Highway 89, Utah's newly designated Heritage Highway, is an artistic and historic corridor of great cultural importance. As you wind your way south into Sanpete County, or what the Utah Travel Council has designated as the "Little Denmark" heritage area, you will enter the first town of this corridor, the small town of Fairview.
As is typical of small-town America, the main street has a hamburger drive-in, a post office, a church, and a few small shops. What is not typical of small-town America is that one block east of the main street, Fairview boasts a museum with not only an outstanding collection of regional art, but also a wonderful show called "Spring City Artists," which runs through the end of August at the Fairview Museum of Art and History.
Spring City is 12 miles south of Fairview and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. For quite some time, it has been an artist's colony. Ron Staker, museum Director and Curator, and an artist himself, thought that the show would be a good opportunity to showcase art that has been produced in this area, providing people in this valley, and those visiting the state, with a rich cultural experience. Staker chose to show the works of 14 artists from Spring City, some now deceased.
"The artists are people that I know personally," said Staker, "and I understand the caliber of their art. The original Spring City artist was a guy by the name of Max Blaine. Max Blaine died several years ago, but he was the original. Max taught art in the schools of North Sanpete."
Over the past 20 years, several artists have chosen to settle in Spring City. The show represents a broad diversity of creative expression and styles of all of these artists. "We have drawn from the museum collection, which is relatively small, and we have asked the artists to loan us works for the show," said Staker. "There are probably close to 70 works in the show, and the artists were each enthusiastic about taking part. "At its completion, the show will have been hung for three months."
Staker also said, "Some of the names include Joseph Bennion, a potter, who is invited regularly to lecture and teach throughout the country and internationally; Lee Udall Bennion, a painter who shows her work regionally, in California and at the National Museum for Women and the Arts in Washington, D.C.; Ella Peacock, who died last year, a woman who moved to Spring City in the 1970s. She is considered to be the matriarch of Spring City artists.
"There is Osral Allred, who teaches art at Snow College in Ephraim and is nationally known for his watercolor painting, and is a member of the National Watercolor Society; nationally known Randall Lake, a figure and landscape painter; and Robert Carawan a printmaker, now deceased, who grew up in the Florida keys and studied art in Florida and at BYU, and had a studio in Spring City for about a decade.
"Other Spring City artists in the show include Tom Schulte, a sculptor, whose public art pieces are at the Red Butte Gardens; Richard Gate, a contemporary painter who primarily shows in Los Angeles, but whose art is in several countries; Michael Workman, whose paintings show a very keen sense of space and atmosphere, is gaining national recognition and attention; M'Lisa Paulsen, a landscape painter; Linda Budd, Susan Gallagher, and Daniel Vincent."
When asked what makes Spring City such a magnet for artists, Staker responded, "The Sanpete Valley is a beautiful, mountain valley, and I think artists respond to their environment from a spectrum of sensitivities. Spring City, which is a very historic small town, is richly endowed with historic architecture."
Another draw to Spring City has been the friendships that have developed over time among several of the artists. Joe and Lee Bennion, Richard Gate, and Tom Schulte all went to Brigham Young University and studied art. It was a common occurrence to find these artists and friends from other disciplines spending their lunchtime talking about art, politics, literature, or philosophy. Joe and Lee Bennion moved to Spring City to follow their dreams of making a living as artists and providing their family with the wholesome values and lifestyle that are rooted in the landscape of this region.
These values are reflected in the subject matter of many of the Spring City artists and are communicated to the public through their art.
The Fairview Museum of Art and History is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 to 6:00 p.m., and Sunday from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m.