Arts & Entertainment

How Park City’s art scene shaped an emerging abstract artist

After a life-altering ski accident, Park City inspired a new artistic chapter for Susan Thomas

PARK CITY, Utah — After years of championing artists and galleries in Park City, Susan Thomas, a former public relations professional for the Kimball Art Center and the Park City Gallery Association, has emerged as a prolific painter herself.

Thomas’ career began in journalism and television news, where she honed her storytelling skills. Her path took a significant turn when she decided to pursue a more “family-friendly” career in public relations, leading her to the Kimball Art Center. There, amidst the creativity and innovation of Park City’s art scene, Susan found her calling — not just promoting art but creating it.

“I was so in awe of the artists who would come through the gallery,” Thomas reminisced. “I was so filled with joy seeing all of that art… I was a writer who was inspired by the artists.”

Thomas’ pivot to painting was spurred by a ski accident that led to significant physical injuries. This life-altering event prompted her to reevaluate her passions and pursuits.

“After spending every weekend for about 30 years of my life skiing in Utah, all of a sudden, I was not skiing anymore,” Thomas said. “When the next winter rolled around, I didn’t know what to do with myself on weekends.”

Thomas’ friend, an artist, encouraged her to take her joy of painting with acrylics to the next level, but Thomas was hesitant.

“All my work at the Kimball Art Center and all my time with the galleries, I just didn’t think I was an artist,” she said. “I was helping artists. I was working for artists. I was doing outreach and promoting artists. I just didn’t see myself as an artist.”

Ultimately, Thomas went to an art store and filled up her cart. “I started painting, and it was so fun. It was like skiing. Skiing was fun — and splashing paint across a canvas was fun. I had that fun again in my life.”

Her work, characterized by bold brushstrokes, splatter, and swirls, reflects her personal affinity for abstract art — a style influenced by her childhood and further nurtured by her experiences in Park City. In a tribute to her father, Thomas signs her paintings with her maiden name, Masley, honoring her father’s memory. He was a surgeon who also pursued art as a hobby, signing his artwork with the name “Masley.”

That same artist friend who encouraged Thomas to pick up the paintbrush asked her to join him at an upcoming show in the Palm Springs area (Thomas splits her time between Park City and Southern California these days). What do you know? Thomas sold a dozen paintings and received a request for a commissioned piece. And at her next show? She had the most sales of 20 artists, selling six additional paintings and receiving two commission requests. She was on to something.

Thomas’ approach to art is both thoughtful and spontaneous. She often spends days contemplating the colors and themes of her next piece, but once the painting begins, intuition takes over. “Everything evolves as I go,” she explained.

As Thomas continues to explore her artistic talents, she remains grateful for the path that led her here and the community that supports her. “Park City is a magical place that can light the artisan flame in your soul.”

Check out Thomas’ work on Instagram: @abstractacrylicartworks.

"Light" by Susan Masley.
“Light” by Susan Masley. Photo: Susan Masley Thomas
Thomas holding one of her paintings. Photo: Susan Masley Thomas
Thomas holding one of her paintings. Photo: Susan Masley Thomas

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