Agency History #369


The Utah Art Institute, precursor to the Division of Fine Arts, was created in March 1899 by the Third Utah Legislature; its "object being to advance the interests of the fine arts, develop the influence of art in education and to foster the introduction of art in manufactures" (Laws of Utah, 1899, chapter 29). Thus the first state arts agency in the nation was established. By 1979 the agency was more commonly known and referred to as the Utah Arts Council (UAC), even though the official name remains the Division of Fine Arts.


The UAC is mandated to: "(a) cooperate with and locally sponsor federal agencies and projects directed to similar undertakings; (b) develop the influence of arts in education; (c) involve the private sector, including businesses, charitable interests, educational interests, manufacturers, agriculturalists, and industrialists in these endeavors; (d) utilize broadcasting facilities and the power of the press in disseminating information; and (e) foster, promote, encourage, and facilitate, not only a more general and lively study of the arts, but take all necessary and useful means to stimulate a more abundant production of an indigenous art in this state" (Utah Code, 9-6-201). Accordingly, the UAC acts as steward for the state's art collections, which include the following: the Utah State Alice Art Collection, the Folk Art Collection and the Public Art Collection.

The 1899 inception of the Utah State Alice Art Collection coincides with the beginnings of the Utah Art Institute for good reason--both were instituted by the passage of arts advocate Alice Merrill Horne's Senate Bill 86. The bill directed that a competition and exhibition for Utah artists be held each year with selected art purchased for the permanent state collection. By 1999, the collection was comprised of over eleven hundred works of paintings, sculptures, prints, photographs, and fine crafts. The Folk Art and Public Art Collections were established later, 1980 and 1985 respectively.


The UAC's chief administrative officer is a director appointed by the executive director of the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) (Agency 181) with the agreement of the UAC Board of Directors. The UAC board is comprised of thirteen members appointed by the governor to four-year terms of office with the advice and consent of the Senate. The board makes policy for the division, receives gifts, bequests, and property for the state, and issues certificates, prizes, and awards for works of art and achievement in the arts.

Nine of the thirteen board members must be working artists in the following areas: visual arts; architecture or design; literature; music; sculpture; folklore or folk arts; theater; dance; and media arts. The remaining four board members are citizens at large with some knowledge or experience in the arts. The board members serve on a voluntary basis, receiving no compensation or benefits for their services.


The Utah Art Institute underwent its first name change in 1937 when the legislature changed the name to the Utah State Institute of Fine Arts. At this same time the board was enlarged from seven to thirteen members. The creation of the National Endowment for the Arts in 1965 increased public appropriations to state-supported programs and led to an extensive growth period. In 1967 the institute became the Division of Fine Arts within the newly-formed Department of Development Services. During this same year, the Division acquired its first paid staff members--a director and a secretary. Before this time, it was administered solely by the board. By 1979 the Division was re-organized within DCED.

Wilburn C. West, 1967-1974
Ruth Draper, 1974-1985
Carol Nixon, 1985-1991
Bonnie H. Stephens, 1991-present

COMPILED BY: Anissa O. Taylor, October 2001


Division of Fine Arts. Agency history records, (Series 20107).

Division of Fine Arts. Annual reports, (Series 83691).

Division of Fine Arts. Publications, (Series 23230).

Legislature. Laws of Utah, Chapter 29, 1899, (Series 81355).

Legislature. Utah Code Unannotated, 1982-2001, (Series 1052).

Nixon, Carol. "Utah Arts Council," Utah State Historical Society Utah History To Go. Home page on-line. Available from http://www.utahhistorytogo.org/utaharts.html; Internet; accessed 13 September 2001.

Utah Arts Council. "Brief History of the Utah Arts Council," Utah Arts Council. Home page on-line. Available from http://arts.utah.org/history.html; Internet; accessed 21 August 2001.

Page Last Updated July 2, 2003.