Several times a year, St. George artist L’Deane Trueblood receives phone calls from various states, asking her to participate in outdoor sculpture shows. One day in 2003, after receiving one of those calls, she thought to herself, “We could do one of those here.”
Utah is known in many art centers such as Santa Fe and Scottsdale as a great exporter of fine art. The sad truth, though, is that many artists have to export their art to make a living.
Thanks to citizens such as Trueblood, St. George is acknowledging the artistic talent that exists in our fair state, cultivating civic pride in the art available to us, and actually getting local businesses and art buyers to purchase local art!
After taking her idea of an outdoor sculpture show to the Dixie Arts Foundation, Trueblood gained support from the board (including a couple of City Council members). But after she did all her legwork and reported back with the news that this brainchild of hers was not only underway, it was ready to happen, their jaws dropped.
Utah’s premiere outdoor sculpture show, Art Around the Corner, became a reality on October 15, 2004. Trueblood used Grand Junction, Colorado as a model. Grand Junction, “the granddaddy of the outdoor sculpture shows,” displays over 100 sculptures up and down their Main Street during their annual show. Most outdoor sculpture shows are national, juried shows, but the Dixie Arts Foundation figured Utah had enough talented sculptors, that they would make Art Around the Corner an invitational exhibit, exclusively for Utah artists.
With no money coming from the City of St. George, the Dixie Arts Foundation found funding through Art in the Park, but the bulk of the cost was covered by local businesses, each sponsoring a sculpture. Membership is $3000 (up $1000 from 2004) and includes recognition on a plaque at the base of the sculpture.
Art Around the Corner managed to gather 18 sponsors to fund 18 sculptures for their inaugural year. Most of the expenses went to create pedestals for the sculptures, as well as a publication advertising the outdoor event. The artists loan the work to the Dixie Arts Foundation for one year. However, this year the artists agreed to leave their sculptures up for an extra six months so that Art Around the Corner can start the annual cycle on April 1st, 2006. Invited artists include Laura Lee Bradshaw, Dennis Smith, Frank Riggs, Jeannine Young, Silvia Davis, Gary Lee Price, Grant Speed and Edward Hlavka.
To kick off the event, Zions Bank hosted a reception, and the Dixie Arts Foundation put all the artists up at Green Gate Village Bed and Breakfast. “We decided it was time for artists to be pampered and treated as first-class citizens,” Trueblood says. “Quite often for galleries and art shows they’re the meat on the hook.”
The installation and the reception went very smoothly. The artists were happy, the sponsors were happy and the community was happy. Village Bank and Lin’s Market each bought a piece that they ended up donating to the city, so the sculptures will stay downtown for the public to enjoy.
Art Around the Corner has generated such pride in the community that one of Mayor Daniel McArthur’s new goals is to build awareness and appreciation of a larger amount of artwork.
Sara Urquhart, current chairperson of the Dixie Arts Foundation, and Marie Bowcut, incoming chair for 2006, truly believe in the importance of developing culture and sophistication in the downtown St. George area. They, along with other dedicated foundation members and citizens, believe that the mere presence and appreciation of art in St. George will have the added advantage of helping to reduce crime in the city and outlying communities. (Remarkably, not one of the Art Around the Corner sculptures along St. George’s Main Street has been vandalized since the installation in October 2004). Creating and fostering on-going positive environments through art, music and theatre, can bring about this reality.
The Art Around the Corner project was so immediately successful that it encouraged the City to move forward in their plans to incorporate sculpture in the Main Street Plaza which is currently under construction. Their plan involves renovating the square that currently houses the tabernacle, leisure services, the school district offices and a big open green area. They want to build an allee of trees and sculptures where the old library is, and incorporate a water feature that runs all through Main Street Plaza and ends in a fountain at the park where a new library is being built. The City’s vision had been focused on statuary of historical figures throughout the Historic District. But Trueblood hopes Art Around the Corner has broadened their vision to choices other than historical figures and they will consider choosing sculpture first for its aesthetic quality and not solely for its historical significance.
So right now, the City and the Dixie Arts Foundation have two camps and they need to figure out how to integrate their ideas. But with visionaries such as Trueblood and Urquhart, along with the support of select City Council members, St. George is well on it’s way to distinguishing itself as a model community because of its dedication to the arts and its wisdom in understanding the effectiveness of including art planning in the city’s infrastructure.
Laura Durham is the Director of Programming and Engagement for PBS Utah. She curates projects and plans events that utilize local and national media to provide entertainment and meaningful dialogue beyond broadcast. Prior to PBS Utah, Laura worked at the Division of Arts & Museums for 15 years, served as Vice President of the Salt Lake Gallery Association, Program Director for the Salt Lake Gallery Stroll, and was a board member for the Utah Cultural Alliance.