Fire spreads quickly.
Especially when the conditions are right.
A dry season, a gentle breeze and a few young kids with a box of firecrackers is all it takes to send an entire mountain range up in flames.
Utah County could use some fire, and a few young artists are bringing it.
Despite previous attempts to kindle sparks, the fine art niche in Utah County has always been a weak flickering flame, at best. But according to some, the conditions are better now than they’ve ever been, and a drastic change in the Valley’s thermostat is about to take place.
A growing band of artists, assembling under the moniker Studio 760, are fanning the flames of innovation and creativity by propagating fine art in the valley. Akin to factions throughout art history led by Alfred Stieglitz, Marcel Duchamp, Vincent Van Gogh and Èdouard Manet, this group’s primary objective is to put power into the artist’s hands.
By displaying large quantities of work in unconventional places (houses, railroad stations, street corners, back alleys and forests) the group is focused on exposing the public to the rich treasure trove of creativity that rests right beneath their feet—a diversity of art that simply would not and could not fit into a typical Utah Valley gallery.
Studio 760 started when two young artists, Jake Buntjer and Patrick Bates, began sharing their disappointment that galleries in the Valley represented such a small sliver of the art that is actually being produced here. As they talked, the idea for Studio 760 emerged from a spray of sparks and a plume of sulfurous smoke. But even at that moment, they had no idea how explosive their idea actually was.
The blast from their first show in October 2011, held at a small, unassuming brick house in Orem, echoed through the entire community. The concept was met with so much enthusiasm that the little house couldn’t contain the show. Art was hung on every square inch of the interior walls, from baseboards to ceiling. It crept onto the floor and spilled into the front yard. Local bands performed acoustic sets. A horde of artists and art enthusiasts filled the space to capacity.
Buntjer and Bates never dreamed the show would spread so quickly. Like the one described by Paul Simon, their hearts were “laughing, screaming, pounding” to see the fervor created by the show. “This,” said Jake Buntjer, as he stood pointing to the floor beneath his feet during their first show, “is not Studio 760. The art on the wall is Studio 760.”
What Buntjer and Bates created is an ideology, not a gallery.
It’s a creed that, among many other things, empowers artists, nourishes the community and underscores the validity and utility of art in our society.
*Here’s the history and purpose of Studio 760, in the words of Jake Buntjer and Patrick Bates
J. When I met Patrick Bates we instantly hit it off and realized we thought about the world in the same way—especially the world here in Utah County. The idea for Studio 760 stemmed from wanting to create a sense of underground—a real life sense of artistic community. We wanted to take power away from galleries and give it to the artists.
P. This is about artists and their art. We’re not doing this as a business. The show isn’t about us or about our house. With our first show the art completely transformed the house and made it something new. The second show will be at our house as well, but future shows will be in different locations throughout the Valley, including boxcars and forests.
J. 760 just gives people a reason to do it. The walls don’t matter. The roots come from artists banding together. The foundation of this movement will be an ideology rather than a building or a house.
P. In this world you need to be flexible—especially in the art world. Artists need to invent their own way of being successful. There are no guidelines.
J. It’s about giving a place for art to be more organic. We hope that art can grow naturally and be unformulated here.
P. We’re not in the business of defining art. We let the artist do that themselves. We don’t tell people what good art is. It’s not about redefining art. We have an innate desire to act as catalysts for artistic endeavors in Utah County. We want to stir the pot. We’d like to see the Utah County art scene grow. If we could be any type of catalyst we’d be honored. Ultimately, we want to see every single artist succeed. Although their definitions of success will be different, I want to facilitate the desires of every single artist.
J. I saw the Provo gallery stroll for the first time and I was struck because it had such little support. The community didn’t care. And the galleries didn’t care that the community didn’t care. The galleries were too casual about what was going on. After a few months I knew I had to do something to change it. The gallery stroll is about artists. Hell, if a gallery wont accept you go to an Indian restaurant and ask to put up some easels. We’ve got to fill the cafes and the streets with art.
B. Bureaucracy stifles creative expansion. I don’t want the bureaucracy getting their hands on what artists do. We shouldn’t be dependant on permission from the community to show our art. They don’t have the last word when it comes to what art is and is not.
J. Artists need to define what they do
P. With Studio 760, we’re all in this together. We all lean on each other. We all need each other.
It’s about working together. The more cogs we have the better—everyone has a place. That’s what makes 760 so unique, and we really saw that back in October.
J. Our last show was brilliant and wonderful. We had no idea what would happen but we did it anyway. The last show was like that moment as a kid where you dream of making wings and you strap them onto your back and climb to the top of your garage. Then you look down and see how far away the ground is. There were so many times where we almost gave up. But we got to the edge and we jumped. And we still don’t know what happened after that, but all we know is we never hit the ground… It wasn’t because we had any magic formula, it was just because we leapt. The show took wings and carried itself. Neither of us could have imagined how good it felt at the end of the night to look around and know that we (the artists) had shifted the Utah County art scene.
B. It was awesome. And our job, ultimately, is to be that unifying force.
J. You know, even if no viewers had showed up, it still would have been worth it. There was something wonderful and magical about having so many artists gathered under one roof. There was a moment when I was talking with three grown men and we were so caught up in the moment that there were literally tears in our eyes when we talked about art. You can’t fake that kind of passion.
B. The end goal is to make as much positive change as possible. The expectations aren’t grand. But we want the artists to succeed.
J. The ultimate goal is to have every artist say, months or years down the road, wherever they’re at, whether it’s in Utah County or in Salt Lake or Idaho, New Mexico, California or Europe, wherever, for them to say to themselves someday, “remember that time in Utah when we artists banded together and we had those amazing art shows?… we can do that here.” Helping them to keep their passion alive is our goal.
P. Culture is so much defined by art and artistic endeavors. Art is incredibly important to society and culture. We’re losing a lot of the culture if society doesn’t pay attention to art. Art is a serious endeavor for humanity. There’s an innate desire for people to express themselves. It’s essential in the human experience.
J. We’re not the first to do this,
P. …and we wont be the last.
J. But we’re just adding to the story. And we’re doing it on a local level because that’s what matters to us.
P. We’re helping people to become. To feel. There are so many artists and it’s easy to feel that you’re not important sometimes. This, among many other things, is an endeavor of artistic validation. We’re out to prove that art is important.
This show is going to be even larger in scale and scope than the first one. Five local musicians including Ferocious Oaks, Moth & the Flame, John Ross & his Troubles, Malick and Scott Shepard are all scheduled to perform acoustic sets. Local poets will be reciting their work in between musicians. Over 60 artists have already submitted and artwork is still being accepted.
In the words of Jake Buntjer, “If you hate art come for the party. If you hate parties come for the art. And if you like both then you won’t want to miss it.”
Bottom line, this may be one of the most influential and subversive art movements in the history of Utah County. Flames are lapping at the hills. They are leaping from heart to heart. The fire is spreading quickly and it needs your help. Come be part of the movement to set the entire Valley ablaze with art.
Contact Patric Bates at ###-###-####
Or Jake Buntjer at 801.702.2401
The first five pieces are five dollars each, and anything beyond that is free.
Funds go directly to refreshments and advertising for the next show.
No gallery fees will be collected if you wish to sell your art, so it is requested that prices be lowered accordingly.
By Clark Goldsberry