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Eric Betts/KSL TV

Making museums fun for families: UMFA celebrates 100 years of art

By Carole Mikita and Sara Jarman  |  Posted Oct 29th, 2014 @ 9:44pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — Museums might not always be the No. 1 destination kids choose when planning family outings. However, for many in the Salt Lake Valley, the Utah Museum of Fine Arts is often the first museum experience they have.

The UMFA makes for an even more exciting outing currently, though, because the museum is celebrating 100 years of art this year. To commemorate, the museum has hosted and continues to host special events throughout 2014.

New Narratives Exhibit

Armed with paint, clay, paper, plastic and, of course, vision, the talents of the University of Utah Art Department faculty are currently being displayed across the walls and floors of the museum in the exhibit "New Narratives: Recent Work From University of Utah Art Faculty.”

Brian Snapp, associate professor and chairman of the Department of Art and Art History, is one such faculty member whose latest work, "The House of My Brother," is on display.

"When someone reads the title and sees the piece, can they then think, 'Well, that's going on in the house of my brother?' Or if you look at it more globally, in a larger fashion, 'What's going on around the world? Are those my brothers?' " Snapp said.

This show takes place once every three years, and Snapp describes it as a rare opportunity for everyone.

Thirty-one artists chose to participate this year, contributing 66 pieces.

“We get to share with the campus and the community the collective creative energy and achievements of our nationally and internationally recognized faculty,” Snapp said.

A glimpse into the exhibit "New Narratives: Recent Work From University of Utah Art Faculty." (Eric Betts, KSL TV).

Carol Sogard created her piece from reclaimed plastic bags and calls it simply “Stop." It speaks, she said, of modern consumption.

"It's also signifying our impact. So, we are placing our mark on the earth by what we do and how we consume and what we throw away and what can't go away,” Sogard said.

Guest Curator Katie Lee Koven, director of the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art at Utah State University, calls the show an exciting variety of visual experiences.

“Some artists explore the environment and our ability to construct and deconstruct it. Still others investigate concepts of history, time and memory. Using humor, metaphor, self-distortion, realistic representation, angst and the idea of a journey, these artists explore that it means to be human,” Koven said.

Koven also offered reasons for why she chose certain works.

“These artists are really a part of the cultural landscape of Utah but how they're also teaching the next generation of students," Koven stated.

UMFA — an Adventure Land for Kids

School groups also visit the museum throughout the year, checking out the various galleries and art works on display.

Currently, elementary school students can examine an installation from Tony Feher, which is composed of hundreds of fluorescent pink strips of landscaping tape hanging from the celling in the Great Hall exhibition room.

“At the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, there is so much to see — paintings, sculptures, furniture — but when you bring children, how do you make it real, how do you make it interesting for them?” Koven said.

Families visiting the museum can check out backpacks filled with creative ways to do hands-on activities in the galleries. The packs keep kids engaged and excited about the artwork.

And the packs are filled with tools that are conversation starters.

Virginia Catherall, Education Curator at the museum, illustrated the ins and outs of the backpacks.


When someone reads the title and sees the piece, can they then think, 'Well, that's going on in the house of my brother?' Or if you look at it more globally, in a larger fashion, 'What's going on around the world? Are those my brothers?'

–Brian Snapp, associate professor and chairman of the Department of Art and Art History


"You get your telescope out and you look at artwork that's far away and describe it from far away and go up close and look at it, so do you want to look at a work of art that's far away?" Catherall explained to her son, Liam Kramer.

Catherall’s sons, 9-year-old Liam and 5-year-old Tommy, consider the museum as "home away from home."

Since the boys love to experience "new" art, they each had opinions on the new faculty exhibition.

For example, when first approaching Wendy Wischer's “Trapped Within," a multimedia piece, Liam and Tommy were very inquisitive about why and how, the piece, a collection of hand-cut mirrors, projected light and surround sound.

Tommy leaned as far in as he could into the art without touching it.

“I can see a rainbow of colors … I see blue white, red, purple,” Liam said.

The boys also had commentary about Lewis Crawford's "Geometry from Public Space," another multimedia piece.

“Well, I have a stronger sense of danger,” observed Liam.

When asked what kind of shapes the boys saw, Tommy said, “It kind of looks curvy.”

Both boys see the purpose behind going to museums.

“Every one of these exhibits,” said Liam, “is made for people to just be inspired and see just how great art is."

Tommy also shared opinions similar to Liam's.

“We get to see new things, and it's really cool, “ said Tommy.

“New Narratives: Recent Work by University of Utah Art Faculty” will be at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts through Jan. 11, 2015.

Visit the museum's website for information about hours, tickets prices and free days at the museum.

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