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Gavin's Underground

Central Utah Art Center

by Gavin Sheehan
- Posted // 2009-11-17 -

While most of the art scene is centered in Provo, SLC, Park City and Ogden, you can find many a gallery spread throughout the state. From the contemporary to the classic to the collectible to even the kitsch, there's something to be found is most every city. But one of the galleries that's been getting some major attention in recent years can't even be found in any major city Utah has to offer. As a matter of fact its almost sits in the exact center of the state.

The Central Utah Art Center has been keeping home in Ephraim since 1991 as a place for art to be seen by many who don't have the time or means to make it far in any direction. Maintaining itself inside the city's old Roller Mill, its established itself as a both a must see gala and a community resource, not to mention an inspirational spot for those in town or at the nearby Snow College. And with more prominent shows now picking up attention from the art scene, the monthly shows have started to become an almost regular tip. I got a chance to chat with two of the men behind the gallery, board president Adam Bateman and gallery director Jared Latimer, about the gallery and its history along with their thoughts on local art.  (Photos via Meridith Pingree and Kai Vierstra)

Adam Bateman & Jared Latimer

http://www.cuartcenter.org/

Gavin: Hey guys, first off, tell us little about yourselves.

Jared: I got my BFA from Brigham Young University in 2001 with an emphasis in painting/drawing. I was accepted to Pratt Institute and got my MFA in painting/drawing in 2003. After graduate school I moved to the greater Cincinnati area and taught art at Miami University. I have two children and one more on the way. Way excited about that.

Adam: I got a BA from BYU in English, Spanish minor. I also graduated from Pratt Institute in 2003 with an MFA in sculpture. It’s where I met Jared. After living in NYC for a while I returned to Utah and took over at CUAC. After running it a few years I left and suggested Jared for the job, he beat out some great competition too. I’m now Chair of the Board and I do a lot of the curatorial work there. I also have my own art career. I have shown my work internationally, NYC, and elsewhere in the US. I teach as adjunct faculty at Weber State and I am the director of Birch Creek Residency—an artist residency program.

Gavin: For those who may not know, what is the Central Utah Art Center?

Adam: CUAC is, hands-down, the best contemporary art venue in Utah. It features artists from all over the world. It’s the only contemporary art venue to in Utah to receive international press coverage. Artists shown there have gone on to show in major venues like the Venice Biennale, the Whiney Biennial, the Guggenheim Museum, the Getty Museum, Saatchi Gallery, and many other great venues.

Jared: The Central Utah Art Center is located in Ephraim, Utah and was created in 1991 when it moved into the newly renovated Ephraim Roller Mill. The mill had originally been built in 1876. When it was built it was in part of Fort Ephraim and surrounded by walls to protect the settlement. During its 130 year history the mill was initially run by the Relief Society of the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and then went through several commercial owners before it was vacant for several decades before its renovation. In the early days of the mill, the grain processed there was sent around the world for charity relief purposes—some was sent to China near the turn of last century and a large amount was sent to San Francisco after the earthquake there in 1906. Currently, the mill is used as a public art space. It has been beautifully renovated, leaving the oolite limestone bricks, typical of early architecture of the valley, exposed on both the exterior and on the inside walls of the upper level. All of the rafters and old floor joists have been left exposed.The Central Utah Art Center (CUAC) is a non-profit art center located in Ephraim Utah. There are two parts to the organization; a contemporary art gallery and an art educational resource. We schedule 12 exhibits/year that showcase the work of the best Utah artists and the best emerging/established from outside of the state. As noted in the Mission Statement, the purpose of the CUAC is to educate Utahns about Contemporary Art through exhibitions of artists from three categories:

1. Sanpete artists who demonstrate a high level of professionalism in their art;
2. Utah artists who make art in a Contemporary genre who are emerging or well established; and
3. artists who are exemplary of important trends in Contemporary Art worldwide.

The CUAC maintains that good education about art starts with strong exhibitions of Contemporary Art that have relevance in content or image to our community. Education also includes outreach to the community in the form of classes for adults and children, lectures and critical dialogue about art, and an inviting, friendly environment that welcomes visitors and encourages questions and strives to provide answers.


Gavin:
How did the Center get its start, and what do you attribute to its success over the years?

