Staff Spotlight: John Cook
John Wayne Cook is the scenic artist for Utah Opera. He is a man who loves his work, stating that “It is a blessing to do what I love.” His job is to paint the sets for Utah Opera productions as well as several regional companies across the country. In his spare time he paints drops for Ballet West and works at Bonneville High School as the set design technical advisor. He is there to supervise and lets the students do all of the work and learning.
John started out wanting a career in fine art. He grew up in Idaho and loved drawing and painting. Someone suggested he could use his talent in the theater, something he hadn’t considered before, and that opened up all kinds of possibilities for him. He started at the old Promised Valley Playhouse designing sets for plays like The Student Prince and The Unsinkable Molly Brown and then kept going. “People who live as fine artists take a long time to get there, but a scenic artist can make a career,” he discovered.
After doing what he loves for 35 years, John wanted to find a way to share that with others. He set up a mentor program between the University of Utah and Utah Opera. He has fine art students work with him, learning the craft from the ground up. It is an unparalleled experience to work with a world renowned professional company.
For John the next challenge is already right around the corner. He will begin working on the sets for Moby-Dick in February. “I’m doing the same thing I did as a kid: creating and using my talent making things, but now as a professional.”