In Memoriam: Salt Lake City
Completing the Last Masterpiece
Remembering Bevan Chipman
by Kindra Fehr
Those of us who knew Bevan Chipman knew a man who dedicated his life to people. We knew him as the social worker that guided many, as the traveling painter who loved to ask directions if only for the opportunity to engage in conversation with the locals, and as the man who befriended, painted and so generously gave to the Sudanese population in Salt Lake City. We know that he accomplished much from being instrumental in starting the Avenues Street Fair to serving on the board of the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company.
How one lives can often be reflected in how one dies. So it was of my dear friend, Bevan, who passed away in September due to cancer. He and I had been friends for many years, traveling to Eastern Europe together, crossing paths daily at our studios in the Rockwood building, and exercising at the same gym. The last seven months of Bevan’s life, I was honored to be able to spend Sunday dinners with him. Through this process, I witnessed first hand that Bevan’s death was handled just as his life was, and getting ready for this end of life journey differed little from the way he would prepare for an art show. He was completing his ultimate masterpiece and paying attention to each and every detail.
In early 2007, Bevan realized that chemo and radiation were not likely to cure his cancer, so he chose to forego treatment and retain the quality of life that he could. He also chose to accept and go very consciously to the other side and set out systematic goals to accomplish this.
Bevan’s first concern was to move out of the studio where he had painted for many years. For the April 2007 open studio at Rockwood, he instructed me to sell everything: furniture, paintings, and his collection of penguins. He divided up his supplies and donated them to other artists and children's organizations; he donated paintings, both his and some of the collection he kept at the studio, to Art Access and the Salt Lake County collection. His art books went to the University of Utah art library. He made arrangements to have the remainder of his art collection, which included works by LeConte Stewart, Gaell Lindstrom, Orsal Allred, Earl Jones and Dennis Phillips, donated to the Fairview Museum of Art.
Once his studio was moved, Bevan set out preparing for the inevitable. He wrote his obituary. I typed it. He read aloud the typed version, refining it until it was just as he wanted it. He planned his funeral and recorded a conversation about his life with Tom Goldsmith. He passed out copies of this to friends and visitors as they stopped by to see him. In planning his funeral, he was very specific as to how long each of us was to speak and the general idea of what the content of our talk should be. He chose a headstone and included what everyone who has ever known Bevan has said about him: “he was a nice guy.” And then, amidst preparing to leave, Bevan found new life and a few things that he wanted to live for before departing.
In 2002 while visiting Ruth Lubbers at Art Access gallery, Bevan saw a photo of a Sudanese refugee living in Salt Lake City. He instantly knew that he wanted to paint these women and began arrangements to meet them. Upon meeting them, his life was changed. Not only did he enjoy painting them, but he enjoyed them: their culture, their songs, their children. And they all took to Bevan as well. In May of 2004, The Women was exhibited at the Forum Gallery with a grand opening celebrating Sudanese culture including song, food, and colorful attire. Profits were used to establish a scholarship fund for the children. Before his passing and with the help of his nephew, Paul, Bevan set up additional scholarship funds for the children of his Sudanese friends.
After a few years of continued friendship, Nyayien, one of the Sudanese women, was due to have her seventh son and asked if she could name him “Bevan.” Bevan never had children of his own and was deeply touched and honored to be bestowed this privilege. And, he wanted to live long enough to meet the new little “Bevan.” He gathered gifts, blankets, diapers, his own little bronzed baby shoes, special toys from his childhood, and anything else that he thought would let this little boy know the man who was his namesake. Baby Bevan was due September 8th which turned out to be the day that Bevan passed but he was born 5 weeks early and the two were able to meet. They were photographed together, and Bevan was able to personally bestow all these gifts upon him. One week before his passing, Bevan called Susan Quaal, volunteer coordinator for the south Sudanese community of refugees, insisting that he must see the baby. It took 2 to 3 hours to set up babysitting arrangements for the other children and transportation before we were able to arrive at the care center. Bevan called repeatedly, afraid that we wouldn’t arrive in time. We arrived and he was able to once again hold little Bevan. All the nurses came in to see the baby, as Bevan had won the hearts of the staff at the center. We had a short but nice visit, took more pictures, and a left a very exhausted but peaceful and fulfilled Bevan.
