Art is food for the mind |

Art is food for the mind

This wall contains a sample of the photography displayed at Reef's Mediterranean Restaurant. The photos were taken by photographer Darryl Dobson and Reef's owner Asi Yoked. (Tyler Cobb/Park Record)

One of the main challenges for professional artists is to find ways to exhibit and sell their works.

After years of hard work, some artists finally find their way into art galleries and shops. Others continue to sell their works independently through their own studios, online or at art fairs.

Lately, artists have been pursuing new avenues to market themselves. They are displaying their works at fitness and wellness spas and even in visitor centers.

Another venue has been local restaurants.

For metal sculptor Scotty Whitaker and photographer Darryl Dobson this method has worked very well.

Whittaker’s works are displayed at the sushi restaurant, Shabu, located at 442 Main St., while Dobson’s photographs can be seen at Reef’s Mediterranean restaurant at the Marriott Courtyard, 710 Main St.

Both artists told The Park Record how the partnerships between them and these eateries have inspired their work and also helped expose their art to a variety of clients.

Shabu and Whitaker

Although Whitaker had been an artist all his life and attended Utah State University on an arts scholarship, he found himself at a crossroads nearly 10 years ago.

"I had taken a detour and worked for Cisco Systems (a communication firm) for a while and felt this pull back to art," Whitaker said. "My friend and I were sitting at Shabu when it first opened and we were talking about my dilemma. She said, ‘Why don’t you make a fish for this restaurant?’"

So, that’s what he did.

"It sat behind their bar for seven or eight years," Whitaker said. "It became an iconic piece for me and Shabu."

After seeing Whitaker’s fish, Valaika came up with a concept to showcase Whitaker’s metal works among the fine wood that made up Shabu’s tables, chairs and bar.

"I wanted this dichotomy of these two materials to pop out and capture people’s attention," Valaika said. "The wood on the walls is from the Utah Coal and Lumber building and the bar top is maple from a tree at Westminster College, and I wanted something to bring out the natural elements of the wood."

Shabu’s atmosphere is a perfect fit for Whitaker’s industrial-looking work, Valaika said.

"The music we play is a little more progressive in here and we have videos going, so there is already an elevated sensory overload going on," he said. "These pieces add a lot to the atmosphere."

While the art highlights the diners’ experiences in Shabu, Whitaker benefits because he has a captive audience.

"In a regular art gallery, my work will generally attract someone’s attention for maybe 10 seconds, if I’m lucky, before they are off to the next piece," Whitaker said. "At Shabu, the work can attract someone’s attention for at least an hour. They can look at the work while they’re eating and take their time seeing things that they may not see in just a few seconds."

Consequently, Whitaker says he sells more work through his displays at Shabu than at art galleries.

"Sometimes I come in for some food, meet people, pass out my cards and sell pieces," he said. "In the past couple of years, I’ve sold 12 works."

For more information about Whitaker’s work, visit . Also, visit for more information about Shabu restaurant.

Reef’s and Dobson

Reef’s owner and chef Asi Yoked was raised in Tel Aviv, Israel. He, along with his wife Tali, established Reefs Kitchen in 2005 after living in Colorado and Florida, where he developed an understanding of the relationship between the environment and food.

"We proudly strive to provide you with the best all natural (no hormones, no antibiotics) and sustainable ingredients," Yoked said.

The restaurant, by the way, is named after Yoked’s son, Reef, according to the restaurant’s website, .

From the beginning, Yoked’s goal was to make Reef’s a place where people experienced food and Mediterranean culture, so he started exhibiting various kinds of art, including paintings by family members.

"Art has always been an integral part of Reef’s along with music and creating an alluring ambiance," he said.

The idea expanded into using photographs to highlight the restaurant’s atmosphere when Yoked met Dobson, who is an independent commercial and aerial photographer, during a 2012 publicity photo shoot.

Since Yoked is also a photographer, the two artists hit it off and, in the past three months, they have been hanging each other’s photography on canvases and placing them throughout the restaurant.

"It’s always an honor to be recognized and appreciated for creating art that people find inspiring or beautiful in some way," Dobson said. "It’s an even greater honor when that recognition comes from someone that you also admire for similar reasons."

Like Whitaker, Dobson has been inspired by this idea as a way to display and sell his art.

"(The) restaurant inspires me," he said. "Asi and Tali have created a beautiful place filled with amazing food, great music, and art that inspires me as well."

Dobson, who is also known for his portrait and wedding photography, said he appreciates the opportunity Yoked gave him by allowing him to show his works.

"I’m grateful to have my art hanging in their restaurant and for the friendship I have created with them over our passions (of art) as well," he said.

For more information about Darryl Dobson’s work, visit .

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