our art scene grows so does the demand for space, and last year saw
more growth and expansion since Pierpoint at its peak over a decade
ago. Several new galleries opened their doors across the Wasatch
Front in traditional and unconventional locations, looking to give
artists a place to display their works while adding to the culture of
the cities they call home. No matter the size or preferred
exhibition, the opportunity to have your work seen on any given night
is a treat to the artists involved, so any space willing to afford
that gift deserves the recognition.
House Gallery got its start in the basement of the Peery Hotel last year as a small gallery for those passing through to check out, but sought a new location due to changes in the building. Eventually taking over the old L. Lorenz Knives location on 4th South to become a singular display area for new and emerging artists to be the center of attention. I got a chance to chat with founder Julie Dunker about the gallery and its mission, plus thoughts on the art scene, all with pictures of prior displays and the work currently on hand from Chris Dunker.
Gavin: Hey Julie, first thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Julie: Currently, I am the owner of House Gallery located in downtown Salt Lake City. I am also a Large Scale abstract painter who maintains a studio in Holladay. House Gallery specialized in the sales and exhibition of contemporary artwork. My own paintings are abstract paintings that represent the documentation of language- sometimes in relation to a context.
Gavin: What first got you interested in painting, and what were some of your early inspirations?
Julie: I grew up in a small town located in the Mojave Desert in the Eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. My family worked in the arts and we made frequent trips to visit Museums and galleries in Los Angeles. My first idea about what painting could be was during a visit to Death Valley Junction, California. There is an amazing Opera House there with some pretty interesting paintings.
Gavin: For college you jumped around from the University of New Mexico to California Polytechnic to finally receiving your MFA at Claremont. What made you finally decide on Claremont, and what was their program like for you?
Julie: I began my education in Los Angeles and transferred to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo after being juried into their Applied Art and Design Program. After completing this program I high tailed it to Europe and visited Basel, Rome and Paris. It was here that I really developed my commitment to pursuing a career as a painter. When I returned I visited several Colleges in the west until I found the University of New Mexico. I spoke with some students and a few teachers and decided Albuquerque was the place for me. I spent time at University of New Mexico working on a degree in Linguistics while taking Advanced Painting courses in the BFA Program. The MFA Program at the Claremont Colleges is a great practical art program that draws in some amazing visiting artists due to the schools proximity to Los Angeles. The list of alumni from that program is pretty impressive including Karl Benjamin, James Turrell and Lisa Adams.
Gavin: During your college years you established yourself around the southwest with several exhibitions. What was the experience like going from state to state and displaying for several very different types of audiences?
Julie: As far as displaying my work to a wide variety of audiences- I spent a lot of time developing the ideas within my work and as long as I stay true to those ideas and concepts I think the audience will always be there.
Gavin: After your education was finished, what eventually brought you to Utah?
Julie: I moved to Utah for a few reasons. The first was that I was engaged to my husband who was working here as a mechanical engineer. The second reason is to be closer to my family who lives in Logan. And the third reason is because I love living in the West. I enjoy the history of the West and all the open land. I also like the languages spoken in the West- Native American languages are among the most beautiful I’ve heard and to have access to that is very rewarding for me.
Gavin: What made you decide to start up your own art studio rather than find art space in town?
Julie: When my husband and I were looking for a place to live he wanted a garage for a shop and I wanted a place to make my paintings which are up to nine feet tall. Coming from out of town I had heard of Poor Yorick Studios, but thought they might not have space for my huge painting habit. We found a house in Holladay with a garage and a great room that works very well as my painting studio.
Gavin: Currently you're an Adjunct Art Instructor at Westminster College. How did you find that job and how is it for you working with the college?
Julie: I love teaching at Westminster. I love the faculty and I think it is a wonderful program. David Baddley has done wonders for the photo program there and I think that Matt Kruback is steering the painting/ drawing program in a really good direction. I am excited for the art students at Westminster.
Gavin: How did the idea come about to start up your own gallery?
Julie: The initial impetus to start the gallery grew out of my desire to meet people in Salt Lake City. I began to develop a circle of friends and they knew people who knew people and it just grew from there. Initially I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough artist, but now I look back on that idea and think it is funny. I have shows scheduled at House Gallery through 2013.
Gavin: Originally you set up show in the basement of the Peery Hotel. What was your time like at that location, and when did you decide to move?
Julie: I set up House Gallery in the Peery on a whim. I was looking to move the gallery out of my living room to a new location downtown. I went to look at one place that wasn’t good at all and I called up the manager of the Peery Hotel to schedule a quick meeting. He was very friendly and basically took me and the gallery under his wing. This manager has since left, but being in the Peery was a great way to learn the ropes about running a business and how much of a commitment it really is.
Gavin: When did you come across the location on 4th South and what made you decide to take it?
Julie: I decided to move out because the Peery Hotel was beginning to undergo some major changes and I really wanted more people to have access to the amazing art that is being shown in the gallery. I found the current space through Internet Properties The only thing was that it needed Major renovations. Michele Dunker Interiors helped me out there and we were off and running in September with Matthew Choberka.
Gavin: How long did it take you to fix the pace up, and what the public response to the opening?
Julie: Believe it or not… we renovated the space in about three weeks. My contractor (The Wormkman Company) was a genius and was able to move through the whole process without a glitch. The first show we had was Matthew Choberka and he has quite a few fans in Utah, so the turn out was exceptional. House Gallery went from having 2-3 people at our artist receptions to over 100.
Gavin: What's the process for you in selecting who to display each month? And who are some of the people you've had so far?
Julie: I select artists who’s work I like. I have quite a few friends in the art world, so I would talk to them and ask them if they knew anyone I could show at the gallery. With friends of friends and my family the artist roster just continued to grow.
Gavin: Who do you currently have on display, and what can people look forward to over the next few months?
Julie: Right now I am showing the work of my brother, Chris Dunker. Between now and July, House Gallery is scheduled to show Charles Fresquez, Amy Lincoln, Chuck Feesago, Kadar Brock and Kim Holleman.
Gavin: Being a relatively new gallery, what's your goal for the place in the longrun?
Julie: The goal of House Gallery is to bring contemporary art to Salt Lake City. I want to offer for sale the high quality of work that is being shown at venues like the Salt Lake Art Center.
Gavin: Going local for a bit, what are your thoughts on our art scene, both good and bad?
Julie: I think the art scene in Salt Lake City and Utah is spectacular. I am very happy with how things are going and I am glad to know that BYU museum of Art, CUAC, Project 337, Phillips Gallery, UMFA, Julie Nester Gallery and the Salt Lake Art Center were all here before I was– that makes me happy. And I am very excited to see the trend in contemporary art continue to grow in Utah.
Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?
Julie: I think that non-profit art spaces in Utah receive quite a bit of national attention. However, for-profit spaces have a tougher time of achieving national recognition because we don’t bring in the funds necessary to purchase ads in national art magazines and to fund performances and lectures by premier members in the national art community. For-profit spaces are basically existing day to day for the benefit of the community. The community chooses to keep these spaces running, not through taxes and donations, but through the purchase of artwork.
Gavin: What's your opinion on the other galleries around downtown and SLC in general? And do you view them as competition or more as colleagues to a degree?
Julie: There are some wonderful galleries in Salt Lake City. I think we all support one another. I think the galleries in Salt Lake City each fill a different niche in the art market here. House Gallery focuses on abstract painting, contemporary photography and ceramics. We also feature new work by mid-career artists and artwork by very ambitions emerging artists. House Gallery doesn’t just specialize in the work of Utah artists, though we do have some Utah artists in our roster… we mostly look for high quality work and evidence of a committed career as a visual artist.
Gavin: What's your take on Gallery Stroll as a whole and how its doing today?
Julie: I really think Gallery Stroll is a great idea. Most major cities like Salt Lake City have an event like Gallery Stroll every month. It is a great time to get together with friends, visit local restaurants, look at art and enjoy free snacks at galleries.
Gavin: What can we expect from you and House Gallery over the rest of the year?
Julie: House Gallery has some amazing shows lined up for the rest of the year. New Mexico Minimalism, New York Abstraction, and I’m thinking there may even be an amazing installation. We have a musical performance on February 18th featuring a the work of Benjamin Taylor. There is a one week video piece that is being planned by Tyrone Davies and possibly some summer Gallery Stroll music as well. We are also selling a selection of art books including artists such as Patrick Nagatani, Georgia O’Keefe, Basia Irland, Matt Jones and Chris Dunker.
Gavin: Aside the obvious, is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?
Julie: I would like to promote The Green Pig Pub, Internet Properties, Blonde Grizzly, Michele Dunker Interiors, Dunker Imaging, and The Harwood Museum of Art in Taos.
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