Jared: The CUAC started under the leadership of Adam. He became director in 2003 and set out to establish a recognized schedule of leading artists from within and outside the state. Over the years Adam worked very hard to create a brand that would, over time, establish the CUAC place in the art world. In 2007, when I took over the reigns, the CUAC already had a lot of momentum. Our exhibition programming has been recognized internationally more than once. I attribute that to a strong and specific curatorial practice that follows and precise and strong mission statement.

Gavin: Considering the location, why was Ephraim chosen for the location?

Jared: Adam can speak to that more specifically but I feel that our location is our strength. Yes it becomes, at times, a bit difficult for some to make the pilgrimage to the gallery but we are able to offer rural Utah something completely unique. We have exhibited artists from all around the globe. Every single one of them have been completely moved by the beauty of the valley. From an educational perspective we are able to bring real dollars to the valley that allows us to bring unique art educational experiences to the young people of Sanpete County.

Adam: That’s a question I get a lot. Ephraim chose me. Although I was raised in Ephraim, I didn’t really have plans to return there, nor did I think it would be the best place in the world to start an art center like that. But in a global perspective, neither is Salt Lake City. CUAC had operated for years as a sort of local co-op sort of gallery. It averaged about 300 visitors per year. It was going to close, and I was offered the opportunity to take over. Realizing that artists might think it was cool to go to a weird little small town (that is actually awesome), I thought I’d give it a try. Turns out that we now have between 15,000-16,000 visitors annually. That rivals or beats any art center in the state that’s not a major museum—we do that, and in a county of 20K.

Gavin: Jared, how did you find out about CUAC, and what persuaded you to join on?

Jared: I think it was back in 2005 Adam invited me to exhibit at the CUAC. That was my first experience with the art center. Over the following few years I kept tabs on the CUAC's progress. When the position of director became available I was very excited about the opportunity to lead this strong organization.

Gavin: What's the process like in finding the artists to exhibit?

Jared: We basically try to stay as aware as possible of the art going on around the state as well as what is going on in the much larger Contemporary art world outside of Utah. We make it a point to travel to major art centers, New York, Los Angeles... to stay current on what is going on and what is new. I give Adam a lot of credit for that part of our programming. He is constantly looking for artists that fit within our mission.

Adam: Understanding this caliber of artist comes down to understanding branding in the art world. One has to understand what it means to have a show at a certain venue; what it means to be collected by certain people; what it means to have gone to a certain MFA program, etc. It is, of course, important to be able to identify good art and understand it. I travel to NYC and LA at least six times a year. While there I spend all of my time visiting galleries, attending openings, and networking.

Gavin: Who are some of the artists you've had come through over the years?

Jared: We have quite a resume of artists that have exhibited at the CUAC over the past several years. Artists who have shown at the CUAC over the last four years have been included in the Whitney Biennial, the Venice Biennial, collected by Charles Saatchi; they have been exhibited in the Getty Museum, Whitney Museum, Guggenheim Museum, Saatchi Gallery, major museums in Switzerland, Germany, Iceland, Korea, and Spain; They have shown in Deitch Projects, Mary Boone Gallery, Freight and Volume Gallery, the Drawing Center, and many other important New York, Los Angeles, and international venues. A sample of past CUAC artists include: Elizabeth Neel, Casey Jex Smith, Peter Finnemore, Rashawn Griffin, Elizabeth Tremante, Tracy Featherstone, Sean Slemon, Matthew Choberka, Laurel Hunter, Frank McEntire, Peter Everett, Farrar Hood, Colin Tuis Nesbit, Sandy Smith, Alex Gross, Inga Huld Tryggvaddottir, Todd Mcdonald.

Gavin: I understand you provide some services to the community as well. Tell us a bit about those and what made you decide to offer those programs.

Adam: Understanding contemporary art depends on learning to understand visual language and learning to think critically. Understanding those things helps in all aspects of life. We’re just doing our part. Jared is the brains behind most of the education programming.

Jared: We have a very healthy art education program. Currently our CUAC After-School Art program is underway. It is proving to be very popular. We had to open another section to accommodate the interest from our community. This is very encouraging. I believe this is important because, as it is stated in our mission statement, we believe that education is very important. Currently all art funding in our schools has been cut. We are the only resource our young community has to the arts. We will continue to provide unique art educational opportunities for our community. Other activities we are: CUAC Summer, a summer program for kids that covers the basic art principles and visual language. CUAC Appreciation, an after-school program that is based around current CAUC exhibits.

