Center for Latter-day Saint Arts

Journal

Board members and participants capture behind-the-scenes activities of the Center for Latter-day Saint Arts in frequent posts.

Podcast transcription: Laura Allred Hurtado: Her Years at the Church History Museum

Glen Nelson: Hello everybody and welcome to another episode of the Centers Studio podcast. I'm your host Glen Nelson. I'm here at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art with Laura Allred Hurtado, the newly-named Executive Director of the museum in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah. She's curated for the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, CUAC contemporary Nox Contemporary, the Granary Art Center, Rio Gallery, and the UMOCA. Previously she worked for six years as the global acquisitions curator of the Church History Museum, until the end of March, 2019. I thought it would be interesting to review your tenure at the Church History Museum. Does that sound good?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yes.

 

Glen Nelson: It's kind of a wrap up of your, of your years there. We'll try to see if hindsight really is 2020 and discuss lessons learned. All right, here we go. There will be listeners who are unfamiliar with the Church History Museum. So where is it and how did you describe it to people?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: So the Church History Museum is located on West Temple, across from Temple Square. It has a threefold mission. It's both a history museum and an art museum. And overarching that it's a religious museum. Its mission is to tell the history of the Church both through artifacts and through kind of nuts and bolts history, but also through our work and through exhibitions.

 

Glen Nelson: So you were hired there, it was it six years ago?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah, six and a half years ago.

 

Glen Nelson: When you arrived, I think they had just begun to renovate the museum. Did they change their mandate of what the museum was going to be about after that?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: So it was a few years after I arrived, maybe a year, year and a half, we closed for good year to renovate the history exhibition. So the exhibition downstairs was called "Covenant Restored," and it had been up for about 30 years. So it could almost date to the time of when it opened. I can't remember. It could have also been the exhibition that opened with the museum. But it told the history of the Church really quickly. In a matter of just a few square feet you got from the founding to Harold B. Lee, and that is just a lot of ground to cover. And so the museum had been tasked and that task predated me. It was a project that I arrived into with a revamping that exhibition and really committing to kind of slowing down and telling a more nuanced history of the Church. And so they start with the Awakening wall. So that religious revival that was happening in the 19th century, and then they end with essentially two years past the martyrdom of Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith.

 

Glen Nelson: And that's the "Heavens Are Opened" exhibition. At the time of the reopening, so this would have been September 30th or so, 2015, Reid Neilson, the Managing Director of the Church History Department said to the press, “Every new generation asks different questions of our history. The goal of the Church History Museum is to build the faith of the next generation of Latter-day Saints and to help others outside of our faith understand that journey.” Does that sound familiar?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah.

 

Glen Nelson: How has your work been consistent with that goal? Or did you have additional points of focus? So if that goal was for generations of the Saints to understand their own faith and for others outside of the faith to understand their history.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah, that's a good question.

 

Glen Nelson: Well, thank you.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Well, I will say that for "The Heavens Are Opened", I really played something more of an advisory role or an ancillary role. It was really driven by the educators and the historians that organize that kind of exhibition. I advised on the art and where it was placed and ran a few commissions, but it was really driven by a much larger team. But I think your larger question is how did I integrate that idea of talking to an audience of members and both nonmembers.

 

Glen Nelson: Was that part of your mandate, did you feel? Or did you just bring that as an instinct with you, and that pervaded the work that you did?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah, I think that was an instinct. I think, you know, if Reid's talking about it, it's certainly in the air. So in terms of mandate, it wasn't in our, our mission statement.

 

Glen Nelson: And the connection between those is the Church History Department is over the museum.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: That's right. That's right. But it was important to me to think about an inclusive audience or a nuanced audience and to organize exhibitions where we were speaking in multiple voices and having various access points, so that it wasn't just us talking to ourselves. That was something I wanted to be sensitive to, but really being aware of the larger questions that are being asked and the various entrance points our institution could have.

 

Glen Nelson: In addition to the permanent exhibitions that had a historical focus, upstairs there were art exhibitions that any museum could house, in a way. So what I thought we would do is list a few of them and then maybe you could describe some lessons learned through them. Does that sound interesting?

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah.

 

Glen Nelson: At any given time there can be as many as a half dozen exhibitions, if you include children and smaller gallery spaces. Before I get to that, what is the museum team like? How many people are involved with that?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: These are estimated numbers. At the museum...

 

Glen Nelson: Because you blocked it out now that you've left, or never actually knew [laughs].

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: I don't know. Because art historians are not numbers people. I think the staff is about 20, and then there's also part time and then 250 docents.

 

Glen Nelson: That's really large, and those docents are volunteers.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: They're all volunteers, and so many of them had been there a long time. You know, we have educators, there were three curators--two history curators and myself--obviously a director. We had people that were conservators, a large staff of registrars. We have a permanent collection. So we have 40,000 art objects and about a hundred thousand artifacts. In comparison--again, not a numbers person, so I could be wrong--but my understanding when I heard that UMFA director say this I was really taken aback, but I thought she said they had about 7,000 objects in their collection. So we are...

 

Glen Nelson: A large number...

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: ...A very large collection.

 

Glen Nelson: You're going to have to figure out your verb tenses. You keep saying in present tense, you're still there.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Fresh off the boat.

 

Glen Nelson: This new job of being the executive director of the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art just happened three weeks ago.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Three weeks ago. Today's day 14.

 

Glen Nelson: All right. Well, and the building is still standing.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: And the building is still standing.

