Silver Star to create artists’ community |

Silver Star to create artists’ community

by Tracie Fails, of the Record staff

A chance encounter at Starbucks last spring led Kathryn Stedham to her role as executive director of Park City’s new artists’ colony.

Having just moved to town after a short time in Salt Lake City, the native West Virginian felt overwhelmed by the challenges of starting life in a new place. She was venting to her best friend in the refuge of the coffee house.

"It was just the normal anxieties of figuring out where to start and not knowing anyone, but I even considered moving back," she confessed. A nearby stranger would alter her mindset with a simple comment. Having heard bits of her phone conversation, he asked if she was an artist-in-residence with the Silver Star.

"I had no idea what he was talking about, but I thought, ‘this is probably something I should know,’" she said. As a professional artist for the past 15 years, Stedham once lived in an artists’ community in Vermont and had visited others as a mentoring artist. The idea of an artist-in-residency program in Park City piqued her interest.

"The guy was gone in a moment, but his remark changed my life," she said.

Invigorated by the tip, Stedham began to investigate. She eventually found Rory Murphy, owner of the Silver Star Resort property and founder of Spiro Arts, an artist-in-residency program debuting next summer.

"I was knocking on his door just as he was looking for a director," she remembered. Murphy, who had not yet advertised for the position, wasn’t expecting a candidate with Stedham’s experience to serendipitously walk through his door.

Her first her gallery sold out in New York City and she has exhibited her oil paintings in major U.S. cities, Vancouver and Japan. She has also won two Professional Development Grants and an Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Last spring, she was a featured artist and juror at the World Bank.

"Kathryn really does an amazing job," Murphy said. "She runs this show."

Stedham set wheels in motion that became a whir of creative activity, and, like a painting in progress, Spiro Arts has started to take shape.

The physical space, scenic mine reclamation land atop Three Kings Drive, is now a construction zone. The skeleton of the apartment house as well as office buildings neighbor a nearly completed studio, with more space envisioned in refurbished mine shacks. A partnership with the Sundance Institute will allow the film festival to headquarter in the area during the winter while Spiro Artists use the space in the summer.

"Seasonal housing is a crucial issue in Park City," Murphy said. "This is a great compromise for both of us."

One of just 250 artist residency programs in the country, Spiro Art will host multiple disciplines, including visual artists, musicians, photographers and writers. The goal of an artists’ community is to provide residents the opportunity to work in an environment free of distractions and expectations.

"It’s a safe space for artists to live and create," Stedham said. "One of the reasons artists go is to do work outside of their comfort zone. Residency programs accommodate experimentation to get to the next level artistically, and artists learn that it’s okay to make a mistake," she said.

Spiro will be unique among residency programs in that it promotes networking and collaboration in the primary studio environment. Most communities are designed with compartments and cubbies that allow artists to remain isolated with their work.

But looking at Spiro’s main studio a widespread rectangle characterized by wall-to- wall windows and high ceilings Stedham decided to utilize the open space and emphasize collaboration.

"A little bumping into each other is not a bad thing," she said. "We want artists of different backgrounds and experience to be able to mingle and network."

Spiro’s five-member board, which includes Stedham, Murphy, gallery owner Karen Terzian and artists John Helton and Chris Conabee, will determine the approximately 30 spots available to residents. The board will also invite one or two well-established guest artists to live among residents as mentors.

As an extension of the residency program, Stedham plans to invite speakers from a range of backgrounds who will hold open discussions with the public. She named philosophers, explorers and world photographers among potential lecturers.

"I think the more we bridge gaps between our community and the world we live in, the better our outlook is," Stedham said. "Hearing of explorers’ adventures abroad inspires us to reexamine our own lives."

Spiro Arts will also become part of the summer gallery stroll, allowing the public to peek at works in progress and talk to artists, an interaction that benefits both sides, Stedham says.

"It’s a subtle thing, but it’s an important thing. Artists keep a community in balance," she said. "When you see things with a fresh eye, life becomes lived. You’re not just maintaining, but being."

While the rest of the center undergoes construction this summer, Spiro will utilize the main studio to host public events, including Arts Kids camps and open studio nights. Starting Wednesday from 5 to 9 p.m., artists of all abilities can bring their supplies to the studio and enjoy refreshments and mingling with creative minds. Weekend plen aire workshops, taking advantage of the outside scenery, will also be available. Hours and days will vary, and Stedham recommends calling 435-649-6258 or e-mailing ahead of time.

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