When Geniel Jensen was a little girl, she remembers, her parents took her to the Ephraim Cemetery. "People would come up and pat me on the head and say, 'Oh, so you're the great-granddaughter of C.C.A. Christensen.' I would stamp my foot and say, 'No, I'm Geniel.' I didn't want to be anyone's great-granddaughter. I just wanted to be myself."
Now 91, and the oldest living great-granddaughter of the famous Mormon artist, "I feel kind of bad about it," she says, with a laugh.
Now, of course, that Scandinavian heritage is very important to her. "My grandpa was C.C.A.'s oldest son. I remember him, but C.C.A. died before I was born. Mother told us lots of stories. He seemed like a stern, austere man. I probably wouldn't have liked him then."
But she is proud of that heritage.
Jensen moved away from Ephraim when she was 14 but still loves to go back whenever she can. She hopes to be on hand on Friday, when a cabin that was once lived in and used by C.C.A. Christensen will be opened to the public as part of the Central Utah Art Center in Ephraim. "Maybe that will make up for all the years I said no," Jensen says.
The cabin sat outside Ephraim for a long time, says Jared Latimer, director of the Central Utah Art Center, and was in a dilapidated state when it was moved to the historic square in downtown Ephraim that houses both the old ZCMI Co-op and the art center, housed in the old Ephraim Roller Mill.
The cabin was stabilized and restored by students in several Traditional Building Skills Institute classes, but nothing more was done until it was decided — and funding was found — that it could be an extension of the CUAC gallery.
"It's the perfect use," Latimer says. " I think C.C.A. Christensen was the most important Mormon artist ever. He was a tremendous figure in the Utah art world, even the art world at large. He was featured on the cover of Art in America in 1970; he was classically trained. And to have his house in our backyard is exciting."
The cabin has been restored to contemporary standards, so it will provide a usable environment for art. The grand opening on Friday will feature a juried art exhibit of works by artists from the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage corridor, which basically runs along U.S. 89 in central Utah.
Now and in the future, Latimer says, "We will show the best art in Utah and around the world. I think it captures what C.C.A. was all about."
The art gallery opening will be just one part of the Scandinavian Heritage Festival, which will be held in Ephraim Thursday through Saturday.
This year's festival is "being revitalized by an infusion of authentic Scandinavian dance, song, storytelling and other activities," says Gary Anderson, festival chairman.
Much of that revitalization comes through the efforts of the Utah Pioneer Heritage Arts, a nonprofit group dedicated to the preservation and enjoyment of pioneer arts.
Scandinavian heritage has deep roots in the area and a widespread impact on the state. Ephraim and its surrounding communities were first settled by early pioneers of Scandivanian countries. Approximately 650,000 Utahns trace their ancestry to Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Iceland.
The festival has been a great community gathering for 30 years, says Clive Romney, executive director of UPHA. "But it had strayed somewhat from its Scandinavian pioneer roots. Our group was asked to help the event regain its focus. We hope this festival will serve as a model for what other Utah counties can do to keep their pioneer heritage alive and vibrant. If we don't know and celebrate our ancestral history, we live our lives out of context."
The Scandinavian Heritage Festival will be mostly based at Snow College. Admission is free. Food, bus tours and some specialized workshops and activities require a fee.
The new pioneer-related elements are all free and include:
Pioneer demonstrations. Costumed interpreters will demonstrate such things as pioneer cooking, cork-husk and rag-doll making, woodworking, games, blacksmithing, medicine and more.
Pioneer Pentathlon. Barefoot races, bucket brigade race, hoop roll and other "family-friendly athletics for fun or competition."
Story/poem writing and telling contest. Stories based on Sanpete County's past will be told. Winner gets $250.
Songwriting contest finals. Finalists will perform new, original songs.
Scandinavian dance. Dancers from Snow College will perform authentic folk dances and festivalgoers will be invited to learn some simple dances.
Scandinavian music. Featured performers include Venlige Fremmede, a four-piece folk ensemble; the 7th Infantry Regimental Band; and Lincoln Highway.
Nearby Spring City also will celebrate its annual Heritage Day Saturday. The event includes tours of many of the town's charming and historic pioneer-era homes and buildings. There will be an art and antique sale at the Old Spring City School, including a silent auction called "Art Squared," where patrons can bid on one-foot-square paintings by Spring City artists such as Osral Allred, Lee Bennion, Susan Gallacher, M'Lisa Paulsen, Doug Fryer, Kathleen Peterson, Cassandria Parsons and others. Additional artwork will be for sale in local galleries.
Gov. Gary Herbert will be on hand to speak briefly and welcome visitors at 9 a.m. The day's events also include breakfast and lunch, served in the old city bowery as a fundraiser for the local LDS ward.
Home tour tickets cost $10 for adults and $5 for children and will be sold at the Old Spring City School and Main Street Firehouse. Funds benefit preservation and restoration efforts in Spring City.
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