 

Glen Nelson: So this is a memory lane kind of discussion in a lot of ways. Let's see if we can figure out some lessons learned along that journey. A couple of the things that you've done have been these large scale international art competitions. Have you done two or three of them?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: I did two.

 

Glen Nelson: Two of them. So in 2015, "Tell Me the Stories of Jesus," and then this year's opened just a month ago. Is that correct?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah.

 

Glen Nelson: So what kind of lessons did you learn from those experiences?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: They are big, complicated shows. One of the things that we did when we were developing the structure of the show for 2015--and that structure carried onto 2018--was to really set about a statement about why we do the work we do. The purpose of the art exhibition is to celebrate the breadth and diversity of art making practices by the LDS people. And also the other purpose is to build the collection. So to build the collection through these diverse acquisitions and to diversify the collection. Like many collections, we are really heavily biased towards U.S. white men and...

 

Glen Nelson: Yeah, and it was part of it is low hanging fruit.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah, that's right.

 

Glen Nelson: They're the things that are closest to you or are offered to you.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: That's right. That's right. And it's all museum collections. So it's not an indictment on ours, but the international art competitions started in the 80s was meant to rectify that, and to start thinking really broadly who we are as a people, and to really think outside of the structure of the Wasatch front.

 

Glen Nelson: I think that those shows have been life changing for a lot of people regarding their identity.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah.

 

Glen Nelson: You know, if you talk about being a member of a church that's global, it's kind of hard to really put that into your head and live with it. And this was proof that you're just one person. So I think that's kind of a fascinating thing. What about "Saints at Devil's Gate," 2016? These were three painters, John Burton, Brian, Mark Taylor, and Josh Clair. What was that show about?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: So that show was a series of landscape paintings that took up two galleries, and we were really interested in capturing a story outside of the Martin and Willie handcart companies. I mean, though "Saints at Devil's Gate" does kind of reference that, implicitly. But what we did, and I worked with this very smart curator, Bryon Andreasen, and he looked at old pioneer journals and gathered quotes where the pioneers were talking about the landscape. And so we really wanted to take the lens at the landscape as this kind of sublime experience that the both the pioneers had and that viewers also have. The artists were really smart, and they were thinking about even like Moses and the trail that the Israelites traveled to the promised land. And one of the things they said that stood out to me was, "You know, we're not that far off from pioneer history," where it's still in, you know, in relative time period.

 

Glen Nelson: But the show was contemporary.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: The show was contemporary, and so the paintings were all done on-site within a year or two of when the show opened.

 

Glen Nelson: And they had contemporary power lines, sometimes...

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: That's right.

 

Glen Nelson: And other things, so it was kind of a recontextualization of the pioneer trek experience.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah. And the trail itself is a kind of artifact or a testimony of people's travels there and that the land itself held the ghosts of these moments. And the power of these moments.

 

Glen Nelson: How do the viewers respond to that? Because it's a kind of a different approach to history, in a way.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah, it was really powerful. The other thing that we brought in was notions of the sublime that is tied to, you know, most theories of landscape, most art historical theories of landscape and how that art historical concept of the sublime also applied to just a religious viewing audience. And going back to your original point, it just allowed different access points. So, you know, someone that had no LDS religious background could go in and understand the concepts of the sublime and understand their own experience of feeling overwhelmed or powerful within a sacred space or within a landscape. And in the essay I also drew parallel to Gettysburg. Gettysburg, you go there, and it's not just a park, it's not just the land. That there's this echo of the history and the sacredness of what happened there. And so that's what we were trying to do with "Saints at Devil's Gate."

 

Glen Nelson: When I was in the exhibition a couple of times, I noticed families with children. The children might have heard of some of these places, but it was just too abstract for them. They hadn't visited them. They didn't know what these places were. What is "Far West?" I don't know.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Right.

 

Glen Nelson: And so they were teaching about it. So I mean, even for people inside the faith, I think a lot of these places were unknown to them.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: That's right. And they keep them some tangibility.

 

Glen Nelson: The Church History Museum published a catalog--it was a beautiful book--for this show. Has the Church published a lot of museum catalogs?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: They did quite a few in the 80s and early nineties, but they stopped. So that was the first catalog in maybe about 20 years, is my guess. And it's also the first catalog that was published with The Church Historian's Press. So The Church Historian's Press publishes rigorous academic books, including the Joseph Smith Papers and first 50 years of Relief Society. So that was a departure even for that press and was a real tribute to the Church History department's support of the museum and support the exhibition and desire to kind of expand back into that practice. Reid loves books. So I think that helps. You don't have to put that in, but that...

 

Glen Nelson: It's interesting to me how someone can come into a leadership role, you know, like you have now here at the Museum of Contemporary Art, and affect things.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah.

 

Glen Nelson: I mean you think of these institutions as being self-perpetuating in a way, but that's not really the case. And as I talked with people about your tenure here, many of them commented on the shifts of direction and focus that you initiated, which I'm excited to talk about in just a couple of minutes. But let's do two more exhibitions. One is Harry Anderson, "A Legacy in the Making: The Paint Studies of Harry Anderson." So for someone who is not familiar with who he is, who is he?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Harry Anderson is an artist, an illustrator that was hired by the Church, and particularly an advertisement company called Evans Advertising to do art work for the World's Fair in 1964 in New York City. He lives in Connecticut and was a Seventh Day Adventist, and the works are saturated and are part of our visual lexicon, forevermore. Since that experience, they have just been...

 

Glen Nelson: Every church building has copies of them...

