Despite the tense political tension between China and the United States over trade and tariffs, Park City artist Susan Swartz is using her art to help connect future business opportunities between China and Utah. KPCW’s Leslie Thatcher has more.
Last month, Susan Swartz become the first American woman to exhibit her art work in the prestigious Central Academy of Fine Arts, known as CAFA, in Beijing, China. Her work, titled Personal Path remained up through November 4th. She says it was the highlight of her career.
“There are 4,000 students there and they accept one in 50, so not only is it the most prestigious museum, in China, it’s considered the finest art college."
Swartz has been travelling the world with her art for the last 5 years, after two Germans caught her exhibit in London.
“And they took an interest in my work and for the last 5 years have been taking me through Europe. So, I was first in Salzburg, then I was in Koblenz, then I had the main floor of the Modern Museum in Budapest and then last year I was at the Russian State Museum in St. Petersburg and then this year was Beijing.
The gallery’s director Robin Marrouche says last week, Swartz welcomed Utah officials and a Chinese embassy delegation to her Main St. gallery for lunch after the Chinese had expressed that they wanted to meet Swartz in person.
“The delegation of Chinese from the embassy in Washington D.C. had caught word about the success for Susan’s show at the CAFA museum in Beijing and wanted to see for themselves who was this artist that has captured the heart of the Chinese people."
The Chinese were visiting Utah to meet with the state’s Department of Economic Development as well attend the Utah Global Forum. As the CEO of the World Trade Center Utah, Miles Hansen is always looking for opportunities of foreign investment in the state. Hansen was also in Beijing for the opening of Swartz’s exhibit. China is Utah’s 3rd largest trading partner and that relationship he says is important to maintain, despite the current political climate. Hansen says the way Swartz has been able to open doors for Utah business is incredible.
“While we were in China not only did we get the meetings we needed, we had incredible positive press about Utah and it was really nationwide press. And so, a few examples, People’s Daily which they print 200 million newspapers every single day, had an incredibly positive article about Utah tied with Utah delegation and what Susan Swartz and her art show. Global Times which is the largest English langue new outlet in China also had a very positive story about Utah. And then CHINESE Media which I’ve been told is the largest on-line media platform also had a very, very positive news story and we did interviews, and we provided videos and what not. So, we had this incredible nationwide press about Utah in China during a time in which there are these very strong tensions between the U.S and China.”
And Marrouche agrees.
“Clearly, Susan is teaching us that art is a universal language and she’s been able to connect these disparate groups together in a conversation about things that we’re passionate about.”
The state of Utah and Zion’s Bank purchased two of Swartz’s paintings. Evolving Visions 3 was gifted to China where it remains on permanent display at the CAFA museum. A second painting – Shimmering Lights - will hang in the offices of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.