Alternative Venues | Visual Arts

Martine Café Tapas


Don’t let the red sandstone façade intimidate you. Martine’s Café Tapas, located at 22 East and 100 South (in the old Utah Commercial and Savings Bank Building built in 1889), although just as classy on the inside, is warm and inviting even to the most casually-dressed visitor. Upon entering (shortly before 2pm), I notice that the lingering lunch clientele is dressed in business attire although Tom Grant (owner/chef) has reassured me that the lunch crowd is often quite casual. Martine is open every day but Sunday’s for lunch and dinner, and has been in business for six years offering a variety of specialties including Tapas, which are small Spanish appetizers.

I immediately notice high, expansive walls decorated very sparsely with two pieces of framed poster art. All furnishings and trim are in natural dark wood, adding to the rich environment. Shawn Jacobsen, Manager of Martine’s, agrees to an interview. He is warm and welcoming. and takes me to an adjoining dining room lined with private booths. We settle into one of them to talk. The high windows bathe the room in natural north light. Again, I notice a large framed monochromatic mural is the single wall decoration.

Shawn tells me they expanded the café for the Olympics in 2002 and made the decision then to use that additional upstairs space to promote artists. They had hoped it would increase business as well. Is it successful? “It is and it isn’t” is his reply. When asked why they chose not to display the art throughout the restaurant, he says it is a logistics problem and a choice to keep the main café decor more simple.

He tells me artwork is exchanged on a quarterly basis and is celebrated with an opening, always scheduled for a weeknight, so it will not conflict with Friday evening business. Martine contracts with Gary Vlasic who works with Phillips Gallery to screen and handle all arrangements with featured artists. In exchange for providing a viewing space, the artist provides his/her own advertising postcards and any sales go against the opening night’s refreshments ($300). At this time Martine requires no other sales commission from the artist. Martine and Gary Vlasic are currently investigating a general “call for entries” in a Utah Arts Council listing to simplify the artist selection process.

I ask to see the featured artist’s work and we make our way up the wooden staircase in the front hall to the second floor dining loft. Two gentlemen in coats and ties are whispering a business deal in the corner overlooking the main floor. We walk straight back to the rear of the building. The room, small in contrast to the rest of the café, with low ceilings and south-facing windows, is used mostly for private parties and overflow from the main café. It contains one large dining table surrounded by matching wooden chairs. The space displays about 15 medium-sized paintings. The layout is classy and in line with the rest of the café.

Martine will feature local artist, Marty Stenerson from November 18 through January 15. Stenerson was born in Elkhart, Indiana in 1964 and came to Utah in 1986. He studied figure drawing for many years with Earl Jones. He says although Jones is best known for his landscapes, his figure studies are phenomenal and have been a big influence on Stenerson’s work. He paints exclusively in oils and defines his style as “figurative expressionism”. His work includes nude studies, musicians, and people in work settings. He has an eye for color and has also designed quilt patterns for his sister, home décor designer/quilt-maker, Kara DiOrio.


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