This story was originally published on July 2, 2016.
When the legendary local artist Jim Jones died in 2009, he left his final collection of paintings and his Rockville home to Southern Utah University, planting a seed that would become the Southern Utah Museum of Art.
That museum, the SUMA, will officially open with a dedication at 11:30 a.m. Thursday. A larger dedication for all the components of SUU’s Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts will be held at 10 a.m. the same day.
SUMA will recognize Jones’ contribution — including money raised from the sale of his home — by displaying that final collection of his paintings alongside four other exhibits as SUMA opens to the public Thursday.
“He painted his heart into it, so it’s like there’s a piece of him still in the paintings,” says SUMA staffer Tressa Lowry of Jones.
Gina Dodge, another SUMA staffer, describes the Jim Jones exhibit as “our baby.” Hanging that particular show made them fall in love with his art, she says.
Jones was known for his large scenic paintings, especially those featuring Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon. His Rockville home sat atop a butte looking out over Zion Canyon and he spent a few winters as a young man living at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. So he knew both landscapes intimately.
Staff member Ivy Kiley says art lovers would often ask to see SUU’s collection of Jones paintings when the museum was still housed in the Braithwaite Building. At the time they were stored way with the university’s permanent collection. Now those paintings will be on permanent display at SUMA as part of an ongoing exhibit dedicated to Jones.
The Braithwaite Gallery does still have a presence at SUMA. The wall opposite the Jim Jones collection bears that historic name. As SUMA opens, the Braithwaite Gallery section of SUMA will display a collection of paintings by northern Utah artist Kevin Kehoe.
Called “Western Therapy,” Kehoe’s paintings pair expansive landscapes with small, but detailed, depictions of people finding excitement and solace in those landscapes.
“He’s interested to see what inspires people,” Dodge says.
Many of the paintings in Kehoe’s series show Southern Utah landscapes, which stands out to SUMA staffer Dato Nadiradze, an SUU graduate student from the country of Georgia in Eastern Europe.
On his website at kkpainter.com, Kehoe describes this series as illustrating just how small we are in the realization of the big picture.
“Each time I immerse myself in these places they stir my soul, spark my imagination and reconfirm my love affair with the wildly beautiful relationship between landscape and light, person and place,” Kehoe writes on his website.
‘The Grand Circle Tour’
Because the Kehoe exhibit depicts some local national parks, it ties in with the historic photo exhibit that documents The Grand Circle Tour, created in the 1920s by the Union Pacific Company. The company historically bussed tourists to Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon and Zion national parks as well as Cedar Breaks National Monument and other stops as part of the tour.
Another SUMA staffer, Michael Vierela, says the photos were taken between 1920 and 1960. The images were culled from several collections. Nadiradze says the exhibit shows how the Southern Utah communities evolved with the parks.
‘Find Your Park’
Both the Kehoe and Grand Circle exhibits are tied to the centennial of the National Park Service this year. A third exhibit has even stronger ties as it used the NPS’s “Find Your Park” initiative in its name. This exhibit features SUU student work in a variety of media, much of it depicting the national park experience.
Dodge, a recent SUU graduate, is among the student artists in the show. She not only has a linocut print in the first student show at the SUMA, she also had a piece in the last student show at the Braithwaite.
“I closed down the Braithwaite, and now I’m in here,” she says.
SUMA staffer and SUU senior Mallory Peterson has a painting and two photographs in the “Find Your Park” show. She says it’s exciting to be a part of the first student exhibit at the SUMA. The back wall, which faces the museum’s permanent collection, will be reserved for student shows year-round.
The fifth exhibit on display at SUMA will be short-lived. “First Peek” is a juried show that features mostly local artists and was the centerpiece for a special First Peek event held at SUMA on June 25.
Vierela, who is new to Cedar City, likes the exhibit because much of it focuses on Southern Utah through the eyes of Southern Utah artists. For him, it is a chance to learn about his new home.
Stylistically, the “First Peek” show is probably the most diverse of the five exhibits. From the bright abstract mixed media piece by Andrew Marvick and a scenic photograph by David Pettit to bronze faces by Susan Stamm Evans and a book fashioned out of rock and handmade paper by Sue Cotter, “First Peek” is brimming with variety in both media and subject matter.
Cedar City artist Carrie Trenholm is among the featured artists in the “First Peek” show.
“I’m just so honored to be in this beautiful building and to be part of this “First Peek” exhibit,” she says. “I’m just thrilled.”
Trenholm’s contribution to the show is a colorful fused glass piece. A longtime art teacher, Trenholm has been working with fused glass for about 15 years.
She is also excited about seeing Jones’ work on display. Her husband, SUU English professor James M. Aton, is the author of “The Art and Life of Jimmie Jones: Landscape Artist of the Canyon Country.”
Trenholm says SUMA and the larger Beverley Center for the Arts is an example of the community and campus coming together for a project that will impact the entire community.
With five simultaneous shows, it’s obvious SUMA has a much larger exhibit space than its predecessor in the Braithwaite basement. Lowry says the museum staff had to be more organized in how they hung the shows because of the large space. Once they got a feel for the space, it began to come together.
“It’s kind of an intuitive process,” Peterson says.
However, Dodge admits they were nervous about putting holes in the walls of the new building before it was even dedicated. In the end, though, they are looking forward to seeing the reaction of visitors to the museum.
Even as they were still hanging the exhibits, the museum had a few interested visitors.
“I see excitement in people and how they are proud of this artwork,” Nadiradze says. “SUMA is the identity of Southern Utah.”
The “First Peek” exhibit will only be on display until July 14 when it is replaced by pieces from the ArtsAfire Plein Air Art Invitational until Sept. 1. “The Grand Circle Tour” will also run through Sept. 1. Kehoe’s “Western Therapy” will remain on display until Oct. 1. The Jones exhibit and the revolving student exhibit will be ongoing shows.
SUMA’s summer hours are 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. In September, the hours will change to 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. It is located on the SUU campus at 13 S. 300 West, Cedar City. Visit suu.edu/pva/suma/ or call 435-586-5432.
To read more about The Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts and the events surrounding its dedication, watch for a story online Sunday and in print Monday. Then watch for a variety of stories, photo galleries and video during The Beverley’s Opening Celebration from July 7-9.
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