Art mentors, pupils reunite in semester’s first Sears Art Gallery

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About 15 prominent Utah artists who once worked and learned together are reuniting through their art at Dixie State University.   

The semester’s first Sears Art Museum Gallery exhibits opened Sept. 12 in the Dolores Dore’ Eccles Fine Arts Center. Open and free to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Nov. 21, “The Bridge Reunion” and “99 Names” galleries showcase the works of notable artists who have made significant marks on today’s art world, said Kathy Cieslewicz, the Sears Art Gallery Museum curator.

“This is a very approachable show that anyone will enjoy,” Cieslewicz said. “The inspiration of showing such a full range of art and artists is really interesting.”   

“The Bridge Reunion” segment of the gallery features artwork from alumni and instructors of The Bridge Academy, a private institution established in 2008 in Provo that was dedicated to teaching artists how to make “substantial contributions in today’s world of fine art,” according to its website, bridgeacademyonline.wordpress.com.

Another segment within the gallery, “99 Names — A Christian’s Exploration of the Names of God from the Quran,” by Andrew Kosorok, consists of a collection of glass sculptures inspired by the 99 most beautiful names of God described in the Quran. Cieslewicz said Kosorok was associated with some students of The Bridge Academy, which is why his work was also integrated into the gallery.

Cieslewicz said as The Bridge Academy’s students started to shift into successful art careers, the school began to fade from formal existence. Today, however, the teachings of The Bridge Academy manifest in the work of its students. “The Bridge Reunion” celebrates the achievements of the academy’s influences by uniting mentors and pupils once again.

“It’s inspiring — not just for art students, but for anyone — to see how you can start with nothing, work with good people, learn and grow, and you can become successful,” Cieslewicz said.

J. Kirk Richards, an artist from Woodland Hills who is showcasing some of his artwork in “The Bridge Reunion,” taught at The Bridge Academy and instructed many of the artists who are also displaying pieces in the exhibit. He said even though the academy has dissipated from existence, its artistic community continues to thrive.

“Bridge Academy students have encouraged each other as they’ve continued to progress and establish successful careers,” Richards said. “… Some of us hadn’t seen each other since the academy closed, so [the art show] is sort of like a family reunion. I’m so glad to see work of so many Bridge students and faculty in this show. I think it’s an indication of the continuity of support and kinship this group has for one another.”

“The Bridge Reunion” consists of paintings, sketches and sculptural pieces. The gallery’s subject matter ranges from landscapes to portraits, in which the influences of The Bridge Academy mentors are evident, Cieslewicz said.

The gallery is especially unique because its pieces demonstrate how the artists fed off of each other’s creativity while attending The Bridge Academy, Cieslewicz said.

“You can see that they were influencing each other, inspiring each other and criticizing each other,” Cieslewicz said. “When you’re an artist you need to see your art from new eyes, and when you’re working in a tight group like that you have each other in that way. That was a big influence on all of these artists.” 

Richards said he enjoys how “The Bridge Reunion” depicts each artist’s progress over the years. 

“Looking around the room, I seevarious pieces I helped students with,” Richards said. “… I see paintings in this show that utilize specific things we talked about at The Bridge, from Marie Withers’ landscapes to Mark Crenshaw’s aspens.”

Laura Romero, an artist living in Springville who is featuring her work in “The Bridge Reunion,” said she was amazed to see the progress of her peers, and she was excited to see them again at the artist reception Sept. 12. 

“I look at The Bridge Academy as a family,” Romero said. “We used to go to classes every day. We were appreciative to each other’s work, we taught each other, and we helped one another to develop. So, for this reunion I think of how helpful their input was.”

Romero said in addition to displaying each other’s influences, “The Bridge Reunion” also demonstrates individual creativity by showcasing the artists’ many different artistic styles.

“Every artist has his or her own style,” Romero said. “[In ‘The Bridge Reunion,’] you see that.” 

Cieslewicz said she had urged The Bridge Academy students and mentors to display their work in the Sears Art Gallery Museum ever since the school opened in 2008. Now, Cieslewicz said she hopes to collaborate again for another gallery, perhaps for a 10-year reunion.

“These artists have made such a success for themselves,” Cieslewicz said. “It will be interesting to see where they are again 10 years from now.”