Marshelle Spafard creates artwork from the heart |

Marshelle Spafard creates artwork from the heart

Steve Phillips, Record contributing writer
Marshelle Spafard, pictured with her cat Puzzle, enjoys the mountain climate in Summit Park. She has lived there with her husband for five years. Photo by Grayson West/Park Record

On a chilly afternoon last month at her home in Summit Park, Marshelle Spafard patiently guided a gaggle of giggling women in a collective labor of love. The unruly gathering sipped wine and eggnog while crafting tiny angels for a Christmas tree to be auctioned as a fundraiser for Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City. That’s Spafard’s passion in life, sharing her art and her heart.

Spafard moved to Summit Park in 2001 with her husband, John, and their cat, Puzzle. Tired of the rat race and always drawn to what she calls the "mountain culture," The Spafard’s fled the valley with no regrets. Of her cozy cottage in Summit Park she says, "I knew this was where I needed to live the second I walked through the door." Around a fire at her cozy home this week, she talked about her life, her loves and her lifelong attraction to the Park City area.

Growing up in a large, first-generation Dutch family in Salt Lake City, Spafard learned to walk and ski at about the same time. She says her father regarded skiing more as a form of transportation than a sport. Backcountry skiing remains her absolute favorite sport.

She discovered her artistic bent in kindergarten. "I always had a big box of crayons and a ton of coloring books," she recalls. "Lots of kids just scribbled, but I always stayed inside the lines and was very color conscious and tidy."

That’s still true today. While earning a B.F.A. from the University of Utah in 1979, she developed her talent in many mediums. Today, she specializes in what she calls, "aqueous mediums," a.k.a. watercolor, acrylics, ink and latex for non-artists. Her wonderfully detailed paintings of familiar area landscapes and historic buildings suggest a lifetime of attention to detail — tidiness if you will. "I’m inspired by beautiful places and seasonal changes, she says. " My vision as an artist is to take the viewer to a place of peace, beauty and refuge."

Spafard has displayed her work at the Utah Arts Festival, the Kimball Art Center, Red Butte Gardens and many regional festivals. She is currently working on what she hopes will be a one-woman show of historic Park City landmarks. "I want to get them all painted before they’re torn down," she quips.

Although she sells her work, she’s more likely to give it away to family and friends. "I try to sell my art at affordable prices, but I still turn out a lot more than I sell. That’s why I have a house stuffed with paintings and other artwork. My poor husband doesn’t have room for his tools," she says.

Spafard has taught watercolor through the community education program in Salt Lake City schools, but much prefers to work one-on-one with friends or anyone with a sincere desire to learn. She never charges these students.

Spafard took her skills into the workplace as well. She worked as a graphic artist at Newspaper Agency Corporation for many years. In 1996, she took a job that used the full spectrum of her skills. For 10 years now, she has been the prop master at the Pioneer Theatre Company in Salt Lake City. A born multi-tasker, the job suits her well. While preparing for a show, she divides her time among trips to thrift stores looking for props, long stints at the sewing machine,

and wielding a paint brush or glue gun. "I’ve had the privilege of working all my life as an artist of one kind or another," she says. "Most people don’t get to work at what they love. I’ve been very lucky."

The best thing about the job, says Spafard, is the fact that she gets three months off every year. A born traveler, she and husband John (who also works at the Pioneer Theatre) pack up their camper-van and leave for parts unknown every summer. Among their favorite haunts are the Oregon/Washington coasts. Puzzle, the cat, goes with them.

Spafard admits to a penchant for gathering junk, which she fashions into unusual, often bizarre art pieces — interesting counterpoints to her detailed paintings. And this is one of her primary forms of entertainment during the summer. She often arrives back home with the van stuffed with pinecones, rocks and an assortment of oddities.

Spafard enjoys backcountry skiing in the winter and leisurely bike rides in the spring and fall. Favorite area rides include Old Ranch Road and the back roads of the Kamas and Heber valleys.

Whether strolling through galleries on Main Street, sitting at a easel in a field of wild flowers, or just relaxing in her cozy living room, Spafard is always right where she wants to be — at home in Park City.


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