By Traci Bishop and Andrew Hislop
Art and trains connected in Helper last Friday, as they have since the town was founded in the 1880’s, as a work depot for the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. Artists have rode the trains out west, since the railroad survey bill of 1853 authorized exploration of the best route for the transcontinental railroad.
Three expeditions to explore the southern section of the Utah Territory were accompanied by four talented artists. Gwinn Harris Heap accompanied the first expedition, Richard Kern the second, Frederick W Von Egloffstein and Solomon Nune Carvalho the third. On May.10,1869, the Central Pacific Railroad connected with the Union Pacific Railroad at Promontory Point Utah, completing the Transcontinental Railroad. This historic joining of the west coast with the east coast was celebrated at the Golden Spike.
This exhibition worked in conjunction with the Spike 150 Anniversary and features the talented work of 14 Utah artists at Anne Jespersen Fine Arts. Each piece depicts Helper’s well-known and extensive history with the railroad. The doors of the gallery were thrown wide promptly at 4 p.m. to begin welcoming patrons to view the exhibit.
Spike 150 commemorates one of our nation’s greatest achievements with celebrations in cities across the state. In Helper, Spike 150 combined with the Helper Project to celebrate both the railroad and our local artists.
“Famous artists images in the catalogue echo contemporary painters viewpoints of Helper and its connection to the railroad,” said Anne Jespersen, local artist and founder of the Helper Project.
Two recently discovered murals by John MacQuarrie [1871-1944], are on display in her studio. One depicts Abraham Lincoln and railroad magnate Leland Stanford at the signing of the Pacific Railroad Bill, the other the building of the causeway over the Great Salt Lake. This blending of vintage and modern art is visible throughout the gallery.
Those that missed Friday’s exhibition need not to worry. There will be many opportunities to view the pieces as the exhibit runs through Aug. 2. This particular exhibition is the annual fundraiser for “The Helper Project,” whose mission is to revitalize, beautify and create cultural connections in Helper City.