In a sense, Bobbi Wan-kier creates one big piece of artwork a year, without ever picking up a brush. Her work is organizing the Arts to Zion event in Utah.
“I like to say that I paint with people,” says Wan-kier. “Arts to Zion is an immense project, but it has been a labor of love. The sheer awesomeness of the artists that are here made me want to do it. You have to have a passion for it. If you see the need, try it. You have to love people. I enjoy working with the artists and connecting them all together.”
It’s not just plein air painters who are featured in the tour, and it’s not just visual artists. Wan-kier and the organizers of Arts to Zion make sure that musicians and literary artists are in the mix. At one location during the five-day event, a “Celtic banjo band” played while plein air painters painted. “It’s been in my mind from the beginning to incorporate music and even literary artwork, too,” says Wan-kier. “I’m originally from Chicago, and when I moved out here I was amazed at the level of the artists in Southern Utah. I started putting this together, gathering all the different artists together. This is the sixth year we’ve done it. In the coming year we are connecting with museums.”
Visitors are asked to purchase a $10 tour ticket. They get it punched at each location, and when it is filled, they can enter a drawing for large prizes. Wan-kier said putting Arts to Zion together hasn’t been easy, and the difficulties are baked right into it. “The strongest part of this is the hardest part,” she says. “We have four really strong art hubs in this county — St. George, Springdale, Kayenta Art Village in Ivins, and Silver Reef in Leeds.
“I went through a lot of gas connecting them. I had to negotiate the competition between different groups, galleries, hubs, and be aware of what is important to each community. You have to preserve it as you connect it all. Everybody deserves a voice. I try very hard to give everybody a voice. Together it’s a symphony, it’s beautiful. Each group is unique and individual, and sometimes it’s hard to decipher what they want. But it’s a strong community now, and it’s getting stronger.”
Arts to Zion is held each year on Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend. For more information, go here.