Tanger mural the vision of a contemporary artist
July 3, 2007
Travelers on Interstate 80 have likely noticed a growing scene of contemporary art along the back wall of the Tanger Outlet Center. The panoramic display, commissioned by Tanger Outlet and the Summit County Arts Commission to represent the culture of Park City, will become the town’s biggest mural.
Ogden native Rick Jones, a surrealist painter who also does commercial murals, won a contest held by the Summit County Arts Commission last summer for his eclectic design featuring a seamless scene of winter and summer recreationists, historic landmarks, wildlife and local culture.
The commission judged entries based on cost-effectiveness, timeliness and durability. All designs had to be culturally relevant, durable enough to last at least five years, and could not exceed a budget of $70,000. The allure of a large-scale mural in Park City attracted entrants nationwide, but Jones’ efficient style and unique approach helped him land the gig. The painter said living close enough to see the space before creating his design helped him prepare after learning of the contest just two weeks before the deadline.
"I didn’t think I stood a chance," he said. "But I’d always been looking to come to Park City and really wanted to be ready." He brainstormed for a few days then decided to submit a contemporary scene that centered on people and activity, rather than mountains or a general landscape.
"Looking at the finalists, I think a lot of other artists had a series of pictures in mind or one outdoor scene," he said. "My idea was about connection and about people, and I think the judges saw that that was different. I could have opted to do a nice western landscape, but I wanted it to be fun and to play with perspective."
Jones’ desire to work in Park City gave him a motivational boost.
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"If you’re in the arts, Park City is what Sausalito is for San Francisco," Jones said. "It’s such a great town for the arts. If you mention art in other parts of the state, sometimes people look at you like, ‘Why are you talking about that?’ But when I meet people up here, they’re really interested."
Having painted murals professionally for five years, Jones has completed large outdoor pieces before, but the Tanger project is the biggest he has ever attempted. The mural may even be the largest in Utah, he says, a feat that would be impressive on its own. That Jones is painting the 20- by 350-foot space himself is even more remarkable. Most artists employ teams to help complete murals, Jones explained, but he will complete the work with only an assistant and friend, Mark Halverson, to help with background work. Jones paints all the images and details himself, often spending up to 10 hours a day between setting up and painting.
The work can become uncomfortable and tedious in the summer heat, but he says feedback from drivers keeps him inspired.
"I’ve had a lot of good response," he said. "You don’t really get the public enthusiasm too often in this work. Usually you’re painting murals in restaurants that haven’t opened yet or buildings no one will see until you’re done, so it’s been so great to have a chance to connect with people while working."
He said drivers by sometimes honk and yell, "That’s awesome!" and once a group of runners stopped and just clapped.
"I’ve never had that happen," he said.
Long hours working on the mural have left little time for other projects, but Jones continues to paint surrealist pieces at night with dreams of one day opening a gallery.
"A lot of times I’m just beat," he said. "But there’s always the urge to create."
He is quick to point out the benefits of working on murals to his art, however.
"I’ve become a much better painter because of it, much more efficient," he said. Commercial projects, as well as murals for private homes, have also given him the opportunity to try different techniques or find creative ways to leave his personal stamp. "Murals are like concerts," he said. "I try to infuse surrealist elements, like juxtaposing two divergent images. It’s a lot about imagination and opening possibilities."
Jones began initial work on the Tanger mural in October and resumed in the spring. He hopes to have the project completed by the end of the summer but he has no plans of severing ties with Park City any time soon.
"I’ve really enjoyed working in this beautiful environment," he said. "I’d love to eventually live here."
Examples of Jones’ paintings can be found on his Web site, rickjonesart.com.