Park City-based artist makes some scenes at the Grand America
November 21, 2014
Park City-based artist Jonnie Parker Hartman has been in the holiday spirit since June.
She has been planning, designing and handcrafting Christmas displays for the windows at the Grand America Hotel since June.
Hartman, who is also a photographer, has designed public art all around Utah, including Salt Lake City and Ogden, and said the Grand America windows are one of her favorite projects.
"I’ve been doing this for a total of five years and these are my third set of windows for the Grand," Hartman told The Park Record. "I wasn’t able to do them last year, but I’m back."
The theme for this year’s window display is Christmas A to Z.
"The themes change every year, and how it works is the displays will have hidden letters in them," Hartman said. "Last year there was an elf theme, but I didn’t do those windows."
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The themes set up a visual scavenger hunt
"The kids or families will come through and get a little card that list the letters and when they find them, they check them off on the cards," Hartman explained. "At the end, those who fill their cards get a special treat."
There are 15 windows altogether, so some of the displays will include more than one letter, she said.
Still, finding the letters will be a fun challenge, because of the nature of the displays, according to Hartman.
The displays will include everything from a ukulele-plucking angel to a seven-foot-tall polar bear packing presents in Santa’s Workshop.
"The angel’s wings will feature 200 hand-embossed and anodized copper feathers," Hartman said. "And we had to wear a bandana and ski goggles during the making of the bear to keep the fur out of our eyes and nose."
Other window scenes will depict three mechanical ice-skating birds, hand sewn with custom fabric design, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and his sweetheart Eskimo kissing under the mistletoe, Jolly St. Nick with a beard made of 258 copies of "’Twas the night before Christmas" and five mischievous elves.
"The birds’ legs are six feet tall and are adorned with pink sparkling ice skates," Hartman said.
While this project is planned and designed by Hartman, she has recruited some local artists to help.
"The copper wings were done by Logan Eileen and all of the fabric creatures, birds and reindeer, were made by Starr Prim," Hartman said. "The rest was done by me."
The displays also contain a total of 398 hand-glittered pieces, and the artists used roughly 18 pounds of glitter.
"Oh, my gosh," she said. "I have glitter everywhere. Everything I wear now is unintentionally sparkly."
The sizes of the window spaces vary.
"There are four very large ones that have an approximate interior measuring 9-by-12 feet and some windows are 8-by-5 feet," she said. "In addition there will be a couple of windows that will have a miniature locomotive, carrying a load of miniature letters to Santa and a gingerbread girl and boy wandering through a peppermint forest, and another window will feature the Nutcracker and his ballerina dancing the night away."
One of the biggest challenges of creating scenes to fit the spaces is figuring out what will fit and what won’t, Hartman said.
"Math is an essential tool, here," she said with a laugh. "I have learned over the years that if I mess up something it will usually be the math.
"Luckily, I tend to make things bigger than needed, so I can always cut things down," Hartman said. "Even if I write things down, I screw up. Unfortunately, that happens more often than not and usually at the last second."
Overcoming these types of challenges are part of the benefits of designing the windows, and Hartman feels honored and lucky to do it, because window-design is a dying art.
"It’s so commercialized today," she said. "People who want windows designed can just get something through their corporate office.
"Back in the older days, artisans would go into the mom-and-pop shops and do what we’re doing," Hartman said. "They would take the time to design and find the materials to create the art. So, I like that the Grand America supports local artists in doing something like this."
The window project has taken more than 3,000 hours to do.
"That time includes sketching — the old fashioned way with pen and paper — handcrafting and constructing the pieces," Hartman said. Starr and Logan have helped bring my concepts to reality. They are super to work with."
Hartman got interested in the visual arts when she was a child and dived into it during college.
"I never thought I’d be doing windows, but I fell into it," she said.
Each year when Hartman designs the Grand America windows, she begins the same way.
"I think things out pretty organically, and I’m not a huge set-in-stone planner," she explained. "It’s my intention to make them whimsical and fun, and it usually turns out that way."
Once she gets to explore the space, she’ll prepare as much as she can.
"However, things always change and there are many variables that come into the project," Hartman said. "Sometimes the window won’t have electricity or the space is different than I remember.
"That has helped me realize that if I do set things in stone, it will cramp the artistic and creative process," she said. "You have to go with the flow of the space."
Hartman feels a sense of accomplishment when she finishes a window, because she is exposing people to an art form that is out of the ordinary.
"When many people think of artists, they think of gallery artists where you get one of their paintings to hang on the wall or a sculpture that you can put in your house," she said. "These windows are an opportunity to showcase the fact that the people who worked on them are real artists. The scenes highlight the talent that goes into creating the pieces."
Sometimes Hartman wishes she could hear the reactions of the people who come see the windows.
"I don’t get to hear a lot of feedback from the people who see what we’ve done," she said. "I would love is to have a little microphone to hear the comments of the people who see these windows. But it’s such a reward for me when I’m there installing a work and see someone who catches a glimpse of what I’m doing and see their faces."
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