Organization Spotlight | Visual Arts

Building a Legacy for Utah Arts: The Pilar Pobil Foundation

Pilar Pobil, the Spanish-born artist whose vibrant paintings adorn many private and public spaces throughout Utah and beyond, is now a film star. A new documentary on her life, produced and directed by Michael Coles, will be previewed Sunday, April 29, at 5 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center in Salt Lake City. A concert with singer-songwriter Monica Pasqual (Pobil’s daughter) and Joshua McClain will follow the screening; tickets are available through

The documentary and concert are a tribute to Pilar Pobil who, at 91, still makes art and continues to be a visionary supporter of the Utah arts community. Proceeds from the event will help build up the Pilar Pobil Legacy Foundation, which, according to its chairman, Patrick Hoagland, aims to one day purchase Pobil’s Avenues home from her estate. The home, which has been a favorite venue for summer art exhibits for many years, will continue to host art events as well as house artists-in-residence who come to Utah to work with nonprofit arts organizations.

Started in 2013, the Foundation is already having an impact in the community. “Every other week, writer Meg Kinghorn hosts literary workshops there for writers of all abilities,” says Hoagland. Published writers of different genres share knowledge and expertise with those who attend.

Pobil and her Foundation also work with the Granite School District on arts projects. The school district chooses a theme related to social justice and students create something – in any medium – related to that theme. Selected students are invited to Pobil’s home to learn how to paint frames for their artwork.

Starting in May, the Foundation will work with the Beverly Sorenson Foundation and Westminster College on workshops for art educators. Pobil will be personally involved with projects that will help teachers provide more arts education in the schools.

Spring and summer will bring more art events to the Pobil home. On May 19, from 5-9 p.m., the Foundation will host “The Many Faces of Pilar Pobil.” Thirty-two artists are creating Pilar Pobil masks, based on a sculpture by artist Mark Degraffenreid. Working on plaster, concrete or glass castings, each artist will present a unique impression of Pilar Pobil.

Willamarie Huelskamp, who has known Pobil for more than 30 years, struggled with the concept. “The first thing that went through my mind was not how to paint it, but should I use paint at all?” she says. She thought about using fabric, or rope, or even flowers. She finally decided to create a 4 or 5-year-old Pilar. “Pilar’s life was shattered in the Spanish Civil War when Franco took over Spain and her father was killed. She thought the time before that was the most perfect time of her life. I’d like to bring that back,” says Huelskamp.

Steven Sheffield looked at the plaster cast and felt, “She’s staring back at you. It feels very strange.” Sheffield, who has painted chairs and other objects for fundraisers, says this feels much different. Known for his abstracted Utah landscapes, Sheffield will incorporate similar imagery in the mask he is painting. “I know how much Pilar loves to paint in southern Utah,” he says, “so this will be fitting.”

The mask project was the brainchild of Dan Cummings, a Utah glass artist who attended an event at the Pobil home last year. “I suddenly had this idea and I just blurted it out. Everyone thought it was a good idea,” he says. “And Pilar said, ‘Well, you’d better hurry up. I’m not going to last forever.’”

For Cummings, the project was “completely heart-driven.” He says he first met Pobil in 2002 when she was doing a show at a gallery in Salt Lake City. “I love the way she inspires other artists. I wanted to honor what she’s done for the art community.”

All of the masks will be for sale at the May 19 event. A portion of the proceeds and admission to the garden will support the Foundation.

Other upcoming events include the annual Art in the Garden exhibit, June 8-10, and the Women’s Art Exhibit, Aug. 11-12. For the Women’s show, the Foundation will sponsor a young Navajo clay artist, Denae Shanidiin.

For updates on Pilar Pobil Legacy Foundation events, visit their website or Facebook page:,



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