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Help put local galleries in black

The snow may be stuck in the sky, but winter festivities are already underway on the ground. Hundreds of intricate glass holiday ornaments will adorn the walls at the Kimball Art Center, where the gallery stroll begins Friday, and about one in five of the galleries at the participating spaces will open new exhibits to lure locals and Thanksgiving interlopers.

The Gallery Association decided to beef up its Web site and encourage more art sellers to hold special events on stroll nights. The extra effort has paid off, even if it’s too early to see whether it will pay tangible dividends, according to Connie Katz, who owns Coda Gallery and helps facilitate meetings among owners. In the past, the Kimball Art Center has spearheaded the stroll. Now, private businesses are working hand in hand with the community’s nonprofit art center.

"It’s all working out really well and it doesn’t put so much pressure on the Kimball," Katz said. "All of us are working to make this a more cultural center."

She added that the economy has put renewed pressure on the galleries to incorporate the community into the stroll. Organizers plan to ask high school marching bands, choirs and other troupes to strut their stuff on Main Street and elsewhere for the stroll. "It’s easier for people to come out where there are events," Katz said simply.

The Nov. 28 stroll will be the second to last to begin at the Kimball. Typically, guests gather there for drinks and hors d’oeuvres before dispersing to different spaces in town. Starting in January, though, stroll-goers will be encouraged to begin their stroll at any of the galleries. "It’s more than just the gallery walk because there are galleries off Main Street," Katz said. "We want the stroll to be about everyone."

Confrontational Ceramics

Maryann Webster isn’t afraid to talk about activism and art. Her basins, bowls and other ceramic pieces crawl with the curiosities of nature: mutated fish, lizards, eerie, but natural forms. "In the 21st century, we have this new fascination with nature," she explained on the telephone Monday. "We see it disappearing all around us."

Webster protests against nuclear waste storage in the Beehive State and uses as an artistic springboard the bizarre footprints humans make on the natural world. Her work evokes the combination of artifacts, alchemy, superstition and religion present in pieces of art that are hundreds of years old.

If nature is an old subject, Webster insisted, then it is also eternally new. "Nature has a lot more to offer than 20th century hubris," she said. "It’s not just about better living through chemistry. It’s about life as we know it."

Webster, who now lives in Utah, was raised in Northern California. She described her mom and dad, a microbiologist, as "granolas before it was cool to be granolas." She remembered visiting her dad’s lab to investigate the jars swimming with human anatomy. "I thought they were gorgeous," she explained.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Webster’s work focuses on mortality in the nuclear age and mankind’s ability to destroy and disrupt life on the planet. "The contemporary situation is a spiritual crisis because we realize that our lifestyle is not sustainable," she said. "I like the idea that the opening is on Black Friday, buy nothing day."

Art, after all, is about awareness, and on Friday, she will be on hand to show her work to a new audience. Although museums in San Francisco and New York have featured her work, Webster’s reception at the Kimball is the first time in four years her ceramics will be shown in Utah. "I think we can use art as conversation starters and find ways to ease anxiety about the future," she said. "It’s a way for me to vent."

Ornaments on sale

For about $20, arts patrons can take home a piece of the Kimball. Handmade glass ornaments will hang from fishing line and people can clip them off to raise money, and spirits, in Park City. The Kimball has sold ornaments to support its gallery spaces, education and outreach programs for the past five years.

The Park City Gallery Stroll begins at 6 p.m. at the Kimball. Organizers request a $7 donation for drinks and finger foods.


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