Marcia Poulsen Price, chairwoman of the Utah Arts Council board, lives without self-imposed limitations.
"I have a wonderful life in the arts, which I have created for myself," said this vivacious woman, who radiates energy and enthusiasm. "And it seems to me that each door I have gone through has revealed more doors that open before me. My advice to other women is, if a slot doesn't exist that you fit into, make one for yourself!"A life spent in promoting and supporting the visual arts, both publicly and privately, has taken Price to high positions locally and nationally.
Besides her work with the Arts Council, she is a member of the Salt Palace Fine Arts Advisory Board and an at-large member of the executive committee of the Western States Arts Federation board of trustees.
As a member of the Presidential Scholarship in the Arts Board, National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts, she goes each January to Miami to help select the 20 presidential scholars who each June receive medals in the White House rose garden and perform at the Kennedy Center.
Marcia Price is married to John Price, head of Price Industries Corp., which owns several shopping malls and development companies in the West, anda number of radio broadcasting companies across the country. With his help, she has put together a large corporate art collection.
"John and I are a good team," she said. "He knows everything about business, and I know nothing about it; but I love the arts, I know what is needed to keep the arts here, and John is very supportive. He has a steadfast love for this state and its promise. He's never wavered, even when the economy weakens; and he gets angry about things that threaten Utah's future."
Now in her fourth year on the Utah Arts Council Board, Price was asked by then-chairman Tony Rampton to go on as board chairwoman, after only two years on the board.
"That was pretty scary, I didn't really know what I was doing yet. I had nightmares that I would be sitting at the head of the table with all those important board members, and I would look down at my agenda and the page would be blank! But I agreed, and we've done good things. (Council director) Carol Nixon is wonderful to work with, and a beautiful administrator."
Price feels that perhaps her major accomplishment has been initiating a series of town meetings statewide for arts administrators and interested citizens.
"We met legislators at those meetings who didn't know who we were or what we did," she said. "We had to live with a budget cut of $150,000 last year, a cut that legislators found easier to make because they didn't know us personally. But now those same people stop me in the hall and call me by name.
"Legislators also discovered how their constituents feel about the arts, and we board members found out that people out there felt disconnected, and believed that the money was all going to the Wasatch Front. It has been productive for representatives of many arts groups to sit down together, to get to know each other, so we can feel as if we speak with one voice." She hopes the next chair will conduct another round of town meetings.
Though Price will wind up her term as chairwoman in July, she will spend four more years as a board member - potentially the most useful time, since she has greatly increased her knowledge of the state's arts needs. "There is such passion around the board table, the air is charged with energy," she said, "and the arts are the winner."
Price is very excited about possibilities for the old Union Pacific depot as a permanent home for the state's Alice Merrill Horne art collection.
"Horne was chair of the state's first Fine Arts Commission in 1899 - the oldest state arts agency in the country - and one of her first acts was to sponsor a visual art exhibition and competition," Price explained.
"The competition is still held, and the Alice Collection, as it's now called, has grown to 1,000-plus works. The collection is Utah, it's us over the past 90 years. It comes from all over the state, and people everywhere need to see it. But in all that time it has been an orphan without a permanent home, stored away or hung about in state offices."
- THOUGH THE DEPOT has now been offered to the state for a gallery and other arts space, it has not yet been accepted, since there are reservations in some circles about its suitability and the expense of upkeep.
Price understands this concern, and thinks that many people should decide the future of the project, but she foresees nothing but a positive outcome for the depot acquisition.
"There are more than 70,000 square feet of possible display area in this beautiful old building," she said. "I would love to see it replace the Hotel Utah for official dinners, rallies and meetings. The depot could host traveling exhibitions, since there is never enough space at the Utah Museum.
"I'd like to tap into the 4 million people who visit Temple Square annually, give them the complete Salt Lake experience. Wouldn't it be great to restore South Temple, to plant trees, have sidewalk cafes, entice people to walk the four blocks down to the depot and see the exhibit? Tie in the Pierpont district, with its contemporary and historic art; add Symphony Hall, the Salt Palace and the Art Center, for a complete walking tour of Utah's cultural arts. "My father always told me that you can't get to the top of the mountain unless you take the first step," said Price. Certainly not her first step, but a very important one toward her present position, was beginning to assemble the respected and even unique corporate art collection of Price Industries.
- "YOU SEE HERE THE THINGS we have bought because we love them and want them," she said, indicating the many interesting and beautiful paintings and other works of art that adorn the Prices' spacious home. "At one time I thought I would collect French Impressionist paintings, but when I saw Monets beginning to go for $1 million, I knew I could never afford that.
"Then about 12 years ago in New York City, we attended a Young Presidents Organization meeting where the subject was corporate art collecting. Mayor Ed Koch said it was important for companies to pick up the mantle of European aristocracy, to encourage the arts by being patrons and offering commissions."
