Written by David Louis / published in St George News / August 23, 2020
Quickly becoming known as a destination to see, participate in and enjoy art, each year St. George residents and visitors can enjoy an ever-changing collection of metal sculptures that dot the city from uptown to downtown.
South Jordan resident Richard Prazen, a metalworker and artist takes great joy anytime he can showcase his sculptures for St. George’s Art Around the Corner’s annual Outdoor Sculpture Galleries collection.
One sculpture added through the efforts of the local nonprofit foundation Art Around the Corner, “Jules Vern II” can now be pondered over by art enthusiasts near the main terminal of the St. George Regional Airport.
The piece has been on display in the outdoor sculpture gallery at Town Square Park, but was recently moved to the airport where it will have the honor of a permanent home.
The work is the creation of South Jordan resident artist Richard Prazen.
The sculpture is a towering steampunk-style airship. Hard to describe, it harkens back to the days of air travel in blimps and dirigibles, where the dress code was petticoats, suits, top hats and canes.
The difference is that a steampunk-style airship sculpture combines fanciful imagery of gears, chains, propellers, wings, steam-powered engines and submarines while stretching the artistic envelope by stringing well-armed pirate ships below the blimps and Zeppelins.
Jules Vern II has a mix of “look at me” functional components that move and spin in the wind that gives the sculpture the illusion of flight, much like the movement of a weathervane atop a quintessential midwestern barn.
“These really add beautiful details,” Prazen said. “A piece like this is meant to create wonder, but it’s just fun to combine everything together in the final work of art.”
Prazen, 67, a third-generation artist, blacksmith and sculptor, has been creating art and welded architectural metalwork for more than 50 years. Among his other accomplishments is an instructor of metal sculpture at Salt Lake Community College.
Richard Prazen’s sculptures have been commissioned by patrons such as the United States Air Force Thunderbirds and Salt Lake City’s Lagoon Amusement Park. Each piece is crafted with great care.
His approach to sculpture combines pragmatism with a sense of adventure and the feeling that anything is possible.
“It’s pretty important to start with a plan,” he said. “You’ve got to have some kind of a visual plan to work from. It starts from one place, but it can also keep growing in the vision and the creation. When I’m working on a piece there is a certain amount of winging it … but there is a plan to start with.”
Along with the personal connection to his creations, Prazen said the appreciation of art is something to pass along to the next generation.
“It’s great to get adults, but mostly children thinking about cool … unconventional ideas … transformed into art,” he said. “It’s definitely a journey, definitely a discovery.”
Marianne Hamilton, chairman of the board of directors with Art Around the Corner, agrees that art is meant to be passed along to future generations.
“It’s very exciting for the kids,” Hamilton said. “They love to make art … and we are hoping through this we will create the artists of the future.”
The Art Around the Corner’s Foundation’s goal is to support the arts, enrich the community and bring fine arts to St. George that can be celebrated by local residents and out-of-town visitors.
“Oh wow,” said 10-year-old Elizebeth Taylor, standing in front of a gigantic metal guitar in Town Square Park.
The Taylor family, on vacation from Australia prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, was in “awe” of the art, galleries and one special ice cream shop downtown – Thomas Judd’s Store.
Dan Hill’s “Reflections,” one of this year’s outdoor metal sculptures in Art Around the Corner’s collection.
“When we saw (Dan Hill’s Reflections), Lizzie couldn’t stop giggling, (saying) ‘mommy she looks just like me,’ ” said Brittany, Elizebeth’s mom, as her daughter noticed the little girl’s angelic face staring into a handmirror. “How did they get a picture of me?”
Mom couldn’t come up with an adequate answer to satisfy her daughter’s question, so it was quickly off to an ice cream cone with Elizebeth’s name on it to distract from the perpetual follow-up question “why mommy.”
The foundation’s flagship project is the Outdoor Sculpture Galleries, a collection of sculptures from nationally renowned artists.
The foundation is supported in part by the city of St. George, along with Recreational, Arts, and Parks Tax funding, annual city and county acquisitions of artwork, along with numerous sponsors and donors within the community and beyond its borders.
Each year, Art Around the Corner installs approximately 25-30 new sculptures and pieces of three-dimensional art in downtown St. George along with a portion of the collection at Dixie Regional Medical Center.
The works are created by nationally renowned artists who agree to loan them to the city of St. George for one year. All pieces are available for purchase or lease. In its 16 years, the foundation has made possible the sales of more than $1 million in pieces of art to a variety of buyers.
Along with Jules Vern II, Prazen has another sculpture, “Window in Time” located on the corner of Main and Tabernacle streets near the Wells Fargo Bank downtown.