Public Issues | Visual Arts

Utah’s Art and Politics


An uninformed visitor to Utah’s state capitol building might think Christo had come to town. Not so. Beneath the wrapped dome of the capitol building, the murals are being restored while our state legislators spend a couple of months debating the financial and legislative needs of the state.

What follows is a cursory account of the state of the arts in the state during this political period.


The biggest news for the state, of course, is the election of a new governor, Jon Huntsman, Jr. Huntsman almost immediately began shaking things up — Trumpesque style. Along with a number of other government appointed leaders, Utah Arts Council director, Frank McEntire, was told to box up his desk, write a letter of resignation and bring it with him to a meeting with the governor to find out if he still had a job.

We don’t know if the governor has a catch phrase like “You’re fired,” but McEntire was told his resignation was accepted and he was escorted out the building.

McEntire came to the directorship of the Arts Council in January of 2003, after the retirement of Bonnie Stephens, who led the Council for eleven years.

Shortly after McEntire’s resignation, the governor’s office announced their new appointment to the directorship: Margaret Hunt. During the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, Hunt served as Salt Lake City’s director of Community and Economic Development. In addition to being a community activist, Hunt is a fine artist who shows locally with Utah Artist Hands.


Representative Sheryl Allen, Bountiful, has considered introducing a bill that would allow a tax credit for artwork donated to the state’s collection. Some have expressed concern that the tax credit could be abused. We think that the bill, if introduced, should have an attachment appropriating a pay increase for the Utah Arts Council staff that would have to deal with the number of Sunday painters looking for a tax break. As for most of the working artists in the state, there is little worry — only a few make enough to justify itemizing their taxes.

Both houses have passed a bill defining the Utah Museumof Fine Arts as “a state general and multicultural art museum and a repository of art and related objects for the people of Utah.” No monies were appropriated for the bill. So, what the was the purpose? We’re hoping someone will fill us in.

But there is real money on the table.

An appropriations bill being considered would mean an increased $200,000 to the Utah Arts Council grants budget. Utah has an increasing number of eligible non-profits seeking funds. Many of these organizations are major tourist attractions in their areas but they are funded on a fraction of their operating budets. The Arts Council has lost approximately $328,000 in their grants budgets since FY 2002.

The Economic Development & Human Resources Appropriation Subcommittee is also considering a one-time Utah Arts Council $100,000 appropriation to conserve art in the Alice Fine Art Collection, and a one-time $80,000 appropriation to promote for the commemorative quarter. Tourism funding of $10 million and the Office of Museum Services $1 million on-going appropriation for grant budget being considered could also affect the visual arts community. The Subcommittee will be holding a meeting Monday, February 7 at 2:00 pm in Room W140. The public is encouraged to attend and express their views on these appropriations.

for more go to the UCA legislative guide.


The Americans for the Arts Action Fund created a report card for 2004, assigning points to States and state representatives based on their votes in favor of pro-arts legislation. Utah’s representatives received the following scores/grades:

Rob Bishop 15/D

Jim Matheson 92/A

Chris Cannon 1/F

The same organization reports that Salt Lake County initiative reauthorizing the ZAP tax passed with 71% of the vote. The County-based tax generates $15 million for distribution. Tooele City passed a similar park and arts oriented tax by 57%.

The Legislature is still in session. We will try to update this article over the month with new developments.

Categories: Public Issues | Visual Arts

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