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Davis Journal

BDAC Junior Artist-in-Residence continues artistic education at Utah State

Aug 31, 2023 02:59PM ● By Ariel Harmer
“Human Effect,” a sculpture by Davis County artist David Ammon Downs made of recycled materials, masking tape, and paint. Photo courtesy of David Ammon Downs

“Human Effect,” a sculpture by Davis County artist David Ammon Downs made of recycled materials, masking tape, and paint. Photo courtesy of David Ammon Downs

Despite recently graduating from Davis High, David Ammon Downs is already a decorated artist. He’s been featured in local galleries and was even named the Junior Artist-in-Residence at the Bountiful Davis Art Center. He’s about to face his biggest undertaking yet: heading up to Utah State University to study art. 

Downs said art has been ingrained in him since birth; his grandfather, Michael J. Nelson, was an artist, and Downs took his first art class from him. 

“That proved to me that art is something that can be learned,” Downs said of the experience. “It was something that I found really interesting and exciting.”

Downs said he continued to make art throughout his childhood, either by doodling on his homework or taking classes in school. The class that had the greatest impact on him was the advanced art class at Davis High School, which he took his junior year.

“You're […] given the ability to create,” Downs said of the class. “It’s such a positive environment.”

Amy Morley, who teaches the class, said she gives her students a lot of freedom to create what they want. Each student needs to complete a certain number of projects, and they are given unstructured studio time during class to work on them. 

“The goal for my program is to just provide a studio space where my students can have fun making art and experimenting,” Morley said. “They feed off each other’s ideas and creativity and they get ideas from each other.”

The students also participate in group critiques, where they evaluate each other’s work and offer advice. Downs said this was another benefit of the class.

“When you’re creating art, I feel like sometimes we're kind of stuck in a bubble,” Downs said. “And to have these different ideas and […] different points of views, it’s super helpful.”

On Fridays, Morley teaches her students to use a new material, and she said the students often start using that material in their projects or are inspired to use other, less common ones.  

Downs, for instance, began using a material she hadn’t seen used before. He began the class with a focus on charcoal drawings and forayed into paintings, but soon settled on what has become his signature medium: sculptures made of recycled material and masking tape.

“I loved teaching Ammon. He’s really creative and brings some new ideas to the table,” Morley said. “It was fun to provide a space for him to experiment and have some fun with new techniques.”

Morley said it’s important for budding artists like Downs to take as many art classes as possible, whether in school or from local art programs, because it allows them to experiment and find their niche. 

“You don't know what you like until you try it,” she said. “And Ammon – I mean, I know he didn't know that he was going to focus on masking tape art until he just tried it.”

Downs submitted some of his sculptures to local galleries and had his work featured in the Eccles Community Art Center and the Bountiful Davis Art Center (BDAC), where he won second place in sculpture in a competition. 

Downs’s involvement with the BDAC didn’t end there; he was selected as their Junior Artist-in-Residence earlier this year. 

As part of the program, he has had access to a private studio at the BDAC gallery, located on Bountiful Main Street. He has used his time at the studio to work on several new sculptures, which will be displayed at an exhibition at the gallery this coming March. 

Downs said one of the best parts of the residency has been the opportunity to learn from the other artists at the center.

“Being able to talk to people who are a little bit more experienced and being able to just bounce off ideas with them has been a really cool experience,” he said.

Downs’s time at the center will be coming to a close soon, as he is heading off to Utah State University this fall to study art. He described his choice to attend as a “bit of a spur-of-the-moment decision,” as he’d been unsure whether or not he would go to college at all.

“I'd been going back and forth and very unsure what I should do for college and whether or not I should do other things,” he said. “Should I take a year off? Should I explore other things? Should I just go straight into work?”

While he was debating, Amy Morley suggested that he apply for a scholarship awarded to A.P. Art students by the Kaysville Art Club. He won, and attended a lunch where he had the opportunity to meet and thank the people who had funded the scholarship.

“That’s really what persuaded my decision to not only go to college but actually go to Utah State,” he said. “I was talking to quite a few of [the club members] and they were mentioning that Utah State would be a great place to continue my arts.”

Downs said he’s excited to go to Utah State, but will miss being at the Bountiful Davis Art Center. He expressed his hopes that people in the community would continue to visit it, support its artists and learn about local art. 

“The Bountiful Davis Art Center gets a lot of traction and I think that’s super important,” he said. “Everyone should just go and really visit [BDAC] and just go appreciate everybody’s art. Honestly, go buy something – supporting local artists is really important.”