Ephraim City Evicts Central Utah Art Center
CUAC Board views eviction as censorship
July 18, 2012 -- Ephraim, UT -- After 20 years in Ephraim´s Pioneer Square, the Central Utah Art Center (CUAC) received a surprise eviction from the Mayor and Council of Ephraim City on June 20, 2012. Without warning, the government of Ephraim has given notice for CUAC to vacate the building that the CUAC saved from impending demolition and converted into a leading venue for contemporary art in the State of Utah. Although the eviction letter claims lack of support for local arts education and artists, the CUAC Board of Directors views the eviction as a response to the artwork that CUAC exhibited and an attempt to censor the material in a way that violates First Amendment rights.
In conversations with their constituents, the Mayor, City Manager, and several Council members of Ephraim have commented that they feel CUAC exhibitions aren´t "Sanpete appropriate." Contemporary art of the caliber that CUAC has exhibited is not always intended for viewing by minors, but the CUAC Board maintains that the residents of Sanpete County and the state of Utah deserve exposure to art that challenges, compels, and elevates a viewer who has reached maturity. "That the surprise eviction comes at a time when CUAC is exhibiting three photographs which depict women´s breasts in an exhibition that explores racially-based civil injustices is no coincidence," said CUAC Director Adam Bateman. "Ephraim City has moved to censor the artwork available to the people of Sanpete County."
In 1992, Ephraim City planned to raze the ZCMI Granary and co-op building at Ephraim´s Pioneer Square. A group of citizens raised money and oversaw renovations to save the buildings and start the Central Utah Art Center. At that time, CUAC was a co-operative gallery that showed Sanpete County artists, received approximately 450 visitors annually, and received free rent from Ephraim City. In 2005, CUAC´s focus turned from exclusively showing local artists to exhibiting the best of local, national, and international contemporary artists, a move which brought international recognition, a tenfold increase in financial support, and a twenty-fold increase in visitors (9,000 annually). Ephraim City increased their support of CUAC at that time to include $30,000 annually. CUAC operates under a $130,000 annual budget, the majority of funds coming from private donors and foundation support which includes the prestigious Andy Warhol Foundation.
CUAC has a history of supporting local artists and local arts education. Over the last seven years, 32% of artists exhibiting at CUAC have been from Sanpete County. CUAC has offered classes that target elementary students, occurring an average of more than twice a month for approximately 15 students each. CUAC has also developed a curriculum and been in conversation with Ephraim Elementary School and Snow College to implement an arts education program in the school that would benefit 300 elementary students at least eight times per semester, scheduled to begin this school year. CUAC has also provided art scholarships and internships for Snow College students, and organized and funded travel and accommodations for four or five visiting lecturers per semester for Snow College´s Visiting Lecture Series.
CUAC´s contemporary art format not only brought more visitors to Ephraim, who, together with CUAC, spend approximately $200,000 a year in Ephraim, but also artwork from internationally-acclaimed artists like Julian Opie, Kerry James Marshall, Jack Smith, Bek Stupak, Rashawn Griffin, Xaviera Simmons, Mariah Robertson, Angela Ellsworth, and Andrea Galvani. This list includes artists who have exhibited in the Whitney Biennial, the Venice Biennale, the Guggenheim, MoMA, UMFA, Getty Center, and the Saatchi Gallery, artists who have been featured on the seminal televised art series Art 21, and artists who have received many residencies and awards, including prestigious Guggenheim fellowships. While exhibiting internationally-acclaimed artists, 32% of CUAC´s exhibiting artists were from Sanpete County, providing an unparalleled opportunity for Utah´s best local artists to be associated with the world´s most celebrated contemporary artists.
The CUAC Board intends to follow the instructions of the eviction letter while continuing to examine legal options available. The CUAC is evaluating alternative locations for the Art Center´s permanent home and plans to sponsor a series of pop-up exhibitions in Utah in the interim.
A private "Farewell, Ephraim" event has been scheduled at the current CUAC location at 8pm on Saturday, August 18, which will include dancing, a live DJ, and a screening of Footloose. Free tickets to the event are available by emailing email@example.com; please include your name and number of guests. CUAC´s pARTy Bus will be available to transport CUAC supporters to and from the event. PARTy Bus tickets are $15 and include transportation, video art, and free drinks; tickets available at cuartcenter.org. The Bus will depart Salt Lake City´s 1300 South TRAX station parking lot at 5:30pm, and depart Ephraim at 11:30pm.