Downtown Provo’s Center Street boasts eclectic food, shopping, art and architecture: many buildings date between 1880 and 1930. The street’s culture is an alluring backdrop to the monthly Art Stroll, a self-guided tour of the places, art and people that persuade us to get up, go out, and come see. Promises of bumping into art, artists, and other art-loving locals while strolling down a picturesque, tree-lined street scored by live music feels straight from a movie set.
Except…stroll where? Checking the Art Stroll website as well as social media, it becomes evident that maps are in participating businesses. A bright red Art Stroll banner outside Java Junkie, a local coffee shop, announces that, this is the place! Or, at least, a place. Inside, Joey Rotten sets up in the front window while customers order food and drinks, staking claim to tables for the pending open mic and live music. Quoted on turningart.com, Joe Torres, who works under the name Joey Rotten, says, “My art will hopefully leave a message of love, lust, passion, rock and roll.” Java Junkie presents the perfect scene for his art, with its celebrity-inspired menu and vibe. Joey Rotten’s works hang behind him as he paints, and the arriving musicians setting up for live music melt away the earlier frustration of trying to find the way here. This is cool, and… they have a map. Time to move on.
A short distance away, Isaiah and Tylee Fierros of Tyleebrett Rings are in high demand at their booth, outside The Collective Underground. Handcrafting rings on the spot for buyers, they engage in easy conversation with passersby. Instagram reveals that Isaiah and Tylee “share passion for people and outside-of-the-box creativity.” This really is who they are. After learning about challenges they’ve faced with tools and the adventures of finding materials, as well as some shared laughter, it’s time to go inside The Collective Underground, a local market for artists and crafters. It’s a little confusing figuring out where to find works by featured artists Kevin Hoertig, Shari King, and Roger Ellsworth, but the live music performed in the front window makes it easy to slow down and enjoy the diverse array of mediums, materials and ideas presented by local artists.
On the way to Writ and Vision, a family huddles around a demonstration of lace weaving outside Heindselmans Yarn and Gift shop. Dale Pomeroy, a navy veteran, retells how he sought out tatting and lace making classes as he was stationed around the world, and impressively, he lures people to sit down and rhythmically move the bobbins of thread according to his call. “See, it’s easy,” he promises, “just time-consuming.” When asked how a navy vet becomes interested in making lace, he replies that it grew out of learning to sew, something his mother taught him to pass time while he recovered from rheumatic fever. Still fascinated with the idea that this craft form allows him to create play with the relationship of positive and negative space in his works, he now calls himself the Mad Tatter.
Writ & Vision is overwhelming, but in a good way. A steady stream of viewers circulates past walls filled with an impressive diversity of mediums and themes. In the mezzanine, artists K. Dawn and Marlena Wilding present “Genesis: the creation of us.” Using mixed media, their works hang next to and across from each other, causing the viewer to turn in all directions, cleverly mimicking the repeated geometry integrated into their works. Upstairs, works by Eduardo Alvarez hang in a narrow hallway filled with an increasing number of viewers, making it impossible to linger. Luckily, a stack of oddly placed pamphlets reveal that the works of this respected, local artist will be part of another show here with Victoria Schiodtz beginning July 2023. Returning is a must.
Sore feet and lack of time begin to interfere with the original ambition of experiencing everything. Next time, wear sneakers. Walking to The Covey Center to see works from the Utah Valley Artist Guild Spring Salon feels less like an enjoyable stroll and more like trying to get those last steps logged. The art is interesting, but tired feet distract from the ability to connect, that is until just a few more steps lead to Wes Johnson’s portfolio of Greenland. He is a cinematographer from Los Angeles and his work “Under the Arctic Sky” is breathtaking. Johnson’s use of contrast between the white snow and ice and the other colors in his photographs paints Greenland’s harsh environment as romantic and otherworldly. In his work“Bloodline”, a line of red cuts through the picture plane, documenting the trail made by a polar bear as he drags his catch home. In “Evanesce”, an iceberg appears as an ethereal vision of blue worth the trek to Greenland, until the artist statement states that the iceberg is gone. Now melted, it truly is ethereal.
The Provo Art Stroll is the first Friday of every month, with the next Art Stroll scheduled for Friday, July 7th from 6-9pm. For a first time participant, there are some minor frustrations.The inability to find a map ahead of time is challenging, and the Plein Air Show either disappeared or was never there. Real-time updates on the Art Stroll website would help people traveling from outside Utah County to more easily find their way. Nonetheless, the overall experience of Downtown Provo’s Art Stroll outweighs any confusion. Against the craziness of daily life, a charming tree-lined avenue, candid conversations, and slowing down to wander, look, and see, conjure daydreams of strolling down a street imagined by the late director, Garry Marshall. Next month’s Art Stroll will be a must-see.
Sandra Houghton is an artist and art educator in Utah County.