Over twenty years ago, a new public art program began with a grassroots effort to make fine art readily available to the public. In 1983, Salt Lake County created the Art Advisory Board as an outside resource to the Salt Lake County Commission in areas pertaining to fine art. Initially, the Board was responsible for cataloging and restoring existing works of art in the County collection. With the construction of the Salt Lake County Government Center in 1985, the County Commissioners approved ½% of the construction budget to be spent for the purchase of original art to complement the new buildings.
The goal of using the County government building, as well as other County owned structures, to house a permanent collection of art owned by the citizens of Salt Lake County is an ongoing process. In 1996 a Salt Lake County Art Collection Subcommittee was created to offer expertise in the acquisition, exhibition, preservation, and understanding of the collection.
This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the collection. As they did last year, the County committee has invited the public to join them, the Mayor and the County Council for a look at the County’s 2006 acquisitions. In addition, visitors are invited to peruse the City County building, which contains the majority of the collection. The 2007 acquisitions, which includes work from young artists, like Utah County’s Andrew Smith, and early Utah artists like H.L.A. Culmer, will also be on display.
Artists, art professionals and art patrons serve on the County committee, which meets monthly to consider purchases and donations, and discuss the condition and direction of the collection. In addition to overseeing the collection, members of the committee are also asked to help with various county related art projects, including public commissions and the selection of artists for the Rose Wagner Art Center shows. The committee even gets out of the board room to search out new work for the collection. This year, members of the committee traveled to artists’ studios, including Jim Morgan and Russel Case, and found other purchases at the annual Springville Spring Salon.
Among this year’s purchases are a number of photographs, two of which were co-created by the hand of John Hafen. These two portrait photographs have been reworked in pencil and conte crayon by Hafen. It was common practice in the 19th century to take photographs which were blurred or out of focus and have a professional artist rework the photographs in order to salvage the images.
The public is invited to an Open House on Tuesday November 28th 2006 at the Salt Lake County Complex to view these new acquisitions as well as the works contained in the building. The Open House will be 2001 South State Street, North Building Atrium from 4 pm to 6pm with a brief program between 5:00 and 5:30.
UTAH’S ART MAGAZINE SINCE 2001, 15 Bytes is published by Artists of Utah, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.