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Taylorsville Journal

The second ‘Plaza +ART: An Evening of Art’ is a big hit for a modest audience at the MVPAC

Oct 12, 2023 02:52PM ● By Carl Fauver

About 30 people attended Taylorsville’s “Plaza +ART: An Evening of Art.” As word gets out about the city’s new, periodic activity, organizers expect a larger crowd at their third such event, coming around Valentine’s Day. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)

Another hugely-successful season of “Starry Nights @ the Plaza” finished its 20-week run in front of Taylorsville City Hall on Sept. 15. Then, less than a week later, city officials were back at work providing a cultural opportunity inside the Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center.

Mayor Kristie Overson and her team hosted their second “Plaza +ART: An Evening of Art,” in the MVPAC Centennial room. A modest crowd of about 30 turned out for the free event where they heard presentations from oil painter Katrina Berg and photographer Gordon Swensen.

Before turning the time over to the artists, Overson told the audience a bit more about the city’s newest artistic program.

“As Centennial Plaza was being completed, we first came up with the idea of displaying sculptures throughout the area,” Overson explained. “We decided to call the program ‘Plaza +ART.’ This ‘Evening of Art’ is a spinoff of that. We want to provide our residents with opportunities to enjoy art and learn more about it.”

The city’s first “Plaza +ART: An Evening of Art” was held last spring. This Sept. 21 event was their second. And a third is already being discussed, to be held around Valentines Day.

Overson’s team also provided all of the attendees with a map and photos of the city’s newest selection of Centennial Plaza sculptures.

“At our Centennial Plaza ribbon cutting two years ago, we unveiled six sculptures,” she continued. “They proved to be so popular that, last year, we added more pedestals to accommodate 14 statues. This year we grew it again to 18 sculpture pedestals – and we just identified one more good spot. Right now, there are 17 sculptures on display, with two more coming soon.”

The sculptors hail from several Utah locations, along with a couple that made their way in from outside our state. Taylorsville resident Dan Toone has provided two sculptures this year, while his son Josh has one on display as well.

Toone is also the city’s primary connection to the “art world.” He’s the one who connected the mayor’s team to their “Plaza +ART: An Evening of Art” guests.

“After so many years of having nothing but dirt in front of city hall, I’m thrilled with Centennial Plaza,” Overson added. “Starry Nights @ the Plaza” was very popular again this year.”

Overson’s Executive Assistant Jen Andrus is the city’s primary organizer of “Starry Nights @ the Plaza.” She says this year’s move to Friday nights from Saturdays proved to be a very positive change.

“Our Starry Nights attendance was much larger this year,” Andrus said. “For one thing, the events are becoming more well-known by residents. And the move to Fridays seemed to help a lot also. I know lots of city employees purchased food from the food trucks as they were leaving work to take home to their families. We also had more food trucks this year.”

Andrus says city officials still have to meet with food truck organizers to firm up whether they will again be available on Friday nights next year. But given the boost they enjoyed in sales this past season, the mayoral assistant is confident “Starry Nights @ the Plaza” will return to Friday evenings in 2024.

Back to the “Plaza +ART: An Evening of Art” event, Midway resident Katrina Berg was the first presenter. She told attendees she likes to apply her oil paints thick – but make use of “softer” colors while doing it.

“I like to use candy-color oils, because life can be hard and darker,” Berg explained. “I like lighter colors in a contemporary, whimsical style.”

Berg said her larger paintings can take six to eight weeks to complete, working 25 to 30 hours per week. Before her presentation to the audience, the artist spoke highly of the city’s initiative to provide art opportunities to its residents.

“I think this is amazing what Taylorsville is doing to open doors for people,” she added. “We’ve had four or five years of really challenging times. Life can be hard. But art can remind us of who we are and what we can become. I think this (event) is brilliant.” 

Following Berg’s presentation, Gordon Swensen took the microphone. He’s lived in Sandy for about 30 years. But he did his growing up here, graduating from Taylorsville High School in 1983. He’s also the oldest son of Gary Swensen, for whom Valley Regional Park is named.

“I just attended my Taylorsville High 40th class reunion two weeks ago,” Swensen said before his photography presentation. “I served in the high school student senate for two years. Mayor Overson and Dan Toone invited me to participate in this event. I’m always excited to get back into Taylorsville.”

Swensen explained to the “Plaza +ART: An Evening of Art” audience his interest in photography began with a Boy Scout project when he constructed a pinhole camera. Normally with his wife tagging along, Swensen now travels throughout Utah, and neighboring states, in search of the perfect shot.

“Sometimes it can be very cold as you wait for just the right light to get the best picture,” he told the audience. “I enjoy visiting national parks, waterfalls and interesting landscapes. I also love photographing animals.”

Swensen shared dozens of slides with the audience, showing bison, deer, elk, foxes, bear, moose, antelope, porcupines and a wide variety of birds. He also displayed and discussed landscape photography, ranging from red rocks to mountain flowers to ocean coastlines.

“I also really enjoy photographing waterfalls and hot air balloon events,” he added.

Swensen is now developing a website to feature his work. In the meantime, anyone wishing to learn more about it can reach the former Taylorsville resident at [email protected].

To see more of Katrina Berg’s oil paintings, visit

Again, once the holiday season comes and goes, be on the lookout for information from Taylorsville City about their third “Plaza +ART: An Evening of Art,” coming in February. λ

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