In 1922, the students of Springville High School opened their doors to the public for a Paris-inspired art exhibition, the Spring Salon. With two years taken off during World War 2 — to help ration goods for the war — the Springville Museum of Art has opened its doors to celebrate 100 years of the Spring Salon.

The Salon is an annual exhibition that showcases modern art from locals across the state. This year, the judges had their hands full with a record-breaking 1,450 entries.

Springville Museum of Art Director Emily Larsen told the Deseret News that the community turnout has exceeded all expectations. “In Utah, we have such a robust art community. There are so many artists and so many incredible art organizations.”

“In Springville, we have so much support from our community, from our city leadership and from our nonprofit leadership that I feel like the momentum of the salon is going to keep growing,” Larsen added.

Referred to as Art City, the influence of the art exhibited at the Spring Salon every year in Springville has seen crafts from artists such as Thomas Hart Benton, Georgia O’Keeffe, Walt Disney and Norman Rockwell.

How the Spring Salon came to be

Originally known as a high school art gallery, the Springville Museum of Art has undergone many changes to become what it is today.

Before Springville had a high school, all local children attended Washington School. At the time, two famous Utah artists, Cyrus E. Dallin and John Hafen, each donated art to the students.

These pieces initially sparked the students’ love affair with art collecting.

After nearly two decades of collecting artwork and following the construction of Springville High School, the students decided to display their pieces in an exhibition through the halls of their school.

It was a grand success.

“You’ll read reports in the ’20s and ’30s of 30,000 (to) 50,000 people visiting this show that’s hung in the high school hallways,” Larsen said.

In a time when there was no freeway, Springville, a rural community, was put on the map nationally known for its annual art exhibition.

In 1935, “the collection had grown so much that the students and townspeople raised $100,000 during the Great Depression to construct the present facility. Additional money came from the City of Springville, the LDS Church, and the Works Progress Administration (WPA),” according to the Springville Museum of Art.

Two years later, in 1937, David O. Mckay dedicated it as the first art museum in Utah to become a “Sanctuary of Beauty and a Temple of Contemplation.”

Being a contemporary artist today

Out of the nearly 1,500 entries, the submitted artwork was created with a variety of mediums.

“There were sculptures of all kinds: bronze, ceramic, stained glass, assemblage sculptures. There are drawings and printmaking and photography. Really, it’s open to all genres of art,” Larsen explained.

“I think one of the best things about the salon is that you can come and really see a little bit of everything that’s been made across the state,” she added.

The opening ceremonies for the Spring Salon this year presented six awards and mentions:

  • First place award: David Dibble, “I Dipped My Hands into the River of Time.”
  • Director’s award: Kathleen Peterson, “The Quilters.”
  • Salon 100 Director Emeritus’ award: Santiago Michalek, “Lost in the Machine.”
  • Six awards of Merit.
  • Eight Honorable mentions.
  • Eight Museum Purchase awards.

Jurors selected 276 artworks in total to display on the walls of the museum.

“Lost in the Machine” by Santiago Michalek is displayed at the Springville Museum of Art as it celebrates 100 years of the Spring Salon on Wednesday, April 24, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

“Lost in the Machine” is the second piece that Michalek has had purchased by the Springville Museum of Art. His other piece, “It’s Time,” was purchased last year during the 99th Spring Salon celebration.

Born in Argentina, his family moved to the U.S. when he was six and settled in Mapleton, Utah, when he was ten. “My parents always say I was painting before I was walking,” Michalek told the Deseret News. “It’s just what I’ve always been passionate about. And kind of my first love.”

As a child in the Springville School District, Michalek attended school next to the art museum. His art teacher would often take him and his classmates to the museum to look at and discuss the art.

It wasn’t until he got older that he realized how unique it was having an art museum so close. “I just thought, you know, everybody had a museum connected to their school. So it kind of was like this amazing thing that was taken for granted but really inspired me as a kid; it really began to turn the wheels of what real art is and how real art is created. My earliest memories are of walking through that museum.”

Always knowing that he wanted to be an artist, Michalek explained that it’s not a profession with a clear outline, making it difficult to make a name for yourself in the world of art.

“As a kid, it was definitely all I wanted,” he said. “Walking those halls, I thought, ‘Oh, I’m going to be in the museum someday.’ But it was also said very much with anxiety and a hint of fear. I’m this little kid, and I’ve got these great doodles. But this is great art. And it’s hanging in a museum, that means something. And they don’t just let anyone in.”

“I’m honored that I get to be a part of it.”

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His inspiration for “Lost in the Machine” came from his love for portraying people in their field of work — inspiration he credits to Rockwell.

“For me, it’s really fascinating what people do on a Wednesday morning and Thursday afternoon. Everyone is so different, but we all spend so much time at work. We dedicate so much of our life to work,” Michalek explained.

He added, that the man depicted in the art piece is lost and has been lost for some time.

“He’s lost in this giant machine in his day-to-day work environment. But also a symbol of how we can all become lost in our lives. And life is the machine. And it is, in a way, very unforgiving. And it’s a machine that just kind of keeps on going. And if you stumble in life, life keeps on going, and it’s pretty easy to get left behind.”

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