ST. GEORGE — One of the feature films of the DocUtah International Film Festival this year is a local organization’s creation. The Harry Bertoia Foundation has produced a documentary about their highlighted artist, Harry Bertoia, and his career, titled “Harry Bertoia, Master of Metal.”

Celia Bertoia displays furniture designed by Harry Bertoia, location and date not specified | Photo courtesy of the Harry Bertoia Foundation, St. George News

Bertoia was a furniture designer and an abstract metal sculptor, born in Italy but immigrant to America. His wire grid chairs and monumental sculptures won acclaim in the midcentury era. The Harry Bertoia Foundation has been in Utah for five years, quietly educating the public about the artist. Washington City resident Celia Bertoia heads the foundation and oversaw the creation of the film.

The film was almost a decade in the making due to several deterrents. Started as a student project in 2015, Sarah Moses and Harlow Figa of Haverford College chose to focus on Bertoia and his Sonambient Barn, a revamped Pennsylvania barn full of sounding sculptures.

Moses and Figa were both film students and enjoyed working with each other. With free access to the school’s videography equipment, they launched a rich journey of conducting interviews and recording Bertoia events. Celia Bertoia was involved from the start, at that time living in Bozeman, Montana.

Upon graduation, being only partially finished with the film, the students realized they needed funds for further work. They instigated a Seed&Spark campaign, collecting rewards from various supporters and donations from friends and family. A satisfying $20,000 was raised, assisting with editing and other costs. Everything was going great.

A photo of Harry Bertoia and his family in a presentation by Celia Bertoia, St. George, Utah, Sept. 13, 2022 | Photo by Truman Burgess

Gradually the progress reports began to dwindle, and it was more and more difficult to get responses from either Moses or Figa. By 2020, Celia Bertoia suspected something was seriously amiss. Finally, Moses’s father confessed that there was a major problem, confirming her worst fears. Moses and Figa, never a couple, nevertheless had a vicious falling out that peaked in a legal dispute.

The specific issue was never revealed, but the end conclusion was that both graduates were so disillusioned with one another that they completely quit the project. After nasty negotiations, Moses became the sole owner of the film and all appurtenances. By this time, Bertoia and the foundation had moved to Utah.

Luckily, Moses agreed to donate the film and all pertinent files and releases to the Harry Bertoia Foundation. A prolonged process of appraising the value of the project and transferring ownership took another year. Finally, Moses had the documents to claim a charitable tax deduction, and the foundation had a naked film project. By this time, it was 2021. Now what?

Bertoia consulted the foundation’s board of directors to get assistance on how to proceed. They approved expenses and encouraged completion of the project, although where the monies were to come from was not yet determined.

Artist Harry Bertoia at work, location and date not specified | Photo courtesy of the Harry Bertoia Foundation, St. George News

The original theme of the documentary, the fate of the Sonambient Barn collection, was no longer applicable. The foundation had spent several years seeking a museum home for the 90-sculpture collection. While there was avid interest, no institution had the money, personnel and physical space to handle the sounding sculpture collection. There was no happy Sonambient ending. Instead, the foundation reverted to selling a small portion of the collection to the highest bidder at Sotheby’s.

The Sotheby’s auction in New York was stunningly successful, finally delivering the funds that the foundation needed to finish the film. The auction itself was a wild bidding war of grand excitement, but that’s another story! By now, the year was 2022.

The next step was to find a film editor willing to take on someone else’s project, tweak it and finish it, following the instructions of the foundation. To ask a filmmaker to finish someone else’s work is sort of like asking a jockey to ride a racehorse on race day even though he’s never ridden the horse before; scary and uncertain. Was there such an egoless editor in existence? After several interviews with various potential takers, Bertoia landed Hunter Weeks of Red Popsicle Productions.

Weeks and Bertoia had met in Montana when she hired him for a two-minute marketing video in 2013. Noticing the unusual metal sculptures in the foundation’s office, he had proffered to work on a longer Bertoia film if that ever transpired. Neither thought much of the offer at the time. Fast-forward to 2023 and Bertoia tracked down Weeks, who was then in Washington state. After hearing all about the situation, he agreed to take on the project for a reasonable fee.

Poster for ‘Harry Bertoia, Master of Metal’ | Image courtesy of the Harry Bertoia Foundation, St. George News

Weeks turned out to be the perfect editor. In the meantime, he moved to New Zealand, but digital tools made it not a problem. When the foundation and Bertoia requested certain changes, he complied without argument. Redirecting the theme from the Sonambient Barn to a broad overview of Bertoia’s life and career was challenging but not impossible. Months of editing, take one and two and three, ensued with, finally, a finished product! What had languished for nine years was happily finished in eight months.

The DocUtah submission period had expired by the time it was finished, but Karman Wilson, director of DocUtah and friend of the Harry Bertoia Foundation, allowed an extension. Imagine the delight of Bertoia and the foundation when the announcement came that “Harry Bertoia, Master of Metal” was accepted! Its world premiere will be in its hometown. This was a very long journey with a happy ending.

A decade in the making, you can now watch this magnificent artist and his inspiring career. Archival footage of Bertoia playing his sounding sculptures in the Sonambient Barn is one of the highlights of the film. Several in-depth interviews and numerous Bertoia events round out this 54-minute documentary.

You can view “Harry Bertoia, Master of Metal” on Friday, March 1 at 6 p.m. at the Megaplex Theatres at Sunset. Bertoia will be on hand for a Q&A. Click here to view the trailer, and see the full DocUtah schedule at

You can also visit the Harry Bertoia Foundation with all its sounding sculptures at 1449 N. 1400 West, Suite 11 in St. George, weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Find out more at

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