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Every church building, disseminated deeply. And there was some scandal from the Art and Belief movement was emerging at that time, scandal that they had not been chosen, but Harry was chosen and really is an intrinsic part to Mormon culture.

 

Glen Nelson: So then what was the exhibition about?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: All right, so this has a good story.

 

Glen Nelson: We'll see [laughs].

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: So I was standing on the steps of the Brooklyn Museum and was in town for a conference of art museum curators. And I got a call from a woman named Kristin Geddes who said, "Hi my father was Harry Anderson, and I have these prints of his work." That's the word she used, "prints" of his work. "And some drawings. And I just thought maybe you'd be interested. We're, we're getting ready to move. And I thought maybe you'd be interested." And my gut thought, no one needs any more prints of Harry Anderson. We have them everywhere. That's like saying we have a McDonald's hamburger, you know. But then I was so close. she was in Connecticut. I was so close. And so I said, there was just kind of this instinct to push me. There was a curiosity I think involved, in part because she said that there were some drawings. So I said, "Yeah, okay, I'll come." And I showed up and met her--wonderful person--and her son Briggs, and oh, they were not prints. They were these beautiful preparatory studies, and the colors were so much more vibrant than the works that I had known. And the strokes were so much looser, and they really transformed these well-known works into this kind of, there was this beautiful new window into these well-known works and uh, they were so gracious, the family. And we purchased them that week.

 

Glen Nelson: They felt more modern to me.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Totally. Yeah.

 

Glen Nelson: And I think that the art historical experience of being familiar with something and then seeing it in a completely new way...

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: That's right.

 

Glen Nelson: Either because you have more insight into how that object was made or you're seeing it... In this case, these preparatory studies had grids over the top of them so they could be enlarged, like many illustrators historically have done. There were color studies connected to them, and the way it was exhibited, invited people who already had some familiarity with the images to really feel like they were archeologists, you know, like to really be art historians.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: That's right.

 

Glen Nelson: And I hadn't had that experience of that museum before.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: And to trace the difference. We had one of the original paintings in the space, but otherwise, you know, we were relying on a knowing audience that knew them already. They didn't necessarily need... The original was memorized.

 

Glen Nelson: But the funny thing is your mind plays tricks with you.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: That's right.

 

Glen Nelson: Because you think you know it.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: That's right. Yeah. There were quite a few people when the show was up that I could see pulling up the original on their phone and then comparing. And it was a really meaningful acquisition for me and an important one for the museum.

 

Glen Nelson: Well, these images are canonical for the Church. They really are, so that let's say if you have, if you're looking at works in the canon, to find lost works about them... I mean, they're not at a scale--I'm going to use an example of like da Vinci. Obviously they're not da Vinci--da Vinci's relative to say, "Oh, come on over. I've got these preparatory sketches of the Last Supper." That's a kind of a cool thing.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: That's right.

 

Glen Nelson: It must have been fun to work on that show.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Oh, it was so great. And one of the things that stood out to me, again, Kristin's description of it made it sound like they were loose or just reproductions. And there's quite a few artists that when you look at their preparatory studies, you do learn a lot, but that they're really, they're real concepts. They're first drafts. They're very, um..., I find them very interesting, but they're not as, they're not as solidly structured as the Harry Andersons. I mean the Harry Andersons in my mind were nearly completed paintings. I mean, he was meticulous first study in what he was doing. His stroke is much looser than what he finally does. But he put a lot into that.

 

Glen Nelson: Tell me about Jorge Cocco's show of 2018. How did you first hear about this painter from Argentina, and what was the show like?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: So Jorge Cocco comes back to the International Art Competition. He had a piece in the 2015 exhibition called "The Call."

 

Glen Nelson: He's described his style of these things as sacro-cubism. How would you describe his art works? And again, how did this show come about, and what was the show like?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: So I acquired a work from the International Art Competition called "The Call." And it was really a powerful work to me because the narrative structure is very clear, but it's modernist enough that it's really a new take on the idea. And I loved the angles in it, and I love the color, and I loved the kind of structure of it. And I felt like...

 

Glen Nelson: It's Jesus calling...

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: His apostles. And I felt like, we have something here. And I'm going back to this idea of the global Church and expanding the canon, that was an objective for me. That was something that was really important to me. And so I set a goal for myself to acquire one major body of work by a non-US artist a year. And Jorge was the start of that. So I reached out to Amiel...

 

Glen Nelson: That's his son.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: And said, you know, "We really liked 'The Call.' We're very impressed with it." And he said, you know, "My father, for a long time, has dreamed of doing a New Testament series and he just can't do it without a commissioner." And I said, "Well, that's good timing because I am really moved by this work, and let's do it." So they sent me preparatory studies, pencil drawings, and I approved them all. And they sent them really quick and ultimately we ended up acquiring 22 paintings.

 

Glen Nelson: And some of these paintings are of scale.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah. There's two that are 80, 88 inches that are quite large.

 

Glen Nelson: And so then the exhibition was these commissions.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: That's right. They were these commissions, but there was one work that we had commissioned that wasn't in the show. It was of the First Vision and we just showed the New Testament series.

 

Glen Nelson: So what was the public's reaction?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: It was so powerful. I have quite a few people that still come up to me that say, "Have you ever heard of Jorge Cocco? I really like him, he's really taking off." And what they say, there's this feeling of, "I was so ready for him. I had just gotten image fatigue on other works that I was so familiar with."

 

Glen Nelson: There is this saturation. I think, we have artworks in our church buildings and in our homes, too--and I know at my house, if there's an artwork on the wall, and I see it all the time, I stopped looking at it.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: That's right.

