The “Spring Salon” with the biggest response in 95 years ends July 6, and experiencing it is free.
Each year for the last 95 years, Springville Museum of Art (SMA) has hosted an all-state competitive show in the spring. This year, SMA received nearly 1,000 entries and had more sales than ever before. The organizers attribute this swell in professionals and patrons to increased networking and, hopefully, increased awareness of what the community wants to see in a show.
Out of the 991 entries, 278 were admitted for exhibition. The works range in style and medium (from painting to mixed media sculpture) but often, when artists’ statements accompany the works, they pay homage to, well, home-nostalgic recounting of childhood in pieces — such as “Cleared for Takeoff … Sorry Mom,” a mixed media sculpture of chairs, arching like a nimble spine on a tipping table to recognize the artist’s mother’s balancing act while her pilot husband was on the job.
A warm but original take on home life is classic Utah County, according to Hannah Barrett, assistant curator at the museum. But she said the show is typified by diversity and draws from different areas of the art world: academia, working artists, contemporary and traditional styles.
The winning entry, “Innum Varum,” by Regan Reichert, is a tribute to Indian culture from a former missionary who lived in India, tying into another theme of Utah County — a strong identity leading to connections with those of others. The selections were chosen by the museum’s director, Rita Wright, and two guest jurors, Jorge Rojas, director of education and engagement at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, and Jessica Farling, director of the Southern Utah Museum of Art.
Wright said the judges consider concept, technical skill and how the piece fits in the museum’s community spirit when making their selections.
According to Wright, part of Springville’s spirit is collaboration rather than competition. By offering networking events like Round Table discussions, the museum has fostered this sense of connection in a field where many assume isolated idiosyncrasy synonymous with disparate originality.
These professional development presentations began with about 30 artists and had 180 last month, according to Barrett. This networking along with making the entry forms accessible online are part of what administrators credit for more entries this year.
Wright said the museuem isn’t likely to open the floodgates to digital entries anytime soon, however.
“We really want our jurors to have a complete sense of the works, the textures and the size,” she said. Although she is happy with their final selections, she tells artists that if they were not selected they should try again; the rejection is a product of just one day in the life of a juror.
Those who are long-time followers of the Utah art scene or newcomers are likely to find a piece that resonates. Popular mainstays like Kent Christiansen’s pastel candy and Brian Kershisnick’s American Primitivist paintings are part of the show, and insiders will appreciate Jeremy Erin Decker’s continuation of the family legacy in contributing to the museum or Andi Pitcher Davis showing herself as an artist with her bread loaves seared with acronyms.(Decker was raised in Art City, and his father has participated in many museum shows over the years. Long known as a patron of the arts, only those of long acquaintance often knew Pitcher Davis as a BFA student at BYU.)
Wright says the exhibition also showcases new artists with no known connections except their affiliation with Utah.
What has led to the increase in sales is still something of a mystery. There’s always been a tension between investing in the timeless/semi-universal appeal of masterworks reproduced in prints (though they were rarely meant to be) and the investment in local art, appreciating the texture of an original work and having a piece that ties into the spirit of the local community. Certainly, the eclecticism and care put into selection and the connection to community are factors.
Whatever the reasons, the museum has made more than 130% of last year’s sales, and the sales that year were already greater than any known previous. The museum does get a 30% commission with each sale, but more importantly, it makes gains in its mission: “An original in every home.”