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PARK CITY GALLERIES FEATURE BEST OF WEST

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Galleries come and go, and especially in Park City - where rent is twice as much as in Salt Lake City and sales rely heavily on tourists. Right now, Park City has one art center, a dozen fine-art galleries and nine stores featuring jewelry, custom craft, antiques and collectibles. But those figures could change any time.

- Meyer Gallery boasts of being the first gallery in Park City. Although there have been some lean years mixed in with better ones, the gallery has managed to survive for 25 years. In fact, the gallery has planned a "Silver Anniversary Show" featuring art by 32 artists who have been regulars for all - or part - of that time. The exhibit opens Saturday, June 11, with an opening reception from 3 to 7 p.m.Some of the artists participating include painters Michael Coleman, Bill Hill, John Jarvis, Richard Murray, H. Francis Sellers, A.D. Shaw, Karl Thomas, Kent Wallis, Kimbal Warren and Ned Young; and sculptors Dave McGary, Dennis Smith, Grant Speed and L. Deane Trueblood.

Park City's art gallery story began in 1965 with a Labor Day exhibition at the Blue Church. Darrell and Gerri Meyer invited about 35 Utah artists to display their wares. And sales were good.

Encouraged, the Meyers opened the Hanging Room gallery in 1966 at 556 Main St. Space was small, and the only artist to exhibit for some time was H. Francis Sellers, whose matted watercolors sold for $50 for full sheets and $25 for half. Rent was $50 a month, and it was a challenge to break even. Gerri recalls, "It was nearly two years until we showed enough profit to go out to dinner on the gallery."

After three years at that location, the Meyers moved to their present location at 305 Main St. in 1969. Originally a bank, the brick building still houses the original safe. It was at that time they changed the name to Meyer Gallery.

With the development of Deer Valley Ski Resort, business grew dramatically. In 1981, the Meyers totally renovated the gallery, expanding the space to two levels and adding a distinctive staircase. By then, the gallery represented works by Clark Bronson, Ed Fraughton, Richard Murray, K.C. Wilson and Bill L. Hill.

In 1987, the Meyers opened a second gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This gave out-of-state exposure to Utah's sculptors Dennis Smith and Gary Price; and painters Karl Thomas, Kent Wallis and Michael Workman. After two years, Meyer's son Dirk became director of the gallery and provided the energy and momentum to make that gallery successful.

Meyer's daughter, Susan, caught the gallery fever. She works along with Nancy Samson at the Park City location.

The Meyers said that what started off as a hobby has become a serious business, and one of the longest surviving establishments in Park City.

A key to their success has been searching for and securing the talents of outstanding Utah artists as well as some from out of the state. When visiting the gallery last Tuesday, I talked with Meyer's daughter Susan. She indicated that 25 of the 32 artists who will be participating in this anniversary exhibit are Utahns.

Three out-of-state artists whose works add a dramatic, new dimension to the art in Meyer Gallery include Dave McGary's incredibly detailed bronzes of American Indians; Jim Rabby's colorful, abstract landscapes; and Sibylle Szaggars' stylized paintings that bounce back and forth between realism and abstraction.

- The Kimball Art Center opened in 1976, followed by Charles and Gwen Laterner's Old Town Gallery. However, Robin Valline indicated that the Valline Gallery was the second "gallery" to open in Park City - in June, 1977.

In 1979, Robin Valline moved the gallery portion to the resort center in Deer Valley. Then, seven years ago, he consolidated the gallery and picture-framing business and moved to 1101 Park Ave. About five years ago, Valline sold the gallery to Bill Geysdorf, the current owner.

- In the fall of 1988, Valline started working with the Latterners at Old Town Gallery (the third oldest gallery) as their art and framing consultant. Since that time, he worked closely with the Latterners in setting the direction of the gallery.

The Latterners sold the business to Valline in March of this year. He says the philosophy of the gallery will continue in the direction it had been going, since he helped find that direction during the 51/2 years he worked with the Latterners.

Valline said, "Twice a year (May and October), the gallery opens the door to new artists." At those times, he will carefully review slides and resumes then make decisions as to whether or not to carry their work. While weighing the pros and cons, he must keep in mind that most of his clientele are tourists from outside the state, although he has a handful of art collectors from the Wasatch Front.

He pointed out that most of the regulars are local and regional artists. Some lived in Utah when they first joined the gallery but have moved from the state since then - as is the case with David Smith-Harrison and Trevor Southey.

Promising artists who recently became gallery regulars include Utahns Royden Card and Richard Stenerson; California artists Ted Villa and Miles Metzger, Scotty Mitchell of Greece, and Laurie Goddard of Madison, Conn.

Gallerygoers who have visited the gallery in the past will undoubtedly remember work by longtime regulars: the etchings and paintings of Southey; the lively, acrylic abstracts of Hal Larsen; the bright, sumptuous watercolors of his wife Fran; the simple, undulating forms of Richard Erdman's sculpted stones; the effective mix of Chine Colle, traditional and innovative techniques captured by Yuji Hiratsuka in his etchings; and the fascinating plate-glass sculptures by Tony Milici.

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The Silver Anniversary Show will remain through June at the Meyer Gallery (649-8160). Viewing hours are daily from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. through the month of June.

The Old Town Gallery (645-7724) is located at 444 Main Street, Park City. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday.