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Unity, hope emerge as main themes at Moab ArTTrails: Sculpture exhibition was installed in late September.

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Michael Dunton and Christy Williams-Dunton, co-founders of Moab ArTTrails, never pick a theme for their annual exhibition, but distinct themes always organically emerge. This year’s process was no different from other years—artists submitted pieces in spring 2021, which were then picked for the exhibition by a committee made up of volunteers from the community—and yet, themes of unity and hope for a brighter future surfaced.

“Last year there were a lot of birds,” Williams-Dunton said. “Circles and trees turned up this year—circles in which people’s faces can peek through, and light.”

Moab ArTTrails is a non-profit organization started in 2015 that has hosted a sculpture art exhibition every year since 2017. The annual exhibition begins in the fall and stays installed for a year.

At the end of each year, ArTTrails purchases a sculpture to put on permanent display in Moab. Last year, the organization purchased “Oracular Oracle” by local artist Tim “Mik” McCallister.

For the 2021-2022 exhibition, 13 pieces by 10 different artists were installed. The artists are mostly from Utah and Colorado, although one, Paul Reimer, is from British Columbia. The exhibition debuted on September 25.

There were fewer submissions this year than in years past, Dunton said, but he feels they ended up having “the perfect amount.” The selection committee was made up of nine people, including Dunton and Williams-Dunton, who each represented different subsets of the Moab community.

On the day of the debut, community members picked Sue Quinlan’s piece, “Inclusion,” on display near the Pasta Jay’s on Main Street, as Best in Show. Ted Schaal’s “The Rift,” on display outside of The Hoodoo, won an honorable mention.

“There’s a lot of contemplative thought behind so many of the pieces this year,” Williams-Dunton said. “And perhaps this is an expression of having had a year or so to create some things—some of these pieces were created in quarantine.”

Many of the pieces this year are made from rusted metal, which Williams-Dunton thinks reflects on the passage of time.

Nate Brimhall, from West Jordan, Utah, had two sculptures make it into the final exhibition: “Consciousness Rising,” on display at the corner of Main Street and Center Street in front of Wells Fargo, and “Awareness,” on display across the street from the Moab Arts and Recreation Center.

Brimhall has submitted art to the ArTTrails before, but this is the first year his sculptures were picked for the exhibition. He is a “volumetric steel sculpture and metalwork” artist, and his pieces this year were designed to give people a moment of pause as they think about the meaning.

Consciousness Rising was born of the question: could we raise consciousness universally by individually looking up to each other rather than down?

“What I’m trying to put out right now is the idea of becoming aware of each other, seeing each other, accepting each other, loving each other and realizing that we’re all part of humanity,” Brimhall said.

Awareness brings attention to three “intelligence centers” in the body: the gut, the heart, and the brain. Brimhall asks: what kind of awareness can we have, and can we radiate, if all of those were aligned and if they were aligned upward?

He also encourages people to derive their own meanings from each piece.

“I think one of the things that I love about sculpture, especially with larger volume sculpture that can be outside, is that the experience is different each time you go around it,” he said. “The weather, my mood, the lighting, everything can make a difference to that experience, and there may be a new insight as I walk around it each time.”

One sculpture will be picked for permanent display in Moab. All Moab community members will have the opportunity, all year, to vote on which piece they believe Moab ArTTrails should purchase. Dunton said he wants the community to become more involved with ArTTrails—the exhibition is for the Moab community, and “it’s our art,” he said.

“We’ve seen every year how much more [the exhibition] is embraced,” Dunton said. “And our reputation among artists is growing too. It’s a show that people want to be a part of.”

Dunton and Williams-Dunton hope to have an event in a few months that will promote the exhibition again since the sculptures will be on display for a year.

A map of the sculptures is available on the Moab ArTTrails website at www.moabarttrails.org.