Featured Students

Featured Student: Bentley Utgaard


  • Name: Bentley Utgaard
  • Year: Post-Baccalaureate graduating in December 2016
  • Major: Art
  • Hometown: Murray, KY
  • Quirky Fact: I’ve met more dogs named Bentley than people named Bentley. In fact, my neighbor’s dog is named Bentley.
  • Favorite thing to get (food/drink) on campus: Coffee
  • Best movie you’ve seen recently: Swiss Army Man
  • Best book you’ve read recently: Beryl Markham’s memoir West with the Night
  • What you like to do on campus: Work in the advanced metals studio.


Q & A:


Tell us about yourself:

My name is Bentley Utgaard, and I am a graduating senior in the Department of Art and Design with a metalsmithing emphasis. I make jewelry and small sculpture. I have lived in Murray since 2004, and I am a non-traditional student working on my second bachelor’s degree (my first degree is a BA in English from Southern Illinois University). In 2007, I took a metalsmithing class and fell in love with it. From there it took me a couple of years to decide to follow through with the BFA degree. I am also a full-time staff member with Murray State’s University Libraries. I love to read, hike, camp, watch movies, discover new music, travel, and spend time with my family.

What made you come to Murray State?

My husband’s job originally brought us to Murray State.  He teaches ceramics in the Department of Art and Design. Murray is close to where he and I both grew up, so it was nice to move back closer to home since we had lived so far away for such a long time.

Who have you enjoyed working with?

My metalsmithing professor is Jeanne Beaver, and she has been there for me as a mentor and friend. She took me seriously when I decided to pursue a BFA degree, and she has shown me so much encouragement throughout the process. I’ve learned so much from her. Everyone in the Department of Art and Design works very hard to ensure that their students get a well-rounded arts education and are prepared for life after graduation. It’s a great program.


Who inspires you in life?

My son inspires me every day. He provides that perspective on what is really important.

What made you choose the major you did?

I’ve worked many different jobs because my husband and I moved around a lot before landing in Murray, but I always had this desire to find, for the lack of a better term, my passion. I figured that if I kept trying new things I’d eventually find what I wanted to pursue.

Soon after we moved to Murray, a friend of mine and I took career aptitude tests together. Her test told her that she should be in public relations, which was perfect for her. Mine, however, told me that my top result was a pewterer: someone who makes things out of the metal pewter. It had to be the most random thing I had ever heard and I thought, “Well, that will never happen.” I kind of forgot about it for a few years until I decided to take an Intro to Metals class here at Murray State. It was a night class, and I could work during the day then go to class at night. It felt like something just clicked, and I realized that this was what I wanted to do. Since then I have slowly been taking classes and working towards my degree while also continuing to work on campus. There is something about metalsmithing that captures my imagination from the design process to the fabrication process and even to the really tedious things like sawing, filing, and sanding. I enjoy all of it. Over the years I worried that I would eventually get tired of it, but I’m happy to say that I was wrong.

Work/projects related to your major?

I make small sculpture and jewelry, mostly brooches. What I have been working on a lot lately are sculptures for the wall and a couple of pedestal-based sculptures dealing conceptually with presence and nostalgia. This week I have been working on installing my BFA thesis exhibition over in the Curris Center Gallery. All of the projects that I have had tucked away in my studio are finally in a gallery environment. It has been really neat to see it all come together as the culmination of my thesis work.


Future Plans:

I have started putting together a personal studio. I already have a metalsmithing bench and the basic tools to equip a metalsmithing studio, but there’s a lot of equipment that I don’t have yet so I am slowly acquiring different things. The Art Department has amazing facilities, equipment, and tools. It’s going to be hard to leave an environment where you have access to everything you need and teachers to help you along the way. I’ve been very lucky.

I would like to start applying to opportunities like national juried art exhibitions and possibly artist residencies that focus on metalsmithing. I would also like to take some workshops on different metalsmithing processes that I’d like to learn more about or that are offered by metalsmiths I respect and admire (and possibly in interesting places that I could travel to!). I may also work on a few lines of production jewelry to sell locally and online. I’m a board member with the Murray Art Guild, so I definitely want to continue helping them promote the arts in our town and in the region.


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