Art Around The Square - A fine art festival event in Midway, Utah, USA
AATS is the brainchild of local Midway artist, Susette Gertsch, and a team of wonderful, supportive art loving friends.
Susette is a professional painter with an M.F.A. (Master of Fine Arts) degree from B.Y.U. She has organized and promoted artists and the fine visual events almost since she first married Max and moved to Midway 23 years ago. She stepped away from teaching high school art in 2005 and transitioned quickly to being a full-time artist, as well as an arts advocate and art event innovator. Little did she know the scope of what her efforts would entail and what the results would be in coming years. It has required tremendous commitment but it has also been an exciting journey and very worthwhile. This year's new AATS adventure expands into a new world with a relatively new friend, Carrie Zabaldo and Charitable Acts Theatre.
It all started with inquiries and invitations in 2002 when curious local artists gathered at her home. Together they formed the Midway Art Association and when the first MAA president stepped down a few months later, Susette stepped up to become the association’s president for the next 8 years. During that time, she organized monthly art meetings, art workshops and the first MAA art shows. The very first show was hosted by Sherrie Omans at Edielweiss Gallery on main street because her husband David wanted it. He had passed away only 2 weeks before the opening but Sherrie insisted we come. That was a very special experience.
In 2004 Susette proposed, developed, and chaired the first Wasatch Plein air Paradise event, and years later, the annual fall art retreat which has now become Plein Air Utah (PAU). The WPAP (Wasatch Plein Air Paradise) event is still the largest plein air competition in Utah and the PAU rendezvous retreat in the fall attracts over 30 professional PAPU instructors (Plein air Painters of Utah) and over 100 adult student artists to the town hall for a 3-day intensive art school and plein air painting experience.
In addition to her continuous work with the MAA, Susette created, “Splash”, a private art show at the town hall in 2014, and "Midway Moomba" in 2019. ArtAroundTheSquare, has now added an entirely new dimension with opportunities for artists and the art loving public of Heber valley.
Susette says, “We organized the first of the outdoor festival events during the July 24th holiday in 2019 and called it “Midway Moomba”. Midway Moomba was a huge customized experiment, inspired by an experience that I had enjoyed in Australia many years earlier when I lived there with my first husband and young child. The word Moomba in aboriginal terms means, “Let’s get together and have fun, and I’m all about fun!”
Midway Moomba was actually held during Pioneer week. It had many facets; a children’s art school, an adult art school, a chalk-art competition on the skating rink, plus a youth concert with a band, a program of evening performances by local musical and dance talent, a patriotic and pioneer bike parade led by the Wasatch High School band, and a family Contra Dance on the last night. It was more exciting than a 3-ring circus! And that time is also when my costumed daughter Sally, began to share her performing talents with us.
Sadly, in 2020 everything had to be cancelled, but in 2021 and 2022 we started over and renamed the event “ArtAroundTheSquare”. We held events on Memorial Day week-end, July 4th week and again on Pioneer week. We focused on artists having their individual booths indoors and outdoors. We hosted an art activity where anyone could come build their own custom hats with materials we provided. And costumed Aunt Hattie began an initial introduction as an art teacher. If the fates allow, she will be in full bloom on July 3 this year with theatrical whimsy complimented by her daughter the amazing, stilt walking, fire spinning, Wild Child.
I've always believed that artists and their contributions are critical to a cultures meaning and tradition of society. Art is not only a place of beauty and personal expression but it supports and contributes to the very fabric of human interaction. Hattie will cover this and many more philosophical topics in her art school, with a flare.
Artists need 4 things to flourish; first education and training, second, a place to produce their chosen medium, third, an art community and camaraderie with like-minded friends, and of course fourth, income to live which is a great reward and motivator. Centuries ago Governments and the established church funded artists. Later wealthy patrons kept the artists alive and functioning. In our day there are some government grants but often private citizens and community businesses provide much of the needed resources and support for artists. Every art purchases, every prize, ticket and every donation to events like this have personal as well as far reaching effect for supporting the arts.
Most people don't often realize the impact and value the arts have on the quality of our lives and our society. As a people and a community, we are all in this together. If you are inclined to volunteer a couple hours on our staff or provide other resources holy cowbelles we would be thrilled! Please do join us in this wonderful effort as we do our best to go forward. Help us make it bigger and better, especially better!
