Written by Mayor Jon Pike
The late Robin Williams once observed that “Spring is nature’s way of saying ‘Let’s party!'” Here in southern Utah, those “parties” include softball tournaments and other sporting events, concerts, “D” Week, and for the past 36 years, the St. George Arts Festival.
For many living in and out of southern Utah, Easter Weekend at the St. George Arts Festival heralds the end of winter. It is a chance to come to Town Square to enjoy what is usually beautiful spring weather and what is always beautiful art! Each year, artists new to the festival come to display (and hopefully sell) their treasures, and over the past eight years that I’ve been involved, I’ve heard these artists consistently marvel at the wonderful place we live in and express how happy they are to be “in the show.”
Some of my favorite pieces over the years have been Matt Clark’s amazing sculptures created out of all types of metal and steel parts, Roland Lee’s paintings of southern Utah (and other) landscapes, Al Rounds’ paintings of pioneer and religious buildings and icons, and other artists’ beautiful and creative pottery, stained/fused glass, jewelry, and of course, photography.
Besides the artwork, there is a constant parade of performers on the stage, and a host of food vendors in the west parking lot. I always love to see young children and youth performing in their groups and gaining experience that will prepare them for opportunities within and outside of southern Utah in the future. One of my favorites is always the John Houston Choir; I am thrilled if I get to hear them sing their awesome version of U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”
For the children, there’s the opportunity for carousel rides, arts, crafts, and playing in the water features. Surrounding the area are sculptures of characters such as the “puffed up” Frog Prince and Princess, Little Squirt (the aspiring fireman), the Sandman (sand bagger), and Flight Time (swinging children) just to name a few. These sculptures have become a beloved (and much photographed) part of our downtown landscape and are all the result of purchases over time from Art Around the Corner’s annual outdoor sculpture gallery.
And of course, we have the year-round backbone of our arts district, the amazing private art galleries on and near Main Street that open their shops and bring some of their pieces outside during the spring, extending the festival atmosphere to include all of downtown.
Study after study has shown that an investment in the arts brings positive economic impact to a city. I am convinced of this after my twenty years of watching this occur in St. George. A strong arts presence also deters crime and provides a positive creative outlet for young and old. We will continue to host the Arts Festival and support other events held downtown and elsewhere in our city that bring people together and highlight individuals and businesses. Such events broaden our view, strengthen our sense of community, and deepen our appreciation of the talents and abilities of our friends and neighbors.
In a few months, we will reopen the renovated Electric Theater and the adjacent building. These buildings will offer yet another venue for performing and visual artists.
I hope we all will take the opportunity to visit the art galleries and attend events such as the Arts Festival, Art Walk on Main, and soon the George Streetfest on Main on the first Friday of each month. They give people of all ages and interests an opportunity to learn, enjoy themselves, and connect with people.
Have a wonderful Spring!