What draws you to a book, a movie trailer, or even a product? Is it the title? Usually. Is it reviews and the description? That is what probably sells you in the end, but what captures your interest in a heartbeat is the image on the cover, the still frame, or the product packaging. Theatre marketing may seem effortless, but it is often one of the most painstaking elements of production. How do you reach your audience? How can you entice without revealing too much?
Plan-B Theatre Company approaches this ever-present problem two ways: by producing relevant and original theatre and collaborating with local artists to tell their story. Plan-B’s Producing Director Jerry Rapier had this to say about the strategy:
“I can’t think of a better way to bring attention to the work we do – new work by local playwrights – than through artwork by local visual artists. It emphasizes our commitment to our community and it’s fascinating to see how a visual artist responds to a particular play.”
Grant Fuhst, a mixed-media artist based in Park City, designed the artwork for the upcoming 2014/2015 season. I recently had the opportunity to ask him some questions about his work and what it is like creating visual art that represents performing art.
UTBA: How would you describe the style of your art?
FUHST: I always have a hard time with this question. I suppose Surreal/Expressionist would come closest.
UTBA: What first drew you to art?
FUHST: I began drawing as a child. I grew up in a chaotic household and it was a way of retreating into my own world. By the time I was seven or eight it was apparent I had some talent, so the attention I got was enough encouragement to keep me going I guess.
UTBA: What brought about your partnership with Plan-B?
FUHST: My wife and I are big fans of local theater and Plan-B in particular. I reached out to Jerry Rapier to offer my services in any way because I wanted to be a part of the wonderful work they were doing. After checking out my work he asked if I would be interested in doing the playbill designs for all four plays they were producing this year.
Rapier further explained “Greg Ragland created original art for us for 13 seasons before moving away. Grant emailed me expressing interest in working with us shortly after Greg’s departure. We had never met but, after viewing his online gallery, it was clear his style was perfect for Plan-B and our 2014/15 season. And he’s already committed to create original artwork for the 2015/16 season as well!”
UTBA: Has working with Plan-B changed your aesthetic at all?
FUHST: Doing illustration is always a different experience to doing fine art, but I like the ways in which they differ and I think they also inform each other. Collaborating with others is a nice break from all the other work I do which results from rattling around inside my own head.
UTBA: What interests you about working with theatre?
FUHST: I love storytelling. My own work often plays with story symbols and archetypes, so It’s a natural fit for me.
UTBA: Are there challenges associated with creating visual art that essentially advertises other art?
FUHST: Only in that I want to make sure I capture the “feel” of the work. Jerry’s great because he sends me the complete script for each play so I can really understand what I’m working with before I begin. That helps me to be as faithful as I can in my interpretation of each piece.
UTBA: What are some of your influences?
FUHST: There have been so many over the years. Comic books, painters, illustrators, films, music. My greatest influence is Picasso. I discovered him as a teenager and just the incredible range and diversity of his visual language blew me away. It’s something I always try to shoot for, to stretch myself as an artist and see how many places I can go.
UTBA: You are very active in the Salt Lake Art community. Where can people find your work?
FUHST: I have a website, grantfuhst.com, under construction. I post new works in progress on Instagram. The Silver Queen in Park City currently represents my sculptural work. I have participated in the Utah Arts Festival the last two years and I work at a studio collective called Poor Yorick Studios in South Salt Lake. We have open studio events there twice a year. The next one will be at the end of September.