chunks and teaching others how to create fun things.
Gavin: How did you take an interest in entertainment in general, and what influenced both of you early on?
Virginia: I was a photographer early on, and have always been interested in film and photography.
Chris: I was definitely influenced by music, video games and, for some reason, gas-station logos. Growing up on Atari & NES, breakdancing and polka-dot shirts on top of MC Hammer pants it was a given.
Gavin: Did either of you take any college courses prior to your formal careers, or did you just start out doing what you loved?
Virginia: I went to college, but not in the arts!
Chris: I studied Interactive Media at [Salt Lake Community College] and also interned at Counterpoint Recording Studio when it first opened.
Gavin: Virginia, your background is in photography and filmmaking. What was it like for you starting off and being freelance photographer?
Virginia: I loved being able to do exactly what I wanted to do -- and had a lot of great experiences traveling around the country -- and living in Paris -- with my photography.
Gavin: Later on, you got involved with the Sundance Institute and the film festival itself. How did that opportunity come about, and what was it like working with them for nine years?
Virginia: On one of my stops through SLC to see my family, I applied to be a volunteer with the Film Festival. My sister and I had always attended, and I thought it would be fun to spend a few weeks immersed. They called me and asked me if I wanted a job instead, and I didn't look back. Being at Sundance for 12 years was an amazing experience -- so many great people. I loved being a part of it!
Gavin: Chris, your background is in audio engineering and you got your start with Mammoth Sound in Salt Lake City. How was it for you breaking into the industry and working for that company?
Chris: Mammoth Sound was great. My friend Chris Wright started working for Mammoth and helped me land a job there. We did sound in a lot of concert venues including: Harry O's, Urban Lounge, Salt Air , Lo-Fi Cafe and Avalon Theater and it gave me a chance to work with a lot of awesome and legendary musicians. I love doing live sound but I also love my hearing so I don't do it too much anymore.
Gavin: On the side, you also create music and have worked with people like A. Vanvranken and Pillow Rockets. How has it been for you to create music in your spare time?
Chris: I'm obsessed with cutting up old records and putting the sounds on top of beats while eating cereal.
Gavin: How did both of you first learn about Spy Hop, and what got you interested in its program?
Chris: I lived in the Artspace that was right by Spy Hop when it was on Pierpont Ave. and saw the cool activities going on. At the time, I was teaching audio/design classes at YouthCity and was excited when the opportunity to work at Spy Hop came up.
Virginia: Sundance Institute used to partner with Spy Hop on their program "Reel Stories," and it was part of my job to manage that program. I loved what they do, and eventually was on the board of trustees. When an opportunity came up to work for them, it came at a time when I was looking to move on from Sundance and I jumped at the chance.
Gavin: When did each of you join, and how has it been working for this kind of outreach organization?
Virginia: Spy Hop is filled with dedicated, passionate staff and students, and i'ts very, very fun to be a part of something with a great mission and great opportunities.
Chris: I joined in late 2007 after running into Matt Mateus at Cup Of Joe and him telling me they were hiring a design instructor. It has been a super-cool experience for me. It is awesome to be around so many creative students and co-workers everyday!
Gavin: Tell us about the artwork we're seeing on display for this exhibition.
Virginia: We'll be showcasing the work done over the summer and over the last year at Spy Hop. Film, music, animation, graphic and game design are all part of the show.
Gavin: Tell us about the kids participating and some of the works you're most excited about from this showing.
Virginia: We had a group of 10-12-year-olds make a really hilarious zombie movie called Zombiopolis. We're also showing off a video game created in conjunction with Volunteers of America about the Homeless Youth Resource Center.
Gavin: What made you decide to do this exhibition on Gallery Stroll, and how has been working with them?
Virginia: We are working with Art Access this year because we both worked with youth over the summer and thought it would be a great chance to show off some of the talented youth in our city. Gallery Stroll has such a great audience every month, and we worked with them last year for this party, as well. It's a good chance for people who've never been inside our studio to check it out.
Gavin: Moving on to local art, what are your thoughts on our art scene, both good and bad?
Chris: I think the local art scene continues to become more exciting and progressive.
Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make things more prominent?
Chris: I think we need to develop condensed areas of art and culture to form a stronger community. Somewhere people can hang out and walk around to see art. I think the community on 3rd South is a great start.
Gavin: What can we expect from both of you and Spy Hop over the rest of the year?
Virginia: Expect to see a whole lot of youth-produced art!!
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?
Virginia: Fall classes start in September for ages 7–19. Check out the website for more info!
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