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The president of the Utah Valley Artists Guild says the group's current art exhibition (in University Mall's Gallery 28) is being held to increase the state's awareness of its talented artists.

The exhibition, which will continue through the holiday shopping season, is "just the beginning of some really big things we're doing to step up our public-awareness programs," said Jean "JA" Thorpe. Cost is $1.Another goal of the exhibit is to entice promising young artists into joining the guild, she said, which could give them encouragement to continue and the motivation to keep improving.

"A major goal we expect to achieve is uniting Utah Valley artists into a group that will motivate, educate and inspire each member. We believe amateur artists, as well as professionals, are important to the group because amateurs can benefit from the standards set by the professionals, who in turn find fulfillment in giving of themselves."

Thorpe said the guild does not concentrate only on the visual arts, but also on craft-making and areas like creative writing and poetry. "Sometimes art can just be what you're good at. We're really trying to stress creativity."

In addition to displays of some of the guild members' works, the exhibition also includes daily mini-workshops for "kids of all ages," Thorpe said. "Saturday is usually our biggest day. We'll have artists conducting workshops in pastels, clay, light photography, watercolors, even puppet-making."

Parents can even leave their children at the workshops (which cost a small fee to cover supply costs, she said), go shopping and come back later. "It's nice to be able to get the young kids involved."

Thorpe said the state is neglecting it artists. "To me, Utah should be the creative capital of the world. With our beliefs - especially religiously - it seems to me that we should be more into art.

"I really think people should be buying more art, for one thing. I see little contradictions in the state when everyone buys VCRs but they don't own any art."

Art is "inspired from our creator," she said. "It's like getting a glimpse of heaven. There should be more exposure to art, I think."

Thorpe said she does not hold popular media, especially television, in great esteem. "To me, it stifles creativity. It doesn't allow you to develop your own talents, you're just sitting there absorbing someone else's.

"I'm not saying all television is bad, but there's too much emphasis on it, and that tends to hold people back - leading to mediocrity, staying at your own level and not rising - instead of developing to their own potential."

She said she sees the guild as a force that "can change the attitudes and misconceptions of people about art. We had about 60 people at our last guild meeting saying `We can change things.' They're really excited about it."

If the exhibit is successful, the guild will probably be holding similar exhibitions and other informative sessions for the public, she said. "This could be the start of something really big."

Thorpe said she invites everyone to come to the exhibition. For more information on the guild, contact her at 465-1406 or 465-4633.