Thomas J. Howa’s recently opened gallery is intimate, eclectic and a lot of fun. That’s not to say he doesn’t have a roster of some of Utah’s most well-respected artists. And he’s tossed in several lesser-known painters, like Sierra Dickey and Tyler Swain, graduates from USU with bachelor’s degrees in fine arts. “Both are technically good and needed an opportunity,” says Howa. “Cordell Taylor gave me a chance in 1998 at his gallery on 2nd South [he sold out the show], and I think it’s important to pay it forward.”
With a wide variety of genres spread over three rooms – making a visit to this gallery at 390 N. 500 West in Bountiful more than interesting – Howa will feature his own excellent work in an unusual way: by having a studio in the back with an opening cut in the wall so passersby can watch him paint. “I’ll show my work there, too, so I don’t take away gallery space from my artists.”
Howa says, “I understand what it is to be an artist; now I’m trying to understand what it is to run a gallery. I was an artist before I was a gallery owner.
“I want to be a different kind of gallery. But be enough the same to achieve the success of the other galleries. I want things to happen now. And I realize that’s not going to happen. But it doesn’t mean I can’t have that attitude: because that’s what has made me successful – the ‘I want it now’ attitude. “
He gives his artists a better split on commissions than most galleries and has tried to select the best artists he could find in the state: for example glass artist Sarinda Jones sits as a board member of the Salt Lake City Arts Council; watercolorist Nancy Maxfield has served as president of the Utah Watercolor Society; found-art sculptor Frank McEntire, former art critic for The Salt Lake Tribune and Salt Lake Magazine, author and former Executive Director of the Utah Arts Council was selected by Mayor Ralph Becker for an award for Service to the Arts; Cordell Taylor who’s also received a Mayor’s Award in the Arts as well as an NEA grant, and more.
“Traffic’s picking up,” says Howa. “We’ve got jewelry and clothing, too, and that’s drawing people in the door. The biggest problem I’ve got now is convincing people in Salt Lake that it’s worth taking a 15-minute drive to see some good art. Bountiful is not Alaska,” he adds.
Howa Gallery staged its grand opening on May 9th (see photos below). On June 20th Howa Gallery will host a one-day event for the long-closed and much-missed Salt Lake City Zephyr Club, with its memorabilia for sale. Click here for more info.
A graduate of the University of Utah, Ann Poore is a freelance writer and editor who spent most of her career at The Salt Lake Tribune. She was the 2018 recipient of the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Artist Award in the Literary Arts.