Starting Friday, June 30 from 2-7pm we are so pleased to have 40 open-air art booths on the southwest town corner of the Midway Town Square lawns. Paintings in all mediums, plus sculpture, photography, and beautiful artisan crafts will be on display.
A new and very exciting plan this year is to use the Midway Community Center for 3 days of family friendly activities for (almost) all ages.
On Saturday, July 1, A silent auction will be hosted by, and for Charitable Acts Theater. Donated items from generous sponsors will be available for auction bidding with the final proceeds being donated to the Heber Community Action Services Food Bank. Also, Children's face painting and art activity tickets will add to the fun!
On Monday, July 3
This a unique first ever day of theatrical and imaginative art activities will be hosted by ArtSchoolArt LLC. It will feature the lovable, slightly inept and hilariously quirky art teacher, Aunt Hattie, (Gee I wonder who that is?!), together with her lively costumed friends. The Midway Community Center will be transformed into Hattie’s magical home art studio where children, youth and adults can relax, create, and be entertained. Come join the fun!
Tuesday, July 4th will be “Drop-In-And-Dance!” day.
Tickets will likely sell fast for the 4 different hour-long dance parties with themes of swing, 50s, 80s, and western line dancing. music.
All funds from the silent auction, and the “Drop-in-and-Dance” day will go to Charitable Acts Theater. CAT raises funds for Heber valley charities through wonderful theater productions. This year their June play is “Lavender and Old Lace” at the Midway Town Hall.
In 2022 all CAT funds were donated to “Horse of Many Colors”, which is an organization dedicated to supporting families fighting cancer. In 2023 the donation recipient is the Heber Community Action Services Food Bank. And as mentioned the children are not forgotten! Kids can sign up for face painting and a special art activity that will help support CAT.
Town square is closed Sunday July 2. Rest up everyone!
Monday July 3, funds raised though Aunt Hatties art school (ArtSchoolArt LLC )activities will help pay for the building rental fees and other expenses that week. ArtAroundTheSquare is a vehicle that not only supports, talented artists, but encourages and supports Charitable Acts Theater in their community non-profit causes. It’s a wonderful collaboration, because the intention is to create memorable experiences for the community, the volunteers, the performers, and to create valuable opportunities for talented artists, artisans, and photographers. The valley is flourishing and as it grows the arts can too!
We would like to see ArtAroundTheSquare blossom into a major art event in Utah. It enhances the cultural, artistic, and humanitarian potential already established through the arts on Midway Town Square. It is expanding to include visitors from Kamas, Wallsburg, all of Heber Valley, Park City and beyond to the Wasatch Front and Utah county.
We've been asked about participation numbers but it's hard for to know how many people have attended because they enter from all directions around town Square to participate. However, art fans add to the numbers from the farmers market which has a great local following each Saturday. Also, the Fourth of July on Tuesday starts out with about 1200 early risers attending the 7am early morning patriotic program. After the program, people flow from the skating rink bleachers over to the outdoor pancake breakfast at the pavilion, (suport the Scout troupe!) and on to the Town Hall where the MAA hosts their annual Plein air paradise auction. People will also naturally flow to the grassy southwest lawns to see the ArtAroundTheSquare booths and into the Midway Community Center to enjoy the silent auction, dancing, and art activities on their respective days.
We hope droves of people come to see it all so please help us spread the word.
We have nearly 40 artist’s individual booths, plus entertainment and food options. The AATS festival has grown from only hundreds of people attending in 2019, to a few thousand in 2022, and we hope to double that number this year! The future is bright because we can build this event with others to create a major art attraction on town square. We have excellent advertising in social media, (special thanks to TimpTop advertising), plus newspapers, flyers and by word of mouth with hundreds of enthused supporters and friends in the community.
I have nothing but gratitude for the amazingly good people and activities that my friends and I have embraced in Midway and Heber valley for these many years since we first moved here! The arts rock… and as supporters and visionaries we can look forward to the best “rock and roll” festival ever!”
So, there you go!
Susette Gertsch M.F.A. aka Aunt Hattie the lady with many wild wishes.