The sky is the limit at the new Open Air Art Space
Open Air Art Space owner David F. Riley was born to be an artist.
“I don’t think there wasn’t a time when art wasn’t in my Top 3 scenarios I wanted to do when I grew up,” Riley told The Park Record. “Over time, the others just kind of fell away, especially when I realized that I wasn’t going to make it into the NBA, which was in high school.”
Riley’s passion for art led him to open the new Open Air Art Space near Pinebrook at 3070 Rasmussen Rd. The studio, 290, is located on the second level of the first building of the complex.
There, Riley teaches art classes that are based on a two-fold mission.
“The first is to create a community for artists to share ideas, get feedback and get better at what they’re doing by interacting with other artists,” he said. “We have open conversation about art and that leads to better art for all involved.”
Secondly, Riley wants to help create more artists.
“I want to do that by offering classes for people who range from those who have never painted before to those who have been at it for 20 years and want to get better,” he said.
So, he teaches two different classes.
“One’s a foundational skills class, and during that one, I work people through a progression of projects to get them to see, draw and paint accurately,” he said. “The other class I do is more like a self-directed class, where people decide what they want to paint and I’ll give them help.”
Both classes, which are held in three-hour increments on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, are self-motivated.
“As opposed to me standing up and lecturing about one thing to everyone, people kind of wander in and work on their projects while I make rounds and work with them on whatever they are doing,” Riley explained. “It’s very one-on-one.”
When one of the students feels his or her project is done, the other students gather around and offer constructive criticism and suggestions.
“It’s a loose structure that will change a little when the classes get bigger,” Riley said. “Right now, the class sizes range from two to six or seven people.”
Riley came up with the idea to open Open Air Art Space after teaching art at a private home.
“We had a group of six ladies who wanted to either get better at art or try it out,” he said. “We met at one of the ladies’ homes for eight or nine months, but the group started getting too big. So, we decided to look for a space. I thought I could rent some space and that would help things get off the ground.”
That’s when he found the studio at Rasmussen Road. It not only includes a large studio space, but also private office rooms for artists who want to rent additional space from Riley.
“Several of those artists take the classes as well, while a couple of them don’t,” he said. “They’ll just pop in and do their own thing and come and go as they please.”
Presently, the classes focus mostly on painting and drawing, but Riley is open to all different types of mediums.
“Ideally, we will fill up the classes and need more space and look for something bigger,” he said.
In addition to the regular classes, Open Air Art Space will offer special workshops.
“Because I’m a professional artist, I interact with other professional artists regularly,” Riley said. “So, I’m going to bring them up here to do weekly workshops.”
So far, those will include a portrait workshop, an encaustic workshop by Doug Smith from Salt Lake City, and a plein air, outdoor landscape workshop by David Dibble, who teaches at Brigham Young University.
“He’s so good that some of my friends, who are amazing artists that sell nationally and win awards, told me they want to come to Dave’s class,” Riley said.
Riley himself started his career in illustration, doing more commercial work.
“I loved the idea of a narrative and getting ideas, emotions and the human condition across in my artwork,” he said. “I think I have a pretty wide appreciation for art, but for myself, personally, it’s always about portraits and what people are doing.”
The desire to share his artistic desires blossomed while he was a graduate student at
Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia.
“I met my wife there and we had 13 artists in the illustration program who all kind of clicked,” he said. “We started a gallery and I really enjoyed having that community.”
In between grad school and moving to Utah, the Rileys opened and ran a ballroom dance studio for six years.
“The community aspect of that was awesome, but I needed to do art, because that’s where it’s at for me,” said Riley, whose favorite artists include Edwardian-era portrait painter John Singer Sargent and golden-age illustrators, Norman Rockwell, J.C. Leyendecker, Howard Pyle and N.C. Wyeth. “While I love doing my own work, it’s easy for a lot of artists to become isolated. So, having a group of people to bounce ideas off of ultimately makes everybody better.
“If I can help provide and instigate that, it fills a space for me,” he said. “Park City is such an awesome place to do that.”
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