 

Glen Nelson: And I think people sort of stop looking at some of these lovely images. And so they were ready for new images.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah. And they were ready to redefine ourselves as part of a global Church. I think not only did they really respond to this style, but they also responded to Jorge's story that here he was an Argentine, and as an Argentine was creating this new and interesting vocabulary. And I think they just felt to be a collective readiness. And Jorge himself said to me, "You know, Laura, you really opened Pandora's box for me," which was I thought, really generous and maybe a little too much credit because I think the collective body was ready for it to be opened. And his work had all the ideas were already worked out. It was just...

 

Glen Nelson: Well, whenever there's a breakthrough of an artist, in hindsight it looked inevitable.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Right.

 

Glen Nelson: But on the other hand, there are a lot of artists who are equally deserving and just don't have the breakthrough.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: That's right.

 

Glen Nelson: So my tendency is to give credit, widely. I live far away from Utah, but people come up to me all the time and want to talk about Jorge's work.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah.

 

Glen Nelson: It's kind of like in America in the early 20th century, how the wealthy industrialists discovered Impressionism of the 1870s. So it was 40 years after the fact. But for them it was new enough to be modern and cool but not so frightening. I mean, they were living, you know, in a contemporary landscape with Picasso and were not adopting that style as their own. So there is a little bit of lag I think.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah.

 

Glen Nelson: But on the other hand, I see this as a progressive thing where people are saying, "I want to be a little bit more forward thinking." Do you see? This is not anti-illustration, it's not that so much, but I think that they are responding to the storytelling of these paintings, but are have had enough exposure to modern art that they feel comfortable in that idiom.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: That's right. There's an entrance point for them, and I think it's not necessarily trading one for the other, but just expanding it and yeah, I agree with what you said.

 

Glen Nelson: Yes. I have said it; it must be true [laughs].

Laura Allred Hurtado: And said it well.

 

Glen Nelson: Yeah, I suspect that that will be edited out. So now you're the executive director of the new museum. Okay. So you've moved an entire block south.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yes. In fact, I had loaded four or five boxes onto a cart and walked them over, a handcart so to speak.

 

Glen Nelson: Your own trek. Okay. So what is UMOCA, and how did you decide to take the new job?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: UMOCA is the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art. It was formerly the Salt Lake Arts Center. It has been around for 90 years. It is one the oldest arts museums in Utah. It was founded by a woman named Alta Jensen and 1931 and has had a few iterations. Then it was called the Art Barn, then Salt Lake Arts Center. It's been on this location on West Temple since the 80s. It is a museum that is committed to experimentation and dialogue and exploration and showing among the most cutting edge artists of our time and exploring the social issues of our time through that artwork.

 

Glen Nelson: Where do your exhibitions come from? Are they shows that you curate or do you come from other institutions?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: UMOCA rarely shows traveling shows, and it doesn't come from permanent collection. So most of the work is borrowed work and exhibitions that they are putting together themselves. In general, they, they put together about the curator, his name is Jared Steffensen and the museum staff, they put together about 22 exhibitions a year.

 

Glen Nelson: They do?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: 22 exhibitions a year! It's crazy. Yeah, it's a ton.

 

Glen Nelson: It's a big space. When you're driving by, you don't realize this scale because some of it is underground.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: That's right. They have an artist-in-residency program where the artists are given a free studio space for a year, and there are curators that we bring in to to talk to them and to do studio visits. And then we also give them a show. So there's an artist-in-residency gallery space, and there's also a program called the Out Loud program that is focused towards LGBTQ youth. And they also have an educational element to them, that program, and the students make art. It's for high school students. And then they also have a show at the end of the year or at the end of the program towards the end of the school year.

 

Glen Nelson: And in the exhibitions, the artists come from all over the place. It's not just a Utah, local thing.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: They come from all over the place. There are Utah artists, and partly what I think is really interesting is that there's a real commitment to showing local artists on par with national, international artists. They're in dialogue, and they have these shared conversations that I think are very interesting.

 

Glen Nelson: So to my question, how did you decided to..., how did this job come to you? Cushy job across the street: satisfying, got to do lots of fun things...

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: It was a hard decision. I really valued my time at the Church History Museum and... Yeah, I mean cushy job in a lot of ways, but...

 

Glen Nelson: I didn't mean that in a negative way.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: No, no.

 

Glen Nelson: You had security.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Just the ability to buy. I had a lot of security and had a nice budget to acquire work and to do research and to organize two or three exhibitions a year and I felt really supported by the staff and by my museum director and by the larger department, so that it felt in a way, kind of like jumping off a bridge. But sometimes that water looks really refreshing, and you're ready to swim.

 

Glen Nelson: Well, a museum director, I mean, those jobs don't come up.

Laura Allred Hurtado: They don't come up. And that opportunity to take that jump and to move in a different direction felt really exciting to me. And UMOCA is an institution I believe in. I really love their mission and have followed them and stayed in contact with them and shown here a few times, organized a few exhibitions here myself, but they're a museum I've stayed in contact with, so it felt like a scary and wonderful opportunity.

 

Glen Nelson: Over the years you've given a number of interviews and presentations about your work and the Church History Museum. The comments that strike me the most are from artists and colleagues who speak about change in Church culture, specifically visual art, culture, and they all reference your influence. I don't want to make you blush, but I'm sure that you've heard comments about you and influence and the Church. So I have a surprise for you. I don't know how much you're gonna like this, but I think you will. I wrote to a number of your colleagues and artists and asked them a simple question, " How has Laura made a difference?"

