Utah Establishes First Art Agency

November 8, 2023

Utah has a rich arts culture history that endures in our state today and much of it is because of the efforts of men and women like Alice Merrill Horne. Alice was the fourth woman and third female state representative elected to the Utah State Legislature. She is referred to as “Utah’s First Lady of the Arts” due to her passion and work establishing the first state-sponsored art agency in the United States. 

Several of Alice’s descendants have continued her legacy, opening an art gallery in downtown Salt Lake City, focused on bringing the joy of art into homes and businesses across the state. Award-winning artist Phyllis Horne and her daughter Karen Horne not only displayed and sold their own art, but offered an extensive collection of original pieces by other Utah artists. After more than 20 years of operation, Horne Fine Art recently closed. 

In 1899, Alice’s art bill established the Utah Institute of Fine Arts, now known as the Utah Division of Arts and Museums. Her bill also included funding for what would become the Utah Symphony, which is a cornerstone of the performing arts. Her bill passed unanimously through the Senate, showing impressive influence for someone who was a teaching school the year before. Today, her legacy continues through the Alice Art Collection, which consists of over 1,400 artworks valued at over $9 million.

“I’m proud of our state’s history of supporting the arts and impressed by the passion and tenacity of Alice Horne to create the first state art institute,” said Sen. Jen Plumb. “Art is an important part of any society and I hope to see Utah’s legacy of supporting the arts continue into the future.”

The numerous contributions Alice and her family have made to Utah are immense. Because of her advocacy, Utah led the nation in understanding and appreciating the impact art can have on the culture of a region. 

Alice’s legacy is best represented by her belief that “If you really want to learn what art is, live with it.” She only served in the legislature for two years, yet continued to push for government-supported art in the community after she left. Alice helped form over 30 collections of Utah art in public schools so that all children, rich or poor, would have direct contact with original art.

Since Horne Fine Art has closed its doors, the Senate wants to thank the Horne family for helping inspire others to see art with the same admiration as Alice and for their passion that has continued to shape our community for over a century.

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