Vol. 12. No. 2
Fall 2002



"Chris Christensen" by Galena Perova

One day, while wandering through the main floor of the Union Building, I glanced into the administrative offices and noticed a large painting hanging above the reception desk. It looked authentic, and important — not just a decorative complement to the carpeting, as is so often the case — so I stopped by to inquire.

Turns out the painting is by James T. Harwood, a prominent Utah painter of the early 20th century and head of the art department from 1923 to 1930. This discovery led to an investigation of other artworks hanging in various rooms throughout the building.

According to J. Ryck Luthi ex'77, associate director of the Union Building, the Union began its art collection by taking paintings "on loan" before the museum of art came into being. Eventually, the Mothers Club of Students (yes, such a club once existed), which was active in the '50s and '60s, established an "art purchase fund." Over the years, the Union's collection of artworks has continued to grow.

"Preparation for Dinner"
by James T. Harwood

Union Building Collection
Administrative Offices


About 90 percent of the art in the Union Building is the work of past faculty members — not only Harwood, but also Lee Greene Richards, LeConte Stewart, Avard Fairbanks, Douglas Snow, Alvin Gittins, and F. Anthony Smith, among others. "It's one way of recognizing the excellent art faculty we have had at the U," says Luthi. It's also a lesson in the evolution of painting styles — from Harwood's neo-impressionistic "Pioneer Relic" (1932) to Smith's airbrushed "Chocolate Satellite" (1971). True to its calling as a "cultural hub," the U of U has many gallery spaces sprinkled around campus — such as the Loge Gallery in the Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre, the second and third floor exhibits at University Hospital, the Gittins Gallery in the art department, the main foyer at Red Butte Garden, Hallside Gallery in the School of Medicine, the atrium of the Marriott Center for Dance, the Union Gallery in the Union Building, and various places in the Marriott Library, to name a few.

You will also find portraits of faculty members, researchers, donors, and past University presidents, including 90-some paintings by Alvin Gittins (see Continuum, Fall 2001), former art professor who served as the U's official portraitist-in-residence for 30 years. Then there are the 40-some commissioned pen-and-ink sketches of "University Professors" (a project sponsored by the Office of Undergraduate Studies) displayed on the fourth floor of the Union Building; the five large murals overlooking the marble staircase in the Park Building (by Lee Greene Richards) that depict historical highlights in the various fields of culture; and the exceedingly fine portrait of Chris Christensen (donor Ian Cummings' mentor at Harvard University) by Galena Perova in the business school's Christensen Center.

For the ultimate treat, the spectacular new Marcia and John Price Museum Building housing the Utah Museum of Fine Arts can't be beat (see Continuum, Summer 2001). An hour of sauntering through the guava-colored halls viewing the museum's collections makes it easier somehow to confront a task-filled afternoon.

Linda Marion BFA'67 MFA'71 is managing editor of Continuum.

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