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Ohhh... [laughs].

 

Glen Nelson: All right, so that was the question. I didn't go beyond that, just those simple words, how have you made a difference. So my plan then for the rest of our interview is to read these aloud to you and then use some of the comments inside of them to kind of tease out a little fuller, a discussion of some of the things that you did at the museum. All right?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Well these are overstated...before I even hear them.

 

Glen Nelson: You have no idea. These could be negative.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Well, that's true. That's true.

 

Glen Nelson: What is the difference? "She made me feel tall." [Laughs.] You have no idea what they're going to say.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Well, that's true. I do that to everyone.

 

Glen Nelson: All right. So, I think our best strategy is I'll say who it is, the person. And then why don't you say a little bit about who this person is. All right? Okay. First up Neylan McBaine. So who is Neylan?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Neylan is a real amazing scholar and influencer. She's in charge of Better Days 2020. She wrote a book called "Women at Church." She's thoughtful, nuanced, committed, and just an amazing person.

 

Glen Nelson: Art collector, herself.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Art collector, herself.

 

Glen Nelson: Here's her comment. I wish I had a video camera because I can see...

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Please stop.

 

Glen Nelson: ...your uncomfortability, but I do think this is...

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: An awkward exercise? [Laughs.]

 

Glen Nelson: No. A lovely tribute. Okay. "Laura has been a vital part of the push to move LDS visual art onto the global stage. She has added external visual vocabularies to our cultural lexicon, and also sent our own stories and visual traditions out into the world to be reinterpreted. She’s done both without fear, and the result has been to strengthen our visual church culture, not dilute it. I feel her work is analogous to President Hinckley's global temple expansion: he brought temples to the people rather than demanding they only come to the existing meccas. And in doing this, he invited the people to have a sacred experience on their own turf and in their own vocabulary." That's an interesting comment. Don't you think? The global idea of hers? So this isn't the first time I've heard your work within LDS culture using the vocabulary of expansion. And her phrase without fear is interesting to me, too. So what aspect of your work at the museum did you find that required courage? That wasn't the question that you thought was going to come out of that.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: No. I think you have to have the courage to ask the right questions. You know, there were quite a few times that I walked into a with a group of men all in suits, 20 plus years older than me and had to speak my opinion and share my opinion, and that took courage, but they were willing to listen, time and time again and, and that built some strength. I also think the Vorst exhibition took a lot of courage. There was some fear about whether it would... how the audience would receive it, what story we were telling, and I could sense, you know, people saying, and I don't mean to use this metaphor again, "We're jumping with you. We're trusting you. We could fall." And also knowing in the back of my mind, you know, I believe this will succeed. I believe this is an important story to tell. I believe we're ready to make some shifts here, but, you know, it could not work out. And so those risks were important for me to take and necessary for me to take.

 

Glen Nelson: With the jumping off metaphor, so what was your safety net? Who were the people there at the museum who allowed that to happen? Because it's not like you could do whatever you wanted...

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: No. Every step had to be approved. That first image that I talked about was going into rooms and getting approval, and I did that time and time again. So for exhibitions, it's the leadership team at the museum, first. And then from there it's Director's Council. And then from there it's EDM. And they increasingly get...

 

Glen Nelson: EDM meaning, Extra...Data...Monthly?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: I have no idea what EDM stands for. Executive Directors Meeting, maybe.

 

Glen Nelson: You Church people love your acronyms.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: They love acronyms, and I never thought to ask what it meant. [Laughs.]

 

Glen Nelson: Okay.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: It was a meeting... [laughs]--isn't that?... Some courage there!--it's a meaning with Elder Snow, and Elder Snow would always have a General Authority that was also with him--Elder Nash, Elder Curtis were all part of that team. They rotated.

 

Glen Nelson: Who was your direct report? That was Alan?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Alan Johnson.

 

Glen Nelson: What would his title be?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: The museum director. And he reported to Reid Neilson, the Managing Director of the Church History Department, who reported to Elder Snow. And sometimes Elder Snow would take things to the advisors, which rotated. But I think at the last turn it was Elder Cook and Elder Renlund. So, you know, it sometimes went up.

 

Glen Nelson: With this hierarchy that you're describing, I'm imagining it as a chart, and I think that some of the surprise in Neylan's comment and other people that I've talked to over the years has been that you've been able to move the needle, given all of that above you.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah. You know, we talked about... One of the things I wanted to mention with "Saints at Devil's Gate" was... We talked about how books really had gone out of fashion. They were just not part of the work that the museum had...

 

Glen Nelson: To publish books?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: To publish books at the museum. For whatever reason, that happened. And this happens with a lot of institutions. You stop asking questions as to why, you know, you get into that flow of "we don't do this," and that's the status quo. And so that's what we don't do. And so I think sometimes it takes a new kid coming in to remember to ask those questions. And I think I had that privilege of being that new kid to say, "I can't remember why, or I don't, I never knew why we don't do this. So I'm going to ask why we don't?"

 

Glen Nelson: That's why disruptors are so effective. They go into a space, not just the arts scene, but generally speaking.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Any space, yeah.

 

Glen Nelson: And they say, "Wait a minute, why is that?"

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: That's right.

 

Glen Nelson: And those questions really end up being powerful.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah.

 

Glen Nelson: All right. The next quotation is from Walter Rane. Who is he?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: This is embarrassing.