Although he had always held an interest in the arts and was an avid collector, Bevan didn’t really begin painting until he became a school counselor in 1967. This gave him free summers to travel and the opportunity to pick up the brush and paint. Upon retirement in 1995, he dedicated his life to art. He rented a studio space, studied with the best instructors locally and internationally, including Burton Silverman, Martha Manns, Earl Jones, and Ken Baxter. He continued to exhibit regularly in group and solo shows. Just as he was quitting chemo treatment, the Utah Arts Festival called Bevan to ask him for an exhibit. Knowing that his painting days were limited, he suggested a retrospective. As he arranged to borrow paintings from collectors, he hoped that he might still be around to see the exhibit, which was months away in August. I believe his appearance opening night was one of his last outings. Yet, he made it just as he had hoped to.
After his interview with Tom Goldsmith, Bevan realized that there was more he wanted to say, more he wanted to leave behind, and he decided that he would like to put together a book of his life and paintings. I bought him a hand held digital recorder and instructed him to start talking. It was upon meeting Meg Brady, through Claudia Sisemore, that new life came back to him. Meg is an English professor at the University of Utah and a specialist in recording oral histories. She came every morning for weeks recording Bevan's life story. My Sunday visits now became about making notes of stories that he wanted to remember to tell Meg. He pulled out all of his slides and sorted them into bags of which travel they were from and the three of us set down to look at them and decide which were “bookworthy.” One day, during the interview, he finished a story and he and Meg looked at each other and knew that it had all been told. Meg and I were left with very specific instructions to complete this book and our last words to him two hours before his passing were "It will be done and it will be beautiful." Although he isn’t here to see this last project completed, his friends and fans have yet to see one more of his works come to life.
Bevan had told me that he’d like to go in the fall. He passed on September 8th. When I asked, he said, “No I’m not scared” and that actually “I’m excited to see what’s next.” He lived his life and his death just as he wanted to. For me, it was a wonderful, although difficult, journey to witness. In our culture, there is a denial about death and it was refreshing and inspiring to see a man step into it consciously and with dignity.
Bevan was giving and guiding and making plans until the end just as he had been doing for 72 years. John Donne's poem, "For Whom the Bell Tolls", one of Bevan's favorites poems sums up how he lived his life and his love for others.
No man is an island,
/ Entire of itself.
/ Each is a piece of the continent,
/ A part of the main. / If a clod be washed away by the sea, / Europe is the less.
/ As well as if a promontory were. / As well as if a manner of thine own
/ Or of thine friend's were.
/ Each man's death diminishes me, / For I am involved in mankind.
/ Therefore, send not to know
/ For whom the bell tolls,
/ It tolls for thee.
In honor of Bevan, food donations to his Sudanese friends are needed and welcomed. Please contact Susan Quaal at 363-1228.
Public Issues: Ely, Nevada
How to Save a Small Town . . . with Art: The Ely Mural Project
by Amanda Moore
Next time you head out for a weekend to Wendover, consider going a little further south to the charming town of Ely, Nevada. One of the first things you will notice driving in on the Great Basin Highway is that the town of Ely is covered in murals. This is no accidental fad; this was a brilliant step to keep the once prospering mining community from becoming another of Nevada’s many ghost towns.
Started as a dream to improve the façade of downtown Ely, the project has developed into the Ely Renaissance Society (ERS). In addition to creating and commissioning murals and outdoor sculptures, the group has purchased and restored the Geraghty property, a group of small homes originally built for railroad workers to live with their families in 1907. The homes then became rental properties for people working in the mines and finally became the home of the heiress to the property, Melba Geraghty. She lived on the property until she was 94. In 2005, the Ely Renaissance Society purchased the entire village and began restoring it and creating an art center and future space for artist residencies.