Gavin: What do you currently have on display this month for people to check out?

Adam: A bad-ass show by Micol Hebron, a really well known artist based in LA. It’s a video exhibition with some photo and sculpture.. check it!

Jared: Hebron is a LA-based artist who has exhibited internationally and has been published in many art journals. She has installed a two-projection installation entitled “Bubble Gum Pop.” The work responds to, and comments on, the futility of war, and how society sanitizes and inures itself to the realities of war through mechanisms of entertainment. On one wall, young women are seen being styled and “made up” in projected salon-style portraits, while on an opposing wall, plays a projection of young men having their heads shorn, as if in preparation for military service. The ensuing youthful act of gum chewing and popping by both the men and the women evolves into sounds of gunshots, and disappearance.

Gavin: A bit state-wide, what are your thoughts on our art scene, both good and bad?

Jared: I am very excited about the changes at the Salt Lake Art Center. I think that Adam Price is going to do quite a bit for the Utah art scene. With the right curator and marketing/advertising he will be able to strengthen the SLAC brand. I think that on the institutional level the BYU Museum Of Art and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts are making very positive improvements with the relatively recent hiring of Jeff Lambson and Jill Dawsey. Lambson’s current exhibitions at the MOA are the best I have ever seen in the state.

Adam: Not a fair question—I can’t self-edit. I’m going to address contemporary art, not regional landscape art or Southwest Art Magazine type art. I think that there are some good things starting to happen. Jeff Lambson has curated two great exhibitions of contemporary art at BYU’s MOA. His future programming appears to be strong as well. Outside of the CUAC programming, three or four shows done over the last ten years at the Salt Lake Art Center, the MOA’s programming is the only thing that has really been happening in Utah. I think that as the new director of the SLAC, Adam Price will hire a good curator and the overall relevance and quality of the exhibitions there should improve. I’m very hopeful about that. I’m also quite hopeful about the new leadership at the UMFA. I think that Jill Dawsey is quite smart and I look foreword to seeing the first exhibitions she curates. I think that there are other good things happening as well, such as at Kayo Gallery and Art Access Gallery, but those institutions have very different missions and are operating on a different level, that is also important. I think that historically, there has been a problem in the state where the people making decisions about art, while incredibly well-intentioned, haven’t been very educated about contemporary art. That has led to difficulties in funding contemporary art, in getting press coverage about contemporary art, and exhibitions about good contemporary art, and therefore a lack of education about it. I’m very hopeful, however, that with good collaborative efforts, mutual trust, and ambitious exhibitions, we can all improve what’s going on.

Gavin: Anything you believe could be done to make things more prominent?

Jared: I think that there needs to be a fundamental shift in the art exhibition programming in the state. CUAC and its board of directors are currently developing a plan that, if implemented, would over time assert Utah a leader in the Contemporary Art world. We are very excited about this possibility. More to come later on that.

Adam: Yes, CUAC is currently working on a plan to collaborate with organizations statewide to raise Utah’s profile nationally and raise contemporary art’s profile in Utah. But that’s another story.

Gavin: What's your take on the different Stroll events and how they play a part in giving exposure?

Jared: I think that gallery strolls are, in general, a great idea. I think that it strengthens the community.

Adam: Anytime we get anyone looking at any art, it’s a good thing.

Gavin: What can we expect from you both and the gallery the rest of this year and going into next?

Jared: You can expect great things. Our December show is a group show of New York-based photographers. These artists are leaders in photo journalism and are making forays into fine art. The exhibition is entitled “Foreign Tongue.” 2010 will open with an exhibition of work from Josh Winegar. Josh is a recent recipient of the the Utah Fellowship award. You can always expect innovative exhibits from locally, nationally, and internationally recognized artists to fill our exhibition schedule.

Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?

Jared: I would like to plug our events. We open a new exhibit
every 2nd Friday of the month. If you are looking for different ways to stay connected with the CUAC you can find us on Twitter and Facebook. You should also join our email list. You can find the link through our website.
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REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // November 17,2009 at 09:44

Thanks, Gavin, for bringing us a broader view of the Utah arts scene.

 

 
 
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