 

Glen Nelson: It's not embarrassing. It's a victory lap. You got enjoy it, man.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Walter is a very talented, bright, amazing illustrator, who's influenced the Church visual culture. He does these beautiful paintings that I call Baroque because they have this... Well, I don't know if he'd like that term, but they have this theatricality to it. They have this motion to them, all the time. And he was a beloved painter with a great relationship with Robert Davis and my predecessors. So he's done tremendous work for the Church.

 

Glen Nelson: So Walter said this: "Laura has certainly opened up and broadened the range of visual expression that the Church will consider and acquire. This has sent a message to artists to be more adventurous and creative in their approach to work that they might present to the Church. The hope being that this work will connect to a wider range of viewers and expose Church membership to new and exciting ways of expressing spiritual feelings and themes. This is a significant service to the Church." So that's an interesting statement. Were you aware at the time there that you were sending a message to artists to broaden what they were going to make?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah, I mean, yes and no. Yes, because I had a lot of conversations with artists that would say, "I don't think the Church would do that. I don't think the Church goes in that direction." And I remember even when I was a young kid, I had this best friend that I would say, "Oh, let's do a sleep over tonight." And she'd say, "I think my mom would say no." And I would always say, I had this thing in me that I would say, "Well, it doesn't hurt to try. We're going to try this. Okay. They may say no, but we're going to try this." And I do think that that is an attitude that I have. So artists would say, you know, "The Church doesn't do that." And I remember using exact same verbiage, "It doesn't hurt to try. They're going to say, 'no,' if you don't try. So let's try it. What's going to happen?"

 

Glen Nelson: I think that's all really fascinating. And for him to say, yeah, she wanted us to push ourselves a little bit.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah.

 

Glen Nelson: And he has been one in his career who has constantly pushed himself to do new kinds of work.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah. He has a piece in the International Art Competition right now of Christ that His body has really broken down, there's no kind of skeletal structure within it. And there's so much on the visual plane that is abstract and broken down and visceral. And it's so powerful, and it's a real... I mean it's a natural continuation of what he's working on...

 

Glen Nelson: That's right.

Laura Allred Hurtado: But it's...

 

Glen Nelson: He's not coasting.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: That's right. It's a step forward or a step... It's another step.

 

Glen Nelson: It's an evolutionary step.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah. I don't mean to say step forward because that sounds...

 

Glen Nelson: That's right, and he might decide next year to do something that's different.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: ...To go in a different direction, but it is a step in a different direction, and I think it's really so interesting.

 

Glen Nelson: Okay. Rose Datoc Dall.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Rose is an artist who worked on a project with me under the direction of Kirk Richards called "Handed Down and Altered." I have acquired two or three of her works. I think her paintings are really strong.

 

Glen Nelson: People constantly talk about the beauty of them.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: That's right.

 

Glen Nelson: They're unusual color choices.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah.

 

Glen Nelson: Here's what she said: “Laura has provided a breath of fresh air to the Church History Museum. She has provided some young blood and a new contemporary perspective to the museum. Laura has been a force to reshape and expand the tastes of our Latter-day Saint culture, which is no longer provincial, as it once was. I think she recognizes that our culture is coming-of-age and has been spot-on in acquiring pieces which represent the depth, diversity and professionalism of the art being produced by members of the Church. I personally have appreciated that kind of voice at the Church History Museum. Her approach has been dynamic, organizing shows both at the Church History Museum and collaborating with other organizations, for which, correct me if I am wrong, that there hasn’t been much precedent there.” So again, this concept of reshaping and expanding. In Rose's comment, she said that you have been a force to expand the tastes of Latter-day Saint art culture. How does a curator affect the taste of its audience?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah, well you certainly shape things, right? Partly by the artwork that you collect and the exhibits that you do. And also a curator doesn't operate in isolation. So I want to broaden that to be where the museum was kind of going. But you know, introducing artists to people, like Jorge Cocco or Joseph Paul Vorst, or the kinds of artists that got into the International Art Competition, both in 2015 and 2019, was about expanding or changing things, or even new dialogues. I curated a show when I very first got there in 2014 called "Practicing Charity," and the artists, I think, were familiar to the audience, but it was really interesting to me to point out and to ask the question, why are Mormon artists--the artists were Brian Kershisnik and Lee Bennion and Kathy Peterson--but to kind of point out in that kind of collective, why are Mormon artists interested in women in decorative dresses? What's happening there? And if no other question, just point it out, point out how women are celebrated or depicted in and works, was an important thing to me.

 

Glen Nelson: Next is your former boss, Alan Johnson: “Laura made a difference in what the just over 1.1M visitors to the Church History Museum, since our re-opening in the Fall of 2015, had a chance to see by playing an integral role in the development of new exhibits and art-related content. She also strengthened relationships with many artists and the larger local art community.” So I'm aware from anecdotal evidence of talking to artists that you did a lot of visits to studios to really find out what they were doing. You didn't sit and wait for the art to come to you. You often would seek it out. So how important do you think that is? Just strengthening the relationships with artists for a curator like yourself?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: I think that's the crucial part of it. It was really important to me. Almost without fail, if there was any artists that said, "Come do a studio visit with me," I would go.

 

Glen Nelson: Okay.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: I would go, yeah.

 

Glen Nelson: Not knowing who they were, really or...

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Not knowing who they were, what their work was like. You know, I'm feeling guilty because I can think of one or two that I did leave on the table, right as I was starting to transition out. But almost without fail, I would go. I would see their work. I would ask them questions about their work.

