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Logan has potential to be great art city, Fine Art Gallery owner says

December 17th, 2012 Posted in Arts and Life, Business

By Dani Hayes

LOGAN — Despite the vast amount of artistic talent in Cache Valley, there wasn’t a central place for artists and art lovers to congregate, to form a community, to make a name. So one prominent community member and  artist set out to change the valley’s reputation in the art world by creating a gallery.

Logan Fine Art Gallery opened its doors late 2011. It is a place for artists to buy supplies, take art classes and display their creations to potential buyers. Owner Eugene Needham aspired to make Logan a major art community spanning from Idaho Falls to Provo.

“The major reason for why I’ve done what I’ve done with that art center is so it will help support or indicate a direction for the artists and potential buyers,” Needham said. “But right now we don’t have an image statewide or nationwide. The people who live in Logan, there are some very wealthy people but most of them are not interested or educated or capable of supporting a lot of galleries.

“Other cities have done it – Santa Fe, Scottsdale, Jackson – but they have a lot of close-at-hand buyers and so that is what we need. We need to make the people of Pocatello, Idaho Falls, Provo, Ogden, Salt Lake aware that Logan is a place to come and buy art. We are just kind of beginning.”

Well-known local artist Trent Gudmundsen, although successful in other parts of the country, struggles to sell his paintings locally. “People aren’t really aware that there is a way in getting high-quality local art,” he said. “It’s kind of funny – there are people who have gone and checked out galleries in other states where I sell and they find out I’m in Cache Valley and they had no idea there were many professional artists here.”

For the past six years, Gudmundsen’s full-time job has been painting. He said that his artwork doesn’t sell well locally because of what he calls the “Cache Valley price range.”

“When locals see the price of my art, their jaws drops because they don’t understand the value,” he said. “It’s extremely difficult to sell art for over $1,000.” Locals do buy art, Gudmundsen said, but it usually has to be under $300 for people to even consider the purchase.

Graduate student and teacher Zachary Proctor has been a professional artist for over six years and has put little effort in selling his art locally.

“I think Logan is a place where a lot of people appreciate the arts, however I don’t think they have the funds to pay for them,” Proctor said. “Also, there are a lot of really skilled artists and painters here. There is more talent and work then buyers. Most creators, painters, sculptures take their work elsewhere because there is not enough of a marketplace here.”

The people of Cache Valley and similar communities, Proctor said, have different priorities which make it so the market suffers.

“People think $1,000 for a TV is totally reasonable but $1,000 for a painting seems kind of strange,” he said. “But a $1,000 painting in New York would be nothing. I think the average family here has more money than they think they do, but art is not much as a priority as say a couch or a certain type of TV or computer.”

Both Proctor and Gudmundsen said that there are more talented artists in Logan per capita than anywhere else in the United States. According to the Cache Valley Visitors Bureau, the valley is home to seven art galleries and an art museum, The Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art located on Utah State University’s campus. The community also hosts a number of art events during the year including Summerfest Arts Faire, Art on the Lawn and Gallery Walks.

Cache Valley has the potential to become a major art market but lacks “buyer-willingness,” Needham said.

“I’m not sure if it’s a question of the right artist, there are plenty of great artists, but the artists themselves can’t develop unless they have an incentive,” he said. “Not everyone can be retired and produce art like I am. They’ve got to have money coming in to feed their family and support their life. It’s just really tough.”

Since the opening of his gallery, Needham has been trying to get the city to help support local artists. “I’m talking to [the city officials] to lend support,” he said. “To them, it means money but I think it should be more than that. It should be an ongoing ‘what should we do?’”

Within 800 miles of the valley there are eight to ten major art cities, like Park City and Jackson Hole, Needham said. He wants Logan to catch up with surrounding art cities. To do this, he is currently trying to get art investors.

“I’m working with a company right now,” he said. “They do auctions in Santa Fe, Scottsdale and Jackson and I said to them ‘Why not Logan?’ And they say ‘Oh, Logan. Tell us more.’ I think if we had a major auction house it would help put us on the map.”

This noble goal isn’t without its frustrations.

“I met with the Logan city economic council last summer,” Needham said. “The mayor was looking at his watch and couldn’t wait for me to stop talking. After 15 minutes I felt like I was just getting going but I could tell that I was imposing on them and they wanted to get onto other issues.”

Needham said the city needs leadership that has an understanding and appreciation for the arts.

“It takes leaders who have insight and have been around,” he said. “You know, if they have never been to New York City or to Europe but choose to go to Cancun or Hawaii or Disneyland and that’s all they know as the world, they didn’t take any art or music classes, if they don’t go to the theater, it’s a struggle for them. They buy a piece of western art for $150 in a local promotion store and they put it on their desk and say ‘Oh, I like art.’ Unfortunately that’s where we’re at. A lot of people locally, local government, they don’t have a clue. They aren’t interested.”

Needham and other artists and art enthusiasts are eager to move Logan in the limelight of the art world – starting locally, then moving to the state level and then nationally. “We need to organize and have a focus on how to do this,” he said.

Opening the Logan Fine Art Gallery has been one of many steps it’s going to take to encourage more people to buy and sell art locally, but as Gudmundsen said about the gallery: “If they build it, they will come.”

NW

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