Advocate Artist's Showcase
It was an accident, really.
Artists Marilou Kundmueller and David Dornan had been organizing art workshops in La Sal during the summers for University of Utah students. Dornan had been an art professor at the university since 1982 and the workshops provided a way for his students to experience art outside the classroom.
On one particular trip, the pair spotted Helper with curiosity as they passed on the freeway. Nine days later on their return trip, the two detoured off onto Helper's main street. What they discovered were lots of empty buildings in a town with enormous potential.
In the 10 years since their discovery, husband and wife Kundmueller and Dornan have created an art niche in Helper that draws artists from many walks of life.
Helper Workshops, founded in 1994, is located at 76 South Main in the historic Utah Hotel. Each summer the building is full of energetic artists awaiting inspiration.
Along with Dornan, many of the instructors that once taught at the university now teach at the workshops. The University of Utah, which has been aruguably the best art school in the state for many years, has shifted from art fundamentals to more of a conceptual school.
"Art today has more in common with philosophy and social concern than the craft of drawing and painting," Dornan commented.
Students, professional artists and novice art enthusiasts come to the workshops for instruction that emphasizes the fundamentals.
Each workshop has a different focus. Past classes have included: figure drawing and painting, figure sculpture, landscapes, still lifes, monotypes, drawing, and color theory.
Workshops last between seven and eight days. Participants work an eight hour day, with additional lectures, demonstrations and slide shows in the evening.
At the close of each workshop, Kundmueller and Dornan host a giant barbecue. This gathering allows workshop attendees to relax, socialize and stuff themselves after a long week's work.
As a direct result of the workshops, four students have purchased homes in Helper and are currently working as full-time artists.
Aside from the summer classes, Helper Workshops also sponsors an artists-in-residence program. The selected artists live at the Helper Workshops' building, have a studio space and experience a community condusive to the profession.
"It gives students a chance to paint full time and to define themselves as artists," Kundmueller stated. "It can jump start careers."
As a trade off, artists-in-residence help manage the workshops and the building.
When classes are over for the summer, Kundmueller and Dornan focus on their own art.
Kundmueller, who was once a registered pediatric nurse at Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake before moving to Helper, also has a medical illustration degree from Johns Hopkins University. She currently balances freelance medical illustration for educational and medical publications with her oil paintings, which are shown at Park Gallery in Carmel, Calif.
Dornan is a full-time painter/sculptor. His art is shown at CODA, with galleries in Park City, New York City, and Palm Desert, Calif. Dornan is presently preparing for a show to take place on Oct. 18 in New York City.