Backstage at the 2024 Utah Arts Festival: Meet some of the artists in the Artist Marketplace – Part 1

Found, reclaimed and upcycled materials, the confidence of flexing and fusing traditional and digital media and an acute sensitivity for representing nature, its  cycles and rhythms are just some observations about this year’s Utah Arts Festival’s Artist Marketplace

Approximately 32% of the artists who applied this year for the festival were accepted. With a jury composed of experts and community members, led by coordinators Matt Jacobson and his assistant Sarah Baker Taylor, the group recommended the slate of 187 artist booths (171 artists plus six emerging artists; 16 double booths). Jurors based their decisions on technical considerations such as details and quality of composition or on aspects of color and texture. But, they also considered meaning and themes that evoke or echo stories, history, nature, emotions and unique appeal to audiences and potential buyers.

This year’s marketplace includes 54 who are making their first appearance at the Utah Arts Festival. There will be 103 from outside of Utah. Among the 73 Utah artists are six who are part of the festival’s Emerging Artists program. This year’s pool included 592 applicants. The slate includes several artists who won awards at the 2023 festival. All of the visual artist award winners for this year’s festival will be eligible for invitation to the Utah Arts Festival in 2025. Best of Show and People’s Choice Award winners also will have their booth fees waived.

Based on recommendations from Jacobson and Taylor, The Utah Review asked some of the artists to answer some questions about their upcoming shows at the festival. For the next few days, The Utah Review will offer a selection from the Meet the Artists Series.

The questions were:

1. How have you used art media forms in helping to create an holistic body of artistic work that searches for a more complete expression of your own innermost and most powerful states of emotion, inspiration, contemplation, and self-identity?

2. What is your training as an artist? Who do you consider your most significant influences and inspirations? Do these influences shift as you progress both in your work and life?

3. Do you work full-time exclusively as an artist? Or, how do you augment your work as an artist?

4.  Do you find it easy or difficult to start new work? And, typically, how do you prepare yourself to handle both the creative and physical demands of creating your art? 

5. With regard to participating in the Utah Arts Festival, please share your feelings about being a part of this enterprise? Have you been in other festivals and do you plan to explore other festival venues?

Laurie Van Mondfrans, Jewelry, Dardenne Prairie (Booth 40)

  1. USING ART MEDIA FORMS: Creating and wearing art jewelry is personal for both the artist and the wearer. Each piece I create becomes a unique expression that resonates with emotions, inspirations, and reflections of my world. What drives me is the need to create a piece that is a culmination of design and nature, combining elements into intriguing statement piece. It’s incredibly fulfilling when a piece I’ve made is cherished by its owner, and I often hear touching stories of how my jewelry brings joy, garners compliments, or marks significant personal moments in their lives. My artistic process is driven by the desire to create one-of-a-kind pieces that not only stand out aesthetically but also spark meaningful conversations. Balancing color and form in my designs is a constant challenge that I embrace wholeheartedly, as it allows me to translate abstract ideas emotions into tangible, wearable art. Ultimately, my journey as an artist revolves around creating jewelry that serves as a vehicle for self-expression and connection with others. Each piece represents a journey of exploration and discovery, resonating with the unique stories and experiences of those who wear them.
  2. TRAINING AS AN ARTIST: I hold a BFA in Illustration from Utah State University. Initially working as an art director in Utah’s advertising community, I shifted my focus to metalsmithing and art jewelry 15 years ago after moving out of state. Over the past decade, I’ve been fully immersed as a working artist, participating in art fairs and showcasing my pieces in Midwest galleries. Alongside my husband Kevin, who supports me as my roadie, he also contributes his own pieces that complement my work with a distinct male perspective. Art Nouveau deeply influences my work, which draws inspiration primarily from nature—particularly botanicals and creatures encountered during my daily walks and travels. These influences have evolved alongside my artistic and personal growth, continually shaping and refining my creative expression.
  3. CAREER TIME: Yes, I am a full-time artist. My primary workspace is my home studio. I actively participate in several regional art events, engage in online sales, and collaborate with various art galleries to showcase and sell my pieces. This approach allows me to sustain my career as a professional artist. I’m actively engaged in artistic communities such as the Greater St. Louis Artists and Midwest Metalsmiths, where I serve as a board member and contributor. 
  4. STARTING NEW WORK: Starting new work is a blend of excitement and challenge for me. Drawing inspiration from Art Nouveau and the natural world, my creative process unfolds in diverse ways. Occasionally, I begin with a specific cabochon, sketching designs that accentuate its distinct features. Alternatively, I may initiate a piece with a cast element, adding gemstones to make it truly unique.Working with Argentum Silver has unique properties that allow for fusing rather than relying on soldering, enabling me to create detailed pieces that maintain a pristine appearance. Argentium Silver is a brighter white, made from recycled silver, hypoallergenic and resists tarnish. While starting new projects poses its challenges, the process is deeply rewarding as it enables me to transform inspiration into tangible expressions of artistry. Each piece not only embodies my creative vision but also represents a journey of exploration and refinement in my artistic practice.
  5. BEING PART OF THE UTAH ARTS FESTIVAL: Participating in the Utah Arts Festival holds a deeply personal significance for us. Having moved out of state 25 years ago for a job, we left behind cherished connections with family and friends in Utah. Returning to participate in this festival is a meaningful homecoming, reconnecting with this creative and innovative community. My husband Kevin is a native of Utah, he has fond memories of attending the Utah Arts Festival in its earlier location at the Triad Center. It was a place where he socialized with friends and encountered new artistic horizons and diverse art forms. As a first-time exhibiting artist at the festival, the excitement is real, for us and as well as our family and friends. It’s an opportunity to showcase my work in a familiar setting, surrounded by faces I haven’t seen in years and friends I’ve missed dearly. The prospect of sharing my artistic journey with this community, and perhaps inspiring others as I was once inspired, fills me with joy and anticipation. In essence, being part of the Utah Arts Festival is not only a professional milestone but a deeply personal journey of rediscovery and connection. I am grateful for the opportunity to return home, share my artistic expression, and contribute to the vibrant cultural tapestry of this community once again.

