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Art Major Gwen Davis-Barrios on Art, Education and Utah’s Spiral Jetty

Davis-Barrios — a native of Provo, Utah — graduated with a BFA in art in December 2020

As a recent BYU graduate from the Department of Art, Gwen Davis-Barrios doesn’t remember a time when art wasn’t a part of her life. “Art has been a guiding hand ever since I can remember,” she said. “I think it’s a good companion to help me process the world, life and relationships.” Davis-Barrios graduated in December 2020 and works as a designer and content editor for the blog The House That Lars Built. Although COVID-19 took away Davis-Barrios’ opportunity to participate in a workshop in Japan in 2020, she feels grateful for the community in the art department at BYU. “Last summer a few of us got together over Zoom for critique groups. I hope that as we go forward, we can keep talking about ways that our art is important to each other. That will be helpful to have a place to talk and maintain that community.” Some of Davis-Barrios’ favorite memories from the art department were the field trips she took to the Spiral Jetty in Salt Lake. These trips were often taken with guest artists from across the nation. “There is something about returning to this location with different combinations of people from the department that is really interesting and unique,” she said. “While Utah may be considered to be a cultural backwater, there are these mysterious art places like the Spiral Jetty and the Sun Tunnels.” Davis-Barrios’ field trips and mentoring opportunities contribute to how the BYU art department exceeded her expectations. “School is a place where I can engage really seriously with important topics and people. I love that school brings people’s minds together for conversations about things that matter,” said Davis-Barrios. “I like having conversations about things that I care about with people who also care.” Through her experiences, Davis-Barrios has learned that art isn’t just for the artists, but can be a means of freedom for anyone. “Art is a rest from a world and society that tells us our value is contingent on dollars or productivity. But that is so contrary to God’s plan for us,” said Davis-Barrios. “In art, we can remove ourselves from capitalism and refocus on who we are and having worth as actual people.” Davis-Barrios plans to continue her work as an artist before she goes to grad school to pursue her master’s degree.