 

Glen Nelson: Pleasant surprises?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: So many pleasant surprises. So many interesting people really, dedicated to their craft and dedicated to the work that they're doing, and asking important questions. It was so great to meet people and to just learn about the work that they were doing and to hear really a variety of different perspectives.

 

Glen Nelson: This is a boots on the ground job.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: It is a boots on the ground job, yeah.

 

Glen Nelson: High heels, in your case [laughs]. All right. Next up, Valerie Atkisson.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Valerie is an old friend. My parents live in her parents' old house. Did you know that?

 

Glen Nelson: No.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah. And that’s how I got to know Valerie, I think, actually. It was her dad introduced me to her. And I've been a big fan of her work. I was able to acquire "Matriarchal Line." BYU has the "Patriarchal Line."

 

Glen Nelson: Here's what she said: “I don't think I know even a fraction of what Laura has done to make a difference. But I am aware that she has spent a lot of time educating the leadership of our Church about contemporary art. It's very rare at this day and age to be able to have that kind of access and ability to make an impact within the Church.” Let's talk about that. So do you think that you had opportunities to engage with Church leadership and try to show them a little bit more about what contemporary art's like?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: I certainly had way more access than the average person. You know, one of the conversations I had quite frequently is I would show a piece, and their reaction would be, "Well this wouldn't fly for temple. This wouldn't fly for the temple art." And I had a speech prepared for that. And it's a true one actually. The scope of what, how art functions in the temple is very different than how it functions in the museum. In the temple, it's supposed to be scene-setting and ephemeral. It's part of the atmosphere. But the core mission of what you do at the temple is the ordinances.

 

Glen Nelson: It doesn't draw a focus, in a way.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: No focus, right? It can be wallpaper in some ways. Like it creates an environment. It creates a spirit. But you know, you're really not asked to have a dialogue.

 

Glen Nelson: Was part of your job selecting artworks for temples?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: I was on the Temple Art Advisory Committee, and that did help me understand how it functioned and how it..., what the goals were for the temple. But what the goals are for art in a museum is very different.

 

Glen Nelson: Yeah.

Laura Allred Hurtado: You go there to look at the art. You go there to have a conversation with the art. You go there to be asked questions, to have a dialogue, to have questions answered, to participate within a looking process. And so the art that you collect for a museum is very different than the art you collect for the temple, or for magazines. They all have their different functions. They serve different functions. And as such, you have to collect different art.

 

Glen Nelson: So access then to some of these General Authorities: so let's say, the President Eyring show that just came down. So what kind of access did you have with him working on in that show?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Oh, you know, he was really generous with his time.

 

Glen Nelson: It was a watercolor show.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: A watercolor show. We had a thousand works to go through.

 

Glen Nelson: Wow. That's a lot.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: And trying to narrow it down, especially, you know, without at first having access, we were just ordering it in terms of subject matter. And I had a few early meetings with him where he talked about the work. I also read his biography, and I just had a real strong reading of the work, that they were so much about feelings and about memories and about people. So I asked him if I could have maybe an hour of his time and to ask a few questions. And that turned into about nine hours over three days. And he was so generous and, and each one had this own little memory of it. It wasn't, you know, it wasn't just a boat, it was about learning how to sail on in Bar Harbor as a bachelor and joining the yacht club or so many of them were about his wife. And I really just got a sense of his strong love of his wife and of his family. And it was so powerful on a pe,rsonal level. I mean, you hear people's talks and you maybe get an impression of someone, but it was a powerful experience to me to meet someone that committed and that devoted to his wife.

 

Glen Nelson: But so many General Authorities and leaders currently and historically have also been creative artists.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: It's true.

 

Glen Nelson: And I felt like it was almost reclaiming that tradition, which is--I don't know enough to say if it's singular to our culture, but-- it's deeply embedded in our culture from its earliest days.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah. And for him, it's really tied to devotion. When we first heard working on the project, people would say, "Oh, he's a General Authority and they're so good!" I thought in some ways that was a little unfair kind of reading because a) the expression that they're good is like, well, "I didn't expect him to be good," you know? And they are good. So I don't mean to undermine that, but I thought what was more important in them--they're visually interesting to look at. But here's a man that has kept a journal every single day for 50 years. There's almost a compulsion there to really remember things. And the watercolors were an extension of that, were an extension of sorting through memories, and understanding memories, and trying to capture memories, or reclaim memories that have gone by. And that seems like a real human experience but also very sacred and devotional one and very powerful.

 

Glen Nelson: I think an artist in the Church looking at those also has a sense of validation because you know, they believe in what they're doing...

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Right.

 

Glen Nelson: …and they're seeing these people they admire, who are leaders, doing it, too. And I can't imagine that they wouldn't form a stronger emotional connection to those leaders, too.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Well, and one thing that struck me is you can't use this excuse that you don't have time. Right?

 

Glen Nelson: Who has less time…? 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Who has less time?

 

Glen Nelson: Well, speaking of time management, this is going to go on for too long unless we zip. Annie Poon is next, a stop motion animator, lives in New York, has recently done quite a lot of work that's a deeply personal, and she says this--again, this was to the question, how has Laura made a difference?: “I treasure the path Laura has set me on. Laura intercepted my path early on in my career by buying the Church's first video piece, my piece, and brought it to an LDS audience. Elated, I sensed the freedom I suddenly had to continue delving more deeply into my own spirituality. It became a circle of feedback and changed the course of my career, and ended with me being a more spiritual person. I've had the question many times asking whether I was a religious artist or a person who made art about religion. Laura cultivated me into a religious artist by giving me the space, and support, and confidence to probe issues that really mattered. She gave me the confidence that my message would be understood, even when it dealt with my most sensitive and unsure experiences. I never felt I had to safeguard myself from my audience because of Laura's encouraging curiosity.” To me, that's a very powerful statement. And because you're tearing up, I think that it might be the same for you. The thing that strikes me then is her comments about, not the professional side of it, but how your influence affected how she thinks of herself, how she developed her own sense of being a spiritual artist, and how we're on spiritual development changed. Were you aware of any of that? [Crying.] Well, you have to through the tears say something.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: No, I wasn't. That's really powerful.

