View on the Arts

Virgin Valley Artists Association Artists of the Month

by Debbi Swanson Patrick

photos courtesy of VVAA


January – Shirley Smith


shirley-bw-500Virgin Valley Artists Association (VVAA) members represent all facets of art and crafts. Each month, one artist is featured as Artist of the Month at
their Mesquite Fine Arts Gallery. In January, Shirley Smith, Vice President of VVAA, will show a wide range of her photography skills. The former pharmaceutical quality assurance professional was urged by her husband Bruce in 2012 to pick up a camera and join him in his hobby. Once she took a workshop in the Smoky Mountains she was all in. And since they moved from Michigan to Hurricane, Utah in December 2013, a camera has rarely been out of her hands.


“When I learned the power of the photo software, I was hooked,” she says. “I knew immediately what I wanted to do in retirement. Our move opened up a whole new world to me. My only regret is that we should have moved here sooner!” Shirley particularly likes landscape, flowers, animals, and now macro and abstract images. She avoids people pictures unless they’re for family or local organizations like a youth group or the high school rodeo. A Nikon gal, she sports a D800 for everything but hiking, which she does often with her husband and Saphira, their Newfoundland black Labrador mix. For that, she pulls out her lighter 3300.


As facilitator of the Color Country Camera Club in St. George, she plans the twice monthly meetings, organizes speakers and programs, and suggests the popular monthly photo challenges. “We try a lot of ideas and techniques that we want to learn or perfect. We recently did one on capturing unique signs and that was really funny!” She’s most proud that she’s grown the active membership to 25 or more attending each meeting, up from about 10 just two years ago. “We’re trying to get people past their comfort zone of pretty red rock pictures,” adds Smith. “We did a field trip to a thrift shop tonews-artcile-501 take close-up photos. That really opened up people to new ideas of how to see.”

In addition to her work being on display at the Mesquite Fine Art Gallery in Mesquite in January and other times throughout the year, she is also featured at the Tuacahn Gift Shop & Gallery in St. George. Shirley is also a member of the Southern Utah Artists Guild and has had images published in St. George Magazine.  Her work will also be on display in the Eccles Grand Foyer at Sears Museum at Dixie University in 2017.


She still spends 10-20% of her time consulting for small pharmaceutical companies, “that want to make their dreams come true by bringing their drug to market. I help the tiny pharms navigate the manufacturing, packaging, and labeling processes. I did that for nearly 30 years in large pharma.”


And when she’s not doing all that, you may see her with Saphira, who’s also a registered therapy dog, at a nearby convalescent center or the college library helping soothe the nerves of students studying for finals.


February 2017 – Katherine Cole


back-porch-1Katherine “Kat” Cole, the effervescent president of VVAA, will show her considerable beadwork collection in February, just in time for Valentine’s Day.


Formerly a university professor of marketing and business in Texas, Georgia, and Nevada, Cole was owner of her own marketing research company and held many other leadership roles before retiring from Reno to Mesquite in 2009. She is an avid golfer, traveler, and has been beading for the past 30 years.


“I started beading by working with buttons first, then made necklaces and expanded by taking classes in lampwork (glass bead making) and beadweaving in California, Nevada, and Georgia.”


In these 30 years Cole has actively learned about beads and started her own collection. “I have a huge bead collection, some over 4,000 years old,” (from about the time of the Bronze Age) she says. “They’re actual seals that were used as currency, and they were worn on strings.”


It seems Kat can’t stop teaching, holding weekly classes in her home and at the gallery, when she’s not traveling. “I love to introduce this medium to newcomers,” she adds.


In February she’ll be showing wall hangings, and plenty of jewelry for the month of love including earrings and woven bead bracelets at all price turquoise-copper-leather-wrappoints.


VVAA is a member of AmazonSmile. A half of a percent of eligible sales is

given to the VVAA. So find us on Amazon under Virgin Valley Artists Association, shop, save, and help the VVAA!


Mesquite Fine Arts Gallery is located at 15 W. Mesquite Blvd, Mesquite, NV. Call (702) 346-1338 or visit for information on other shows, workshops, and classes. Brown Bag luncheon workshops are held the first Tuesday of each month.

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