From Mechanics to Abstracts

Park City's Kimball Art Center Celebrates 25 Years

Back in the '30s and '40s, this cavernous building at the base of Park City's Main Street was a car mechanic's garage. Later, it housed a Pontiac dealership. In the '70s it was used briefly as a garage by Park City Ski Resort. Then, with the roof leaking and the front door rusted shut, it metamorphosed once again. Today, the 72-year old Kimball building in the heart of Park City is the Kimball Art Gallery.

Erected at a site where the first Park City homesteaders settled in the 1880s, the building today serves not only local and regional artists but also as a historic structure to remind Parkites of their roots.

Though low-slung and unadorned on the outside, the Kimball Art Center inside is a two-level mix of open galleries and smaller studios. When it opened in 1976, the center was an all-purpose gathering place that housed not only gallery shows but also dances, live theater, concerts, movies and dance lessons. These days the center is more art-focused but still offers a bevy of activities in addition to the shows, including classes in : black and white darkroom, acrylic painting, papier-m�ch�, candle making for kids, ceramics, watercolor, drawing, pastels and oil painting, with many of the classes geared towards children. The center, which was the city's first non-profit, today has a robust six-figure budget, eight employees and 4,600 square feet of gallery space.

What is perhaps most special about the center is that it showcases art without being too highbrow. Just feet from the lifts, patrons to the center are as at home in furs as they are in ski suits, and its location at the base of Main Street makes it an ideal stop off while shopping or sightseeing.

Though the galley is a year-round presence, probably its most visible event takes place each summer, when its staff puts together the Park City Art Festival, a city-wide weekend celebration (this year it is August 4-5) that should not be missed. Last year, upwards of 80,000 made it to the event.

I visited the center after cutting short a hard day of skiing at Park City Mountain Resort. For me, the gallery offered . well, I was going to say that the art gallery was a striking difference from the ski slopes, but now that I think about it maybe art is not so different.

Despite the fact that it was a Saturday afternoon, the gallery was nearly empty. The top floor was full of local student art, a healthy mix of paintings, drawings, pottery and photography, some of which was quite good. Downstairs was an exhibit of photos by David Whitten, a local, who has focused on some of Utah's most memorable sites. "Photography is teaching me to be quiet and notice the subtle beauty all around us," he said in a flyer laying next to one of his photos. "Although many of my photographs are of places where the grandeur is obvious, the real challenge is learning to be aware and take advantage of the opportunities that are always present, even in more mundane environments."

I wandered back into the darker reaches of the building, where the classes were held. In one room, the instructor had written this on the chalkboard:

Drawing Faces:
1. Determine angle of head
2. Draw in shape of head
3. Draw in lines for eyes, nose and mouth
4. Put in features

Good advice!

Admission to the Kimball Art Center, 638 Park Ave., is free, though a small donation is suggested. While most classes run for a month or more, several take place over the course of a single weekend. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Wednesday - Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays. For more information see Call (435) 649-8882.

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