The vitality, charm and optimism of Alice Merrill Horne rang through the halls of the State Capitol this week as lawmakers paused in time to remember Utah's patron saint of the arts. And her many contributions.
It was her vision 90 years ago that created the nation's first state arts agency - now the Utah Arts Council. In honor of the council's 90th anniversary on March 9, the council re-created Horne before the Legis-lature Monday."At this time, in the year 1899, we stand at the brink of the 20th century," Horne, in the person of actress Susan Dolan, told legislators. "What will we plan for it? And for the army of children growing up around us? Utahns have always held education and the arts foremost among their sacred treasures."
An artist in her own right, Horne was a state legislator, a suffragette, a teacher, a crusader for clean air and clean milk, a regional leader in the women's world peace movement and a member of the Relief Society General Board of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Horne's support of artists was direct: She believed the best support was financial so artists would never have to compromise what she called their "high calling." She established galleries in private businesses to sell work by local artists and worked tirelessly to create a market for art.
"One artist . . . may in the stress to survive forget his high calling and paint to please. May God help them if we the people cannot lend enough support to make their paths straight," she told legislators. "They cannot paint if they cannot eat."
Horne's efforts also led to the creation of art collections at more than 35 schools across the state. Sometimes the children would pay 10 cents toward the purchase of a painting or conduct other fund-raisers.
In addressing the Legislature, she called upon the lawmakers - as she did in 1899 - to provide public support for the arts through the creation of the Utah Art Institute (the forerunner of the modern Utah Arts Council), and to establish an annual statewide visual arts competition through which paintings would be purchased for a permanent art collection.
"If we purchase, on the state level, an original painting by a Utah artist each year, in 100 years there will be 100 paintings in the collection," she told lawmakers.
That State Fine Art Collection - named by unanimous vote of the Third Utah Legislature the "Alice Art Collection" - today is 12 times her envisioned 100 pieces and is valued at more than $2 million.
In her address to the 1989 Legislature, actress Dolan spoke of current issues in the arts.
"For the collection's permanent home, the state now has an opportunity to acquire the magnificent Union Pacific Depot, which will enrich the cultural experience of our citizens, their children and future generations."