Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of Alice Merrill Horne’s birth!
“Utah’s First Lady of the Arts”
Born in a log cabin in Fillmore, Utah in 1868, Alice Merrill Horne went on to make extraordinary contributions to her state. The authors of Artists of Utah (1999) describe her as “one of the most active civic and cultural movers that Utah has ever called citizen”.
In 1898, Alice Merrill Horne ran for the 3rd Utah Legislature specifically to advance an arts agenda. Once elected, she authored the legislation to create the Utah Arts Institute (forerunner to the present-day Utah Arts Council). This established the first state-sponsored arts agency in the nation. She established an annual statewide visual arts competition through which paintings would be purchased for a permanent state arts collection. This collection, originally dubbed the Alice Art Collection, now numbers over 1,200 pieces, and is valued in the millions. In early 2018, the Utah State Legislature unanimously passed a bill renaming the collection, the “State of Utah Alice Merrill Horne Collection”.
Alice’s support and promotion of early Utah artists took many forms. She formed 37 collections of Utah Art in public schools, so that all children, no matter their parent’s means, would have direct contact with original art. Over the decades she presented hundreds of fine art exhibitions in various venues, including her own gallery in the Avenues, the Newhouse Hotel, the ZCMI Tiffin Room, and Zion’s Bank. Her efforts were two-fold – to provide the artists with income, and to enrich the cultural life of the state.
Beyond the arts agenda, Alice Merrill Horne was a civic-minded visionary. She penned legislation setting aside the land grant for the University of Utah. She was an early preservationist and environmentalist, helped save Eagle Gate from demolition, and fought for clean air.
An accomplished artist in her own right, Alice Merrill Horne, was the mother of six children, and inspired a passion for art among many of her descendants. Karen Horne, her great-granddaughter, recalls being influenced by the early Utah Impressionists in the family collection. Karen feels her roots as a colorist hark back to her early exposure to those vibrant paintings.