Art for the people, by the people.
Photograph: Timothy Thimmes
Kamas, Utah, is known as the gateway to the Uintas, but how about being the gateway to emerging local artists? On the north end of town, beyond the grocery store where you can buy fish bait and a drug store that dishes out award-winning burgers, you’ll find a former bike shop that now houses The Starving Artist Exchange (283 S Main St, Kamas, 435.200.4722, thestarvingartistexchange.com).
At 286 square feet, the Exchange may be the tiniest gallery in the West, but its ambitions are grand: to give new life to the little building, the local art scene, and its owners’ individual artistic endeavors.
One recent afternoon, owners Cassidy DuHadway, Alisha Niswander, and Katie Stellpflug meet to hang the next show. Each month, the women invite a local artist to show his or her work. Being removed from the walls are striking photos of black horses forging through endless snow by Oakley resident Charlie Lansche. “Charlie just snaps pictures of the valley when he drives around,” DuHadway says. “He was so excited for the opportunity to present his work. We love to give locals the chance to show the community, friends, and family their art.”
Just then, the next month’s featured artist, Bob Peek, pokes his head in, gazes around, and asks, “Where are you going to put all these?” The women laugh, “Don’t worry, we’ll make room.” A commercial housepainter by trade, Peek carries in large paintings of oceans, swimmers, and swaths of color. He also wheels in a life-size metal “woman” with a thin rod for a torso.
“There’s our new mascot,” says Niswander. “Our new starving artist!” Niswander is a textile artist, while DuHadway makes ceramics and soaps, which often fill the gallery with their pleasant scents. Stellpflug is a ceramic artist as well, having studied the medium at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire. All three would rather not be starving (or working their day jobs) but perfecting—and selling—their crafts, which is why they opened the Exchange.
“We want to sell our work, so we decided to go for it,” says Stellpflug. In June, the gallery celebrates its first anniversary and continues to present a new artist the first Friday of every month. The bright and cheery building with the inviting façade is open noon–5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, and 7 p.m. to close on first Fridays.