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West Valley City Journal

Sculptors show off works at Faces of Utah exhibit

Aug 31, 2017 02:25PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Blacksmith Sergey Sakirkin’s piece “September Tree.” (Keyra Kristoffersen/City Journals)

By Keyra Kristoffersen | [email protected]

The Utah Cultural Celebration Center is celebrating their 13th annual Faces of Utah Sculpture exhibit where artists that specialize in sculpting submit their artwork of what life in Utah looks like.

“The idea was that we wanted to put a face on what it means to be a Utah sculptor, not just a Utah visual artist,” said Michael Christensen, who has been with the cultural center since 2004. “How can we understand Utah sculptor culture because it’s so diverse and so dynamic? Can we somehow put a face on that cultural group?”

The gallery opened 14 years ago and this is the 89th exhibit held there. The Faces of Utah Sculpture Exhibit has been hosted there since 2005 with an average of 40 artists every year from all over Utah showing work in mediums such as glass, epoxy, wood, steel, found object, and recycled materials.

“It’s just an eclectic mix of subject matter and materials and skill level and we think that it’s pretty inclusive and probably the biggest all-sculpture show in that state,” said Christensen.

The opening reception included around 130 artists, their families and art enthusiasts for a night of celebration, live jazz music and food. This year also had some heightened enthusiasm, according to Christensen, because they added peer awards and a best in show category. Many artists returned from previous years as well as new artists mentored in by them. 

“I think it’s a phenomenal show. I’ve brought probably half a dozen artists into it,” said Brian Baity, an artist who is famous for carving designs into egg shells, as well as wood and gourds using a paragraver tool. 

Baity entered a wood relief and an agate contemplation stone into the exhibit. “I really don’t know how they could improve it, other than having more artists,” he said. 

Baity began entering his egg shells into a show at Easter time seven years ago before finding out about the Faces of Utah exhibit later that year when he joined the West Valley Arts Council which meets at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center. 

“I really like the experience. I’ve sent tons of people to go see it,” said Baity.

Other artists included in the exhibit are Darhl Thomas, known for pieces currently on display at UTA TRAX stations and parks around the city; Warren Archer, who created the Stockton and Malone sculptures at the Energy Solutions Arena; and Sergey Sakirkin, a Russian blacksmith who has lived in Utah for the last 12 years and who won 2nd place in the peer voting for his piece “September Tree” made from hand-worked steel.

Richard Prazon is another returning artist whose “Steampunk Airship” received a lot of attention from exhibit viewers and staff.

The public will vote for best in show over the course of the exhibit’s run. 

The Faces of Utah Sculpture exhibit began when Dan Cummings, another well-known Utah artist approached the cultural center after the only other sculpture-based exhibit was cancelled. The Utah Cultural Celebration Center agreed to the scale that Cummings had envisioned and shortly after, a new glass enclosed gallery was completed with moveable walls and lighting to best show off displayed pieces.

After the first show, some of the artists were asked to be on a selection committee to reach out to other Utah sculptors through personal channels and social media. Occasionally, a few of the artists have been asked to teach educational programs to the public. 

Christensen said that having the exhibit and opening night is a lot like having a family reunion because over the years so many of the artists have gotten to know each other and work together.

“It’s really nice, a community that’s really supportive of one another’s works, despite the differences in it, they’re all interested and interesting people,” said Christensen.

The Utah Cultural Celebration Center will next house a collection of Native American artworks. For more information on future events, visit: