On the northwest corner of Seventh and Main Streets is District Gallery, where early-morning sunshine drenches white walls splashed with art. Owner Karen Snizik Alvarez says her family called the business District Gallery so that regardless of location, the name always works. This came in handy when she moved the three-year-old gallery from Park City’s Iron Horse district to Main Street last October.
A Michigan native, Alvarez grew up in a family of artists, including her mother, a potter by avocation, and a grandfather who tooled gunstocks. In 1986, when the Breckenridge, Colorado, ski shop she worked for expanded to Park City, Alvarez gladly made the move.
Later she left Utah for several years to work in the film industry as an assistant to the legendary producer, director, and screenwriter Francis Ford Coppola. “I am no stranger to the art world,” she says, looking about her gallery at the walls and tables displaying the work of more than 30 artists, more than half of whom are from Utah.
Gallerygoers will find a pleasingly eclectic mix of art at District Gallery. Still-life aficionados will enjoy the work of Utah native and former head of the Utah Watercolor Society Philip Barlow alongside the work of his daughter, Elizabeth Barlow, whose paintings depict the shoes of her subjects. “The shoes tell a story about who the person is,” Alvarez explains. In the words of the artist, “A pair of shoes ... might speak of the desire for luxury and adornment, the need for protection, or the simple utility of a working life.”
On another wall is the unmistakable work of Jeff Ham, whose use of explosive color in his paintings of animals, iconic figures, and Native Americans is arresting. “He paints the Native American lifestyle like no other,” Alvarez says.
And then there is Theodore Waddell, whose modernist paintings are most often found in museum collections. Waddell splits his time between Idaho and Montana, and Alvarez was delighted when he accepted her invitation to show his work at District Gallery.
Look for Utah artist Lyman Whitaker’s kinetic wind sculptures at District Gallery, too. The soothing sculptures capturing the whisper of wind are a boon to gardens and patios, and they have become a landmark of the gallery’s outdoor landscape.
Alvarez sees owning and managing an art gallery as a more intimate experience than other retail endeavors. “Artists are sensitive,” she says. “You need to have a rapport with them. They need reassurance. They are exposing themselves through their art.” She finds reward in working with artists who entrust her with the efforts of their souls. But the best of District Gallery comes, Alvarez says, just from “opening the door every day.”