SALT LAKE CITY — From Peru to the Philippines and Ukraine to Uruguay come 151 works of beauty and deep feeling in the form of woodwork, sculpture, textile and a variety of other artistic mediums at the 11th International Art Competition at the Church History Museum.
The exhibit, which is held every three years and runs March 14 through Oct. 7, highlights 151 pieces of art by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The selected works reflect this year’s theme of “Meditations on Belief,” drawn from Psalms 77: 10-12: “I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.”
Alan Johnson, director of the Church History Museum, explained that choosing a theme every three years is one of the museum's greatest challenges in planning the competition.
An internal museum team of four to five people brainstorm ideas and look for a theme that represents the mission of the museum, which is to give people the opportunity to reconnect to the history and growing artistic legacy of the church.
“We felt good about that balance of inspiring, inclusive, welcoming and still very broad with the core theme of belief,” Johnson said of this year’s chosen theme.
Laura Hurtado, who was recently named the new executive director of the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, has served as the global acquisitions curator of art for the Church History Museum since 2013. She said the diversity of artists and pieces are the strength of the exhibit.
“I think what the competition really achieves well, is this kind of broadening,” Hurtado said. “It's far deeper and more nuanced in terms of the visual legacy and also in terms of these individual, devotional moments. I think the work of each individual work is quite personal and really strong in its expression. I think those kind of individual stories are really powerful.”
Hurtado said the museum received 947 submissions from a variety of countries. Of those entries, a jury panel of five art professionals selected 151 works for the final show. The 2019 jurors are: Herman Du Toit, retired head of museum research at Brigham Young University; painter and sculptor J. Kirk Richards, founder of Vision of the Arts Fund; Scottish artist and educator Jean Richardson; Analisa Coats Sato, a doctoral candidate who has worked as a curatorial research assistant; and Elaine Thatcher, executive director for Summerfest Arts Faire in Logan.
This was Richardson’s first year as a juror. She explained that about year ago, after the competition's deadline had passed, she began to evaluate each submission the artists compiled online. Along with a picture of their artwork, each artist included a statement about their submission.
“Reading their testimonies and reading (about) their drive and desire to be part of this exhibition that (they) paired with their art was really nice,” Richardson said.
Jurors evaluated each piece on three criteria: artistic merit, innovation and thematic alignment. From the original 947 submissions, about 250 pieces made it to the second round. Those pieces were sent to the museum and displayed for the five jurors, who then filtered the selections further. Three of the five jurors had to agree on a piece for it to be selected for the show.
Hurtado said it is standard for the museum to purchase 15 works from the International Art Competition, while the museum has posted photos of all pieces from this year's exhibit online at history.lds.org. The works are sectioned into the following categories: God’s Creations; Adam and Eve; Old Testament Stories; Jesus Christ’s Ministry and Mission; Faith and Conversion; Adversity and Hope; Charity and Love; Marriage and Family; and Temples and Family History.
Museum patrons can also share their feelings on the artwork. According to history.lds.org, visitors can vote for their favorite art pieces using kiosks in the gallery space, and visitors’ choice awards will be given at the conclusion of the exhibition.
“We just hope people come and enjoy the show,” Johnson said. “It’s a wonderful international representation of so many different types of art. There’s something for everybody.”