Later Donald Marron, head of Paine Webber, led a tour of his corporate headquarters to show their collection, hanging on the walls, rotating through offices. "A light went on in my mind," said Price. "I can do that, I thought - go back Salt Lake City and with John's support, build a corporate collection."
She found John Price more than helpful in assembling their first collection, "Americans at Work," a group of 36 prints, lithographs and etchings. They are by prominent artists of the WPA (the Works Project Administration under Franklin Roosevelt's National Recovery Act), some of whom, like Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton, went on to fame and fortune. A few bronze statuettes are the work of Lorenzo E. Ghiglieri, Frederic Remington, Charles M. Russell and James L. Young.
"Prints, whether from wood or metal carvings, lithographs, silk screen, linocuts and copper, have a different feeling, they are small, intricate work," she said. "Prints haven't generated an expensive market, they have not become hot items, but they have solid value."
- MARY FRANCEY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF UTAH art history faculty, and graduate students Valerie Kidrick (now curator at the Braithwaite Gallery in Cedar City), Scott Mooy (now graphics design coordinator for the Shakespearean Festival), and Glenda Cotter produced a new catalog for "American Printmakers of the '30s," another Price collection of about 60 pieces, again with many WPA artists.
It opened at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, where it ran for six weeks, was shown at the Boise Art Museum last fall, and will go to Ashland, Ore. this spring. "Russia is interested in our collection, which would be perfect for them," said Price, "since our countries have in common the work ethic of the '30s."
To this corporate collection of 100 pieces, Price is working with Francey to add a collection of 35 works by women printmakers of the '30s. "During WPA days women had equal opportunity, and everyone was creating public art for public dissemination, in schools, libraries and post offices," she said.
"I have met some of the women involved, and they are fascinating - women like Minna Citron, now 90 and still working. Many of them have stayed in the Greenwich Village area of New York, and to visit them is to step back in time, to a gentler era."
While John Price is a German-Jewish immigrant who believes passionately in the American Dream, Marcia Price is a fourth-generation Utahn. "My great-grandfather and his brothers came to Utah as a Mormon immigrants," she related. "They were called `the rich Danes' because they sold off prosperous farms in Denmark. When they got to Utah they gave most of their money to the LDS Church, saving only enough to set up in farming in Redmond, near Richfield. They had great success until a major drought set in. Some of the families held on there, but my family did not."
Marcia's father, Dean Poulsen, now 81, has worked as a purchasing agent for firefighting supplies, and the Poulsens have a 54-year marriage. Price remains totally dedicated to her parents.
"I was born in Salt Lake City, and had a charmed childhood - one mother, one father, one brother, one dog, one cat, school every year, to the beach in Santa Monica every summer - no traumas, all love and affection, and expectation.
- "THE MOST INDEPENDENT THING I ever did was go to Pasadena to study at Lowell Lees' dramatic academy for two years. That shocked my parents a little, but I guess I always felt somewhat privileged, because my father encouraged me. You can be anything or anyone you want to be, he said; and that was a wonderful gift, a great legacy, to have my father's permission to be what I wanted to be. He thought there was no horizon, no goal beyond my reach."
After taking Lees' two-year program at Pasadena City College, Marcia Poulsen finished her degree at the University of Utah, with an English major, theater minor. "But Doug Snow changed my life with his Art 101 course," she said. "He told us about the French Impressionists, why they were different, and how they changed the world of art. It was the most exciting thing I ever heard, a light bulb went on in my head."
After graduating from college she spent three months roaming through art galleries in Europe, then came home and married John Price.
Marcia met her husband, a disenchanted New Yorker, at the University of Utah, where he was studying geology, having been attracted to Utah by the uranium boom, after a summer working the Oklahoma oil fields. "John and his family were on the last boat of refugees let out of Germany by Hitler in 1939," she said. "They left all their wealth and businesses behind."
During her child-rearing years, Price stayed involved in art - as a docent and as an omnivorous reader about art and artists. "When I went to New York I knew exactly where the galleries were, and what was in them, from what I had read," she said. She also worked in the Assistance League, serving for a time as president, and supported the children's wing of the Pioneer Memorial Theater, the Symphony Board, and Ballet Guild.
"We raised three great kids, who are all doing well, and when they got to university age, it was time for me to find out what kind of grown-up I wanted to be," she laughed. The path clearly led to art.
"When John opened his latest mall, the Town Square Mall in Boise last fall, I wanted it to have an arts involvement," she said. "I arranged for the Boise Philharmonic to do a fund-raising concert the night before we opened, and also put our art collection on display in the Boise Museum."
John Price plans his next mall expansion in Couer d'Alene, Idaho, and Marcia Price will again be seeking ways to involve the arts, "because that's the way you involve people's hearts," she said.