Pieces Added To Draper Elementary Art Collection After Hiatus
Aug 01, 2016 08:39AM
By Julie Slama
Draper artist and Park School graduate Lynn Smith painted and donated “Century Plant” to the 71-piece Draper Elementary Art Collection. — Julie Slama
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
Draper, Utah - After more than 50 years without regular acquisitions to its 71-piece art collection, Draper Elementary recently had three pieces added.
“I have added to the collection each year I have served as principal, including a limited edition Eric Carle print, a watercolor print of the local La Caille restaurant, and an oil painting (that was donated by an area family),” Principal Piper Riddle said.
These pieces join the paintings, many which are oil and watercolor representing Utah landscapes, which adorn the school hallways and library. Most of the collection comes from years prior to 1976 when the current school was built, she said.
The collection blossomed in the earlier days when students attended the Park School, which housed both elementary and junior high students. There, Draper resident Lynn Smith and hundreds of other school children saved pennies, nickels and dimes from their farm chores to contribute to the art collection.
The initial collection was started in the 1920s by Principal Reid Beck, who loved art and thought it would be great if the school could have its own collection, Smith said. According to writing by his wife, Willda M. Beck, “the suggestion was welcomed by the faculty with enthusiasm and interest” and many field trips to the Springville Art Show where they would purchase pieces of art for the school collection, including the first piece, entitled “Spring Fancies” a landscape of a peach orchard in bloom in Davis County by Salt Lake City artist LeGreen Richards, which she said her husband purchased in the late 1920s in honor of her birthday.
“I was just a child when he was killed in a car accident, but what he started has been so worthwhile for our community. I remember we wanted a really good piece for our class donation,” Smith said.
At first, it was recorded that the art collection was a project for the entire Park School. Later, it was the gift of each graduating ninth-grade class.
Smith’s ninth-grade graduating class gathered enough money from chores, bake sales and community contributions that they were able to purchase two pieces in 1946, including “The Champion,” a painting of a rooster that Smith still remembers. Its plaque, “framed by the delicate blossoms of a fruit tree, his bright plumage smoothed into place, this elegant rooster seems about to greet the day,” describes the watercolor piece.
Later after Smith’s children attended the school and his wife had worked as a secretary, he donated a piece of his own work, entitled “Century Plant,” in 2006 “so students could enjoy it because it’s better than sitting in a stack around my house.”
Leone Smith also grew up in Draper, attending the Park School, the precursor school to Draper Elementary, who inherited the collection.
“I remember my mother, who served on the PTA, going to help select pieces at Springville the students then would vote on. I remember loving the art hanging on the hallways. My favorite was Beethoven’s Fifth by Frederic Grant. I was about seven or eight, but it was quite small and it hung upstairs on the east wall of the art room, which was on the south end of the hall. The school got it in 1953 and it was abstract, a real cool piece. I’d see so many different things in it and it would make my mind wander,” she said.
She didn’t get to contribute to the art collection as a child because regular student donations ended when her husband, a few years older, and his class were to select a piece and instead, they were transferred to Mt. Jordan Junior High in Sandy.
Leone Smith said back then, they’d incorporate the art throughout their lessons, much as she’s recently seen Draper Elementary students do.
“I saw a group of students sitting in the hall, writing down what they liked about the painting and how it made them feel. It’s great to see these wonderful pieces are still used as a teaching tool,” she said.
Riddle said that teachers use the collection in their instruction.
“The art pieces are referred to when classes are introduced to specific art mediums as part of their art core. Some of the artwork have cultural, historical, or community significance and those pieces are referenced and highlighted within those class discussions,” she said.
Former Principal Kenna Sorensen said while she was at the school beginning in 2009, teachers would walk their classes around the building to learn about art.
“They would connect it to what was in their art core or what was happening the Art through the Ages (art) program that parents were teaching,” she said. “I loved having it hanging in the halls. Students enjoyed seeing it and learning about it. Now that I am not with it everyday, I miss it. I miss just seeing the art and being enriched by it. The halls at my (current) school are bare in comparison.”
Among some of the more well-known artists in the collection are Norman Rockwell and Utah sculptor Avard Fairbanks, whose bronze statue, “New Life & New Frontiers” is showcased near the school office. Rockwell’s painting of Ichabod Crane, which is in a secure glass casing in the school library, recently was mentioned as the second painting of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” schoolmaster, during the “American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell” tour held Nov. 20, 2015 through Feb. 13, 2016 at Brigham Young University’s Museum of Art.
Canyons School District communications team member Susan Edwards said that Canyons School District pays for the insurance and security of the Rockwell painting, in particular, as well as the collection.
Draper Visual Arts Foundation secretary Jean Hendricksen said the school children purchased the Rockwell original in 1951 from the Springville Art Exhibit.
According to recorded history, Rockwell wasn’t happy with this 1937 attempt at Ichabod Crane, so he painted a second, which he displayed at the Springville Art Show. Originally, the piece was set at $1,300, but when the students wrote to Rockwell, he lowered the price to $800. Still, it was a challenge for the students to come up with that amount of money in one month, but after car washes, bake sales and other fundraising, many Draper residents assisted the students.
The Foundation became involved in the school’s collection when in the early 1990s, Hendricksen’s former teaching colleague and neighbor, Hulda Cosgrove, said she was worried about the art collection that was in storage. When they approached the Jordan School District Superintendent Ray Whittenberg, he told them there weren’t sufficient funds to restore the pieces, Hendricksen recalled.
“That’s when the Foundation was founded and said ‘we’ll be caretakers.’ We had an attorney, Raeburn Kennard, who helped us get established and donated his work,” she said.
Their mission was to clean and restore the art collection after years of having soot coating the paintings as the old school was heated with coal, Hendrickson said. After raising $10,000 the Foundation hired local Dave Jolley, who is an internationally known art restoration expert, to remove coal soot and fly debris from the collection.
The Foundation also used to offer art classes to elementary students afterschool to teach them basics in watercolor, acrylic, ceramics, clay modeling and basic art so they could learn to enjoy and appreciate the arts, Leone Smith said.
Riddle said throughout the school history, the art collection has been appreciated both as a collection and for instruction.
“Throughout the history of Draper Elementary students have benefitted from the art collection at our school. They learn to appreciate visual arts and to make connections between the art classes they are taking and the works that are in our building. They also learn about multiple artistic mediums and genres and become familiar with local artists that are included in the collection,” she said.