10 Mar Wanderings: Southwest Utah
Southwestern Utah’s landscape is visually intoxicating. With sculptural sandstone cliffs, dramatic canyons and towering rock formations, the scenery near St. George, Utah, is itself artistry. Dubbed Utah’s “Dixie” by locals, St. George is a traditional winter destination for frostbitten northerners who flock there to warm up, play golf or take in the sights at nearby Zion National Park or Snow Canyon. Flanked by spectacular red rocks and expansive vistas, it’s no surprise that this colorful town of 78,000 residents is an irresistible draw for artists of every style, medium and motivation.
“Just look around you; it’s magnetic for artists,” says Bobbi Wan-kier, founder of Arts to Zion, a nonprofit that promotes artists in St. George and the surrounding communities of Kayenta and Springdale. She began the organization in 2011 to bring together galleries and artists’ studios that existed throughout this cluster of creative communities. The organization now coordinates an annual January art and studio tour, as well as “hub tours” to nearby art locations throughout the year.
At the center of the area’s burgeoning art culture is the St. George Art Museum. Located downtown in a defunct sugar beet storehouse built in the 1930s, the museum houses collections of Utah artists and regional historic artifacts. In 2016, all special exhibits will celebrate the centennial anniversary of the National Park Service.
The museum is a mere potter’s throw from the historic district and the magnificent Mormon Tabernacle, which are both awash in pioneer history. Nearby, the Mission and Authentique galleries exhibit an impressive mix of local and nationally known artists. And the Desert Rose Art Studio exhibits work and offers classes in oil painting, pastel, watercolor and drawing.
This spring marks the 37th year of the St. George Art Festival, held annually on Easter weekend. During the festival, booths and venues celebrating the visual and performing arts sprawl across Historic Town Square. Highlights include creativity for children and families with activities in the arts, music and puppetry. There’s even a musical instrument “petting zoo.”
Throughout the year, St. Georgians and visitors head downtown for the monthly First Friday event. Live music and enticing aromas fill the air, luring locals and tourists to the square to sample tapas from nearby restaurants, and the Zion Canyon Brewing Company serves craft brews during the festivities. For a sit-down meal afterward, the Painted Pony, Cappeletti’s and the Cliffside Restaurant are exceptional options.
If a day trip is in order, consider a relaxed gallery stroll amid stunning scenery. The Kayenta Art Village, located a dozen miles northwest of St. George, in Ivins, offers an array of arts-oriented enterprises. Santa Fe-style stucco homes dot the desert scrub landscape surrounding the village. Lyman Whitaker’s hypnotic wind sculptures encircle the tiny arts enclave. Here, a trio of galleries beckon: Juniper Sky Fine Art, Gallery 873 and Datura Gallery. Featured at Juniper Sky are several of Royden Card’s fabulous landscapes. Walk a few feet to the Blue Raven Art Studio, a local artists’ co-op, where you can uncork both your inner artist and favorite wine at Canvas a la Carte every Thursday night.
If you’ve worked up an appetite while browsing, enjoy gourmet, grass-fed beef burgers or the specialty butter-poached salmon tacos at Xetava Gardens Café (pronounced Zay-Tah-Vah). An outdoor patio allows diners to take in the mountain backdrop.
To continue on your day-trip tour, drive an hour east of Ivins to the quaint, artful community of Springdale. Nestled under towering sandstone spires guarding the south entrance to Zion National Park, the town is home base for visitors exploring the park’s natural wonders.
With just 550 residents, Springdale is home to a high percentage of artists. Kristin Nestor, whose family owns the LaFave Gallery, estimates there are at least 30 working artists in town. “It’s just an artsy community. Everyone who lives here is either an artist or an art lover,” she says. At LaFave, look for David Pettit’s astounding photographs of Zion. Tom Coleman, a nationally known potter whose work is collected by the Smithsonian, also exhibits here.
The venerable Worthington Gallery, a landmark in Springdale for decades, recently expanded and added even more exhibit space. Plans call for an adjoining building, equipped with kilns for working potters and pottery classes. “There’s energy here,” says Worthington manager Lanell Dike. “It’s a beautiful place to live and the community is very supportive of art and artists.” Paula Swain’s bold landscapes in oil, many depicting iconic Zion Canyon scenes, display prominently at the gallery. Lyman Whitaker, who lives in Springdale, also exhibits here. Some of his earliest kinetic sculptures catch the wind on the Worthington’s rooftop.
Visitors are transfixed by the natural beauty of the St. George area, and the artists among them, driven to capture that beauty, tend to stay for a while. A trip to southwestern Utah allows us to experience the artfulness of the landscape twice, once by our own vision and again through the artist’s interpretation.
If You Go …
Arts to Zion Art & Studio Tour: N. Main in St. George
annually in January; 435.216.2651; artstozion.net
Kayenta Art Village
851 Coyote Gulch Ct. in Ivins; 435.688.8535; kayentautah.com
St. George Art Museum
E. 200 North; 435.627.4525; sgartmuseum.org
St. George Art Festival
Downtown; March 25–26, 2016 435.627.4500; sgcity.org/artfestival
St. George Street Fest
Downtown; first Friday of every month; georgestreetfest.com
199 N. Main in St. George 435.688.7278; authentiquegallery.com
Blue Raven Art Studio
807 Coyote Gulch Ct. in Ivins 435.669.8701; kayentautah.com
Datura Gallery: 845 Coyote
Gulch Ct. in Ivins; 435.674.9595; coyotegulchartvillage.com
Desert Rose Art Studio
225 N. Bluff St. in St. George 435.862.5810
Gallery 873: 873 Coyote Gulch
Ct. in Kayenta; 435.673.6628; gallery873.com
Juniper Sky Fine Art Gallery
851 Coyote Gulch Ct. in Kayenta; 435.674.2306; kayentaartvillage.com
1214 Zion Park Blvd. in Springdale 435.772.0464; lafavegallery.com
173 N. Main in St. George ; 435.688.7278; themissiongallery.com
789 Zion Park Blvd. in Springdale 435.772.3446; worthingtongallery.com
36 E. Tabernacle St. in St. George; 435.986.4119; cappelettisrestaurantstgeorge.com
511 S. Airport Rd. in St. George 435.319.6005; cliffsiderestaurant.com
2 W. St. George Blvd. in St. George 435.634.1700; painted-pony.com
948 Zion Park Blvd. in Springdale 435.772.3232; oscarscafe.com
Xetava Gardens Café
815 Coyote Gulch Ct. in Kayenta 435.656.0165; xetava.com
Zion Canyon Brewing Company
2400 Zion Park Blvd. in Springdale 435.772.0404; zionbrewery.com
Crescent Moon Inn
1504 Crescent Moon Trail in Ivins 435.879.9076; crescentmooninn.com
Desert Pearl Inn
707 Zion Park Blvd. in Springdale 435.772.8888; desertpearl.com
The Inn at Entrada
2588 W. Sinagua Trail in St. George 435.634.7100; innatentrada.com