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First annual Stansbury Island Art Fair held on Stansbury Island in April of 2021. Photo: Eric Robertson


As the University of Utah broadens its reach throughout the state, Arts Education faculty are inspiring more students to see themselves on campus — and showing them where studying the arts could lead.

Whether it’s working with high school students in Tooele County or Native American youth on campus, educators are connecting with students in new and unprecedented ways.

“Arts Education is the bridge to engaging young people, families, and communities to all the University of Utah has to offer,” said Kelby McIntyre-Martinez, the Associate Dean for Arts Education & Community Engagement.

For some, an Arts Education degree can be a step toward a successful teaching career. For others, studying the arts is a way to broaden their education and discover their creative potential.

Some students may be newcomers to this country. Some may be from families who have lived here for generations. Either way, McIntyre-Martinez believes the message is the same:

“Arts Education is a pathway to higher education.” ■

Quote from article: “The lasting art is the social sculpture we create, the conversations, the dialogue, the art making, the laughter,” Graham said. “All of that action is, in a sense, the work.”

For the last three years, alumnus and Assistant Professor Joshua Graham and his Art in the Community students have made art outside, with kids from Stansbury High School.

But this isn’t the U students swooping in and out of Tooele County. It’s a months-long collaboration, culminating in a special kind of art fair: a day of art-making — together — on Stansbury Island.

“It’s this area that’s only 40 miles away, but feels like you’re on a different planet,” said Graham. “And it happens to be in the backyard of all of the students at Stansbury High School.”

During the all-day event, Graham’s students and the high schoolers meet on public land to talk about art and environmental issues. They use clay sourced from the island and other natural objects to play and create. When they’re done, much of the art is left in place, because it is made from natural materials.

“The lasting art is the social sculpture we create, the conversations, the dialogue, the art making, the laughter,” Graham said. “All of that action is, in a sense, the work.”

A major goal is to strengthen communities and learn from each other through making art — not to mention exposing these teenagers to the U.

Leading up to the art fair, the two groups of students communicate and share ideas. Not all of Graham’s students are art majors, but — whatever their background — they work together to design curriculum for the workshop.

“I’m interested in experiential curriculum that encourages students to interact with their local communities and environments,” Graham said.

This spring was the final year Graham’s students worked with Stansbury High School. Who the students will work with next remains a question. But they will start collaborating with a new community partner and making art together, somewhere in Utah, in the spring of 2024. ■


Top: Students collaborate on their mural during Storytelling Camp. Photo: Kerri Hopkins
Bottom: Mural detail. Photo: Kerri Hopkins

For the past two decades, ArtsBridge focused on bringing arts education to kids on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley — the kids whose opportunity to make and perform art had been dramatically decreased by budget cuts.

But as funding for the arts has increased thanks to the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program, ArtsBridge, a program committed to bringing the arts to schools with limited resources, has begun connecting with youth further from campus.

“The places we’re looking to are places that don’t have that extra arts infusion from state funds yet,” said Kerri Hopkins, the ArtsBridge Director. “We’re trying to find other ways to connect with communities that might feel more distanced from the U.”

In the summer of 2022, ArtsBridge worked with Native American students to create murals while the junior and high school students were on campus for the annual Ute Storytelling Camp.

ArtsBridge was a new addition to the long-running festival, but Hopkins would like to see the partnership continue. Two undergraduate arts teaching majors and one undergraduate film teaching major, supervised by Hopkins, helped the youth learn more about painting and art production.

“It gave them a chance to learn a little bit about the art form, but also a chance to express their ideas, have their voices heard and their artwork seen,” she said.

The U students talked with the youth about how to generate ideas — ideas that are important to them — and how to work together to create community art.

The project led to three murals, one of which remains on display at the J. Willard Marriott Library on campus.

ArtsBridge hopes to bring more arts projects to schools on reservations in Utah, bringing more undergraduate and graduate students to work with youth. The program is also expanding in other parts of the state, including the Tooele Valley.

“This is a great opportunity for the U to serve a need, to give back, and to give our students valuable experience with community engagement and arts education,” Hopkins said. “They get the chance to learn from the youth they teach.”

Ultimately, ArtsBridge hopes to teach kids that the arts are a way to connect.

“Everyone has something to share...whatever art form it might be, wherever they might be in the state,” she said. ■

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