In 1999, the last of the operational mines owned by BHP literally pulled out almost overnight, and 500 people lost their jobs. Within one year, Ely lost 1000 residents, almost a fifth of the population. The town was well on its way to becoming just another dying community.
Virginia Terry, |1| a lifelong resident, local business owner, educator and engineer of the mural project, and others in the community wondered how they could convince anyone to invest in their town when it looked, well, dead. A local storeowner remembered a small town she had visited, Chemainus, British Columbia, that had murals painted on all the downtown buildings. The group started researching this town and other small towns that used murals and how they helped breathe life into communities. From that one idea the mural project began. Not limiting themselves to just the homegrown artists of Ely, they had murals painted by artists from China, Canada, California, Arizona, and Utah. Some they recruited, but others came to them. Lorraine Clark, owner of Clark Publishing and involved in the mural project since the beginning, said, “It was like we had guardian angels with us every step of the way. Once we had to order some tool and we had no idea where to look for it and I swear I went to our post office box that day and there was a catalog with exactly what we needed. Never heard of the company before, never ordered from them before but there it was."
The murals became such a hit that local businesses like the Hotel Nevada |2| began paying artists to paint murals on their buildings inside and out. The murals depicted the past and present of Ely and became a celebration of the small town and its diverse culture. They did such a wonderful job with the project that Global Arts and Tourism had their semiannual mural conference in Ely in 2004.
When coming up with a mission statement and slogan for the ERS, the group only had to look at the community around themselves. “Where the world met and became one” is on the front of all of the ERS literature, and it is evident in both the styles and subject matter of the murals as well as the decorations inside the small homes of the Ely Renaissance Village. People from Italy, England, France, Spain, Greece, China and the Balkan Peninsula came to Ely for the promise of work on the rail and American citizenship. Because of all of the different nationalities, religions, and languages, the one common holiday became the Fourth of July, which is to this day THE HOLIDAY in Ely.|3| Besides a parade to rival every big city’s within a day’s drive, alumni from the White Pine County High School hold huge reunion parties, the Nevada Northern Railway takes several trips to the Village, and the Renaissance society holds a fundraiser complete with an auction of some of the antique treasures found in the village during the restoration.|4 -5| They also feature products made in White Pine County like sodas, wine, and beer from the White Pine Brewing Company. This year, one of the more exciting auction items was an unopened Christmas gift from the 1920s. It raised a thousand dollars and ended up being two prints of landscape paintings with price tags on the back for $1.30.
It has been important for the ERS to not just help cultivate art in Ely but also assist with new businesses and development. Their original goal was to help make Ely a thriving town again, and they don’t forget it. When JC Penney gave notice they were pulling out of Main Street Ely along with the Post Office in 2004, the group moved into action. They could not allow the downtown to become a series of empty storefronts, so a group of business owners and town leaders formed their own corporation, Community Owned Mercantile Project, Inc, and raised $400,000 by selling stock at $500 a share to investors from across Nevada. They opened up the Garnet Mercantile in the old JC Penney building. Mural artist and Salt Lake City native, Anthony Ithuralde (ERS’s current artist in residence)|6| painted the façade of the building to look like an art deco structure of the 1920’s or 30’s. He is currently finishing a Greek mural that is installed in the windows on the side of the building.|7|
Since its inception, the ERS has raised nearly half a million dollars for all of their projects and they have high hopes for the future of the ERS and Ely. Starting in 2008, they will begin a Farmer’s Market at the Village and are hoping to open up more studio space for artists in the near future. There are currently three artists working in the village. They also hope to acquire some other nearby buildings in need of restoration and maybe down the road have a bed and breakfast, or at least a place for visiting artists to stay. The town of Ely is refusing to sit idly by as big business makes drastic choices regarding this small town. They are taking the reins of their own future, and they are using art as an impetus. If you are interested in being involved in the Mural Project or are interested in what the town of Ely and the Ely Renaissance Society has to offer, please check out these websites.