Woodbury Art Museum To Feature ‘Hidden’ Artists, Issues In New Exhibit
January 19, 2011
For Immediate Release
For more information: Melissa Hempel (801) 863-6743
University Marketing & Communications: Mike Rigert (801) 863-6807
Written by: Karissa Neely (801) 863-6351
When people think of graffiti, they often picture a vandal tagging the side of a building. But Utah Valley University’s newest exhibit, “Hidden Voices,” at the UVU Woodbury Art Museum, challenges that stereotype.
Nicolas Solis is an 18-year-old Santaquin resident whose art is featured in the exhibit, which runs Jan. 21-March 5. He addresses that stereotype with one of his pieces, which depicts a young man tagging a train. Near him is an air bubble with the words, “Are you in a gang?”
“The air bubble is a metaphor for society, because most people assume that when you do graffiti, you are in a gang,” Solis said. “Real graffiti artists aren’t in gangs, they use graffiti as a way to express themselves.”
Kyle Reyes, assistant to the president at UVU, was a moving force behind this exhibit. The idea came from his frustration that too many Utah County youth were being labeled as bad kids because of their graffiti art.
“Young people develop scripts of who they are, often times based on how they are received in schools and in the media. These kids have developed a script that they don’t have a place in society, so they go to a public space, and make it their place,” Reyes said. “These are bright kids who need a chance to demonstrate how talented they are. They just need to be given the chance to be heard and recognized in society.”
Reyes said that because art museums are viewed as venues that display legitimate art, the goal was to validate and legitimize the artistic talents of under-represented county youth, and open up an artistic space they previously had no access to.
Melissa Hempel, interim director and curator of the Woodbury Art Museum, points to that sentiment as the reason behind the exhibit.
“Offering the museum’s space will signal to the artists that their messages will be heard and their art will be seen,” she said. “Giving our artists the chance to advance their artistic skills through more productive avenues will hopefully encourage participants and visitors to support arts and education.”
Albert Anzar, an 18-year-old a graffiti artist from Provo, heard about the exhibit in the summer, and went through the program because of his love of painting.
“When I found out about this, I didn’t know they were offering scholarships or anything, I just heard the word painting. I just wanted to be able to paint legally,” Anzar said. “I thought it would be a great opportunity. It’s not one that comes up often — that someone actually lets you do what you love and puts it on display.”
Anzar started painting at the age of 14, and his pieces in the exhibit share the inner struggle of an artist using an illegal medium. One piece reflects on his days doing graffiti illegally, while another features the word, “love.”
Solis, who started doing graffiti in the eighth grade, is currently working toward an art certificate at UVU. He’d love to be able to work as an artist, and credits the “Hidden Voices” exhibit and program with furthering that goal. Solis has four individual pieces in the exhibit, two that he did with Anzar, and one that was a group effort. One of his individual pieces depicts angel and devil wings. Solis said the angel wings are those who appreciate the beauty and artistry of graffiti. The devil wings portray those who disparage graffiti as an art form.
Organizers of the exhibit also hope it will foster communication about issues and topics that are not normally spoken of in Utah County.
“It is important that we engage in dialogues that seek to understand the stories and experiences of our community members,” Reyes said.
Anzar, serving time in a detention center when he learned about “Hidden Voices,” plans to study at UVU starting in the summer or fall. He’d considered schooling before, but this project, and finding out he was going to be a father, helped him focus on that goal, and “rearrange every aspect of my life.”
Reyes said that was the aim of this project, and it epitomizes what UVU stands for as an institution — a university focused on providing opportunities for all students in serious, engaging, and innovative ways.
Two of the artists participating in the “Hidden Voices” exhibit will be awarded full tuition scholarships to attend UVU for two semesters.
“Hidden Voices,” showcasing the talents of Utah County youth artists whose work is under-represented in museum settings, will be presented at the UVU Woodbury Art Museum, located in the University Mall between Nordstrom and the Gap, Jan. 21–March 5. An opening reception for the exhibition will be held on Jan. 28 from 6-8 p.m. at the museum. The Woodbury Art Museum is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information about “Hidden Voices,” contact Melissa Hempel at 801-863-6743.
For media interviews: The youth artists of “Hidden Voices” are available for media interviews and photographs. Contact Hempel at 801-863-6743 for more information.