Draper Visual Arts Foundation, guardians of a Draper legacy
All of the art was just in boxes or cupboards, simply put away and almost completely forgotten. Ichabod Crane, Spring Fancies, Beethoven’s Fifth, simply stowed away and abandoned as a generation of Draperites passed away or moved on. With the relocation of the elementary school from the old Draper Park School to the new Draper location off Fort Street, the art was lost in the shuffle and upheaval of change and progress. It was wrapped up and casually put away in the cupboards of the new school. Yet thankfully, it was not completely forgotten.
In the early 1990s, Jean Hendricksen sat down at a special community event at the old Draper Park School next to Hulda Crosgrove. They both had been teachers at the historic school.
“What are we going to do about the art collection?” Crosgrove asked Hendricksen, as she was rightfully worried about it.
It was a fortuitous question because it set the wheels in motion for a much-needed rescue mission. Ichabod Crane and all of his friends had to be saved, desperately.
The art collection is a valuable Draper treasure trove that resides in the hallways of Draper Elementary. The Reid and Willda Beck Art Collection began in 1926 when Reid Beck, the principal of Draper Park School decided it would be great to start a collection led by the students at the school. Year after year, and through much planning and sacrifice by the community, the art collection steadily grew, culminating in an original Norman Rockwell painting of Ichabod Crane in the 1950s.
Hendricksen enlisted the help of Mary Sjoblom, another former teacher from the school and started on a quest to rectify the situation. They approached Mayor Kuman Davis, who knew nothing about the collection, but was interested in it. He told them that the city could not do anything about it. They met with Jordan School District superintendent Ray Whittenberg. He fully supported their cause but knew that the school district had no funds to help them in their worthy endeavor.
This is when the Draper Visual Arts Foundation (DVAF) was born. Aided by the pro bono work of attorney Raeburn Kennard, DVAF was established in 1993 as a foundation with the express purpose of salvaging and restoring the art collection.
When all of the art was pulled out of the cupboards, it was in a deplorable condition. Due to the fact that the art had hung in a building for decades that had been heated with coal, it was understandably coated in coal dust. To make matters worse, there were also layers of fly specs. Unlike today where every field of the city is being developed into a suburban oasis, Draper was once a chicken, dairy, and sheep powerhouse. Of course, agriculture breeds flies and thousands of those flies found their final resting place on priceless artwork in the old Draper Park School. It was gross.
Hendricksen and Sjoblom, along with fellow members like Shirley Ballard, Wayne Ballard, Beverly Thompson, Burton Stringfellow, and Hulda Crosgrove solicited funds from friends in the community. They rallied many of the old Draperites to help get the foundation going and raise the funds to restore all of the art. Their first donation of $200 came from attorney Clayton Fairborn. DVAF was able to raise about $10,000, money that was crucial for the rescue mission.
The Draper Visual Arts Foundation hired Utahn Dale Jolley, an art restoration expert with an international reputation, to painstakingly clean and rehabilitate the paintings. He had to chisel off the fly specs and remove the coal residue. It was a laborious and tedious process, but well worth the effort. As for Ichabod Crane, the Norman Rockwell painting, it was a bit more tricky. It hung for many years behind the principal’s desk. One year during Thanksgiving break in the 1980s, a water leak developed above the painting in the ceiling and caused a significant amount of damage. The art department at BYU did restore it and helped to reverse the damage and with DVAF funds, Jolley completed the restoration of this Draper City heirloom.
The art is now out of exile and displayed at Draper Elementary School. The foundation has continued with their own art collection called Draper Community Art Collection. There are some pieces at City Hall and other school buildings because the collection continues to grow, due to the dedication of the members at the DVAF. The large mural of early Draper by Linda Curley Christensen that is in the lobby of City Hall is owned by the Draper Visual Arts Foundation, along with several other paintings there. Christensen is a well-known landscape painter who has painted murals in over 60 LDS temples worldwide, including the Draper temple.
DVAF sells prints of the Draper mural on their website, DraperVisualArts.org, as well as Ichabod Crane, Porter Rockwell by Ken Corbett, and Old Draper Church and Roundhouse by Al Rounds. They use the funds to purchase art for public display as well as to sponsor an art competition for seniors in the Canyons School District. The yearly competition occurs in the spring and can be seen in the lobby of City Hall for a week. Prizes range from $300 to $1,000. Last year, the grand prize winner was Self Portrait by Hannah Peterson (Hillcrest). Olivia Baker (Jordan) won 1st place for Lanterns, Carolina Anne Hollow (Hillcrest) was 2nd for College Collage, and 3rd prize was awarded to Elizabeth Harrison (Jordan) for Be Still and Know That I am God. Pantera Coshaw was the 3-dimensional winner for the work entitled Seaside.
Once again DVAF will be sponsoring the art show competition April 25-28, 2016. This is for all graduating seniors in the Canyons School District area, which includes private and charter schools. Students can drop off their pieces on April 22 at Draper City Hall. The awards program will be Thursday, April 28 at 7pm.