Weston Hansen, Painting, West Jordan, Utah (Booth 112)

1. USING ART MEDIA FORMS: I’m not an overly spiritual person about my art.  I tend to find imagery in my daily life that is compelling to me and then I try to see if I can make it my own. The thing I can say mostly about my art is that whatever the image I choose to create,  I am always searching for the farthest reaches of my own ability. To that point, I find my best work and my most enjoyable artistic endeavors happen when I am painting things that are of personal significance to me. It is also why I don’t choose to paint the same subject matter repeatedly. 

2. TRAINING AS AN ARTIST: I am a primarily self taught artist. I picked up my first airbrush at about age 23 and my life has never really been the same. My father was a tremendously talented oil painter. I would be kidding myself, and everyone else, if I didn’t acknowledge his influence on me artistically. Beyond that there are some tremendous artists in the airbrush community that have had a profound impact on me. Cory Saint Clair, Gerald Mendez, Noah Elias, and Ryan Townsend would be included on my short list of artists that have and who continue to influence myself and my art. 

3. CAREER TIME:  I am not a full-time artist. I make a living in a few ways, but my primary career is that of an air traffic controller. Air traffic is known to be a rather stressful career. Being that this is the case, I would say that my work augments my art, more than my art augments my work. With a career such as mine, a person has to find outlets that allow their brain to relax. Art and painting accomplishes this for me. The peace that I find from creating is likely the reason that I continue to create art even when it isn’t the easiest or most convenient thing to do. 

4.  STARTING NEW WORK: I find it easy to be inspired to create art. However, the actual creation process can be rather difficult at times. As any artist can presumably attest, somedays the work flows so easily and so seamlessly that I think I could paint anything. Other days, I couldn’t draw a straight line. For me personally, I think the most crucial aspects of preparing myself to create is designating specific time to do so and to make sure that both the emotional space and the physical space I create in is conducive to what I’m trying to do. That’s a long way of saying, I need to be in a good mood and I need to be in a proper painting space. Typically in my studio alone and with good music playing. 

5. BEING PART OF THE UTAH ARTS FESTIVAL: To date, my inclusion in The Utah Arts Festival is one of my largest artistic accomplishments. I feel extremely honored to have been selected to participate. I’m very humbled to be able to show my art with so many other accomplished artists. I have not participated in a show of this magnitude before and am very much looking forward to it. As an artist I look forward to any opportunity to show my art and see people connect with it. If that takes me to other festivals or venues, I will relish each opportunity afforded more to me. 

Valerie G. Henry, Photography, Park City, Utah (Booth 54)

  1. USING ART MEDIA FORMS: I am an award-winning Wild Mustang photographer and advocate. My dedication to the wild mustangs of the United States is to be able to tell their stories of tolerance, resilience, and adaptability. Through my photography, I inspire everyone to raise their voice to protect our wild mustangs. They have helped me heal after the loss of my husband, who encouraged me to pursue this career, and I hope that everyone will seek them out and witness these extraordinary beings in person. My photography style incorporates intimate moments evoking strong emotions and compelling stories, a glimpse into a long-forgotten time when wild mustangs roamed the Wild West without being persecuted by ranching organizations for their home range. I believe that art is a strong medium for advocacy, and our wild mustangs need our voices. 
  2. TRAINING AS AN ARTIST: I am a self-taught photographer, and my influences have been wild mustangs because of their “flawed” beauty. I genuinely believe that they are the true American icon. They are the symbol of the American people, encompassing resilience, tolerance, and freedom. Whenever I feel overwhelmed by life and grief, I drive to the desert and spend 12 hours a day with them, becoming part of them. It is so inspiring to see the families living together, protecting each other, and also seeing the friendships between them.
  3. CAREER TIME: For the most part this is my full-time work. I work as a ski guide during the winter.
  4. STARTING NEW WORK: Starting a new piece can be overwhelming if I overthink. I have to let it speak to me and tell me its story. When I do that, the piece created inspires others. It takes a lot of planning on the physical part. The wild mustangs are not just sitting in my backyard, but driving to them is like stepping back in time; I go from a big city to a small town to a dirt road into an untamed and rugged landscape, leaving civilization behind. I usually drive at least 2 1/2 hours to their location (it also depends on their state). Once there, I drive the backcountry roads looking for them. I don’t know how often I left my truck and started walking with them, only to turn around and realize I didn’t know where my vehicle was anymore. Time evaporates when I am with them.
  5. BEING PART OF THE UTAH ARTS FESTIVAL: I travel the United States participating in other art shows, and I am so grateful to be able to attend the Utah Arts Festival.

Leave a Reply