 

Glen Nelson: You know, it's funny. We don't know the influence we're going to have on people, do we?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah. [Pause.]

 

Glen Nelson: So you have to say something. I'm not going to let you off the hook.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah, that's, that's really touching. You don't know.

 

Glen Nelson: When you're curating something, you're giving someone permission in a way.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yes.

 

Glen Nelson: And in her case, I think you gave her permission to say, you know, "Myself as good enough." You know, "I can put myself out there."

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: That's a powerful thing. Yeah.

 

Glen Nelson: [Laughs.] I feel like I'm the Barbara Walters of interviewers with the goal of making my subjects cry. Okay. Diane P. Stewart said: “From the beginning, Laura’s vision was to expand and expose the Church History Museum patronage to newer, younger and more diverse art and artists. She brought a new vision, and a more relevant message, about who we are as Church members. Her curatorial skills were shared with UMOCA, CUAC and Granary Arts to name a few institutions in Utah, and brought greater exposure to those who had never been in the Church History Museum. Laura embraced her mission at the Museum, and executed with a purpose to expose visitors to more varied artists and art forms. Her professionalism and expertise have added much to the arts and culture of the Church, Utah, and beyond.” So there's a lot in there to unpack. Don't you agree? And I don't exactly know the best way to start it, but she did seem to say that your work at the museum shifted how Church members are perceived by others. So I think that what Diane is saying is really quite interesting, that the Church History Museum is aiming for an audience that's broader than it has traditionally been, not just for its members or for those who are coming at the visitor center, but rather to show people who might not have ever seen anything about the Church, how broad and diverse it could be. Do you feel that that is something that, uh, that you have tried to concentrate on?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah, I think it was important for me to not just create shows  for ourselves, among people we were already talking to. You know, one of the ways I talked about it is it's a kind of echo chamber because you can create a lot of meaning within an echo chamber or a lot of noise within an echo chamber.

 

Glen Nelson: My Facebook feed would agree with you.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: [Laughs] But it was important to me to try and participate within spaces that were not--not just on our own terms but to, to go out within communities and to interview artists that we're not on standard lists or to do partner shows that were not in spaces that we were typically participating in, as a way to create bridges, but also to participate within the larger community and the larger space.

 

Glen Nelson: Well, Diane is a person who can see things from a distance, and what she's describing here is something quite ambitious, that what the Church could do with visual art is large. It could change perceptions of others toward us and you know, in a public affairs way that's not normally how we think of things. We think of media and marketing and uplift, which is not the same as as what art might do.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: I think any museum needs to do good work, and put on good shows, and a broad audience will come. If the mission is "We're going to get a broad audience and so we're going to do this show," then I think your priorities are out of order. I think you have to do good work first and people come. I think that's a, a positive and impactful byproduct, but it needs to not be the central mission...

 

Glen Nelson: Yeah.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: ...Otherwise you're just doing propaganda, I think. And people can see through that, actually. If you put together good shows, then people respond. You know, one of the things that happened in "Sainta at Devil's Gate" was we had a foreword by a scholar named Jean Stern, and he's not LDS and doesn't have a relationship with LDS people except for these three artists, who know him well. And he was interested in making that connection because the work itself was strong. And from an aesthetic point of view, that was worth the commitment.

 

Glen Nelson: Caitlin Connolly. How do you, how we know Caitlin?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Caitlin Connolly's an artist--I think I may have just looked her up or she looked me up, and I did a studio visit--and I didn't know her before. Maybe I met her at an opening. But I liked her work quite a bit, and we became friends.

 

Glen Nelson: She lives in Provo. And here's what she said, "Laura has made a difference because she created a space for Latter-day Saint artists to be honest in our words and with their art works. She listened to what we were saying and responded by validating us, displaying our artworks to be shared with others, or collecting our art so that generations to come could experience and appreciate our artworks as well." Two things that I'd like to ask you about on this: her comment about being honest, that you gave her space to be honest in our works, "to be honest in our words and with our art works." Were you aware of that kind of message you were sending?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: I don't know. It is of value to me. I don't know if I was, certainly was not consciously aware of that. I did acquire several works that were about--and you can see this theme in "Immediate Present"--I wasn't aware of it until I started looking over the collective body. But there's quite a lot of work about deconstructing notions of perfectionism or exposing it or unearthing it. And honesty is important to me. And I also think that there was quite a lot of work that had the sort of 1950s gauzy filter of idealism that wasn't useful to me, personally. So I don't know if I was aware that I was sending out that message to artists, but it was something of value that was important to me.

 

Glen Nelson: Yeah. Let's say if you work at a magazine and you're the art illustration editor, you're asking for specific things you want people to, for a purpose, to create artwork that accompanies a thing.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: That's right.

 

Glen Nelson: But what you were doing at the museum is not that.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: No, I was finding work that preexisted like that and acquiring it. It wasn't prescriptive like that, for sure.

 

Glen Nelson: So then the other part of Caitlin's comment that I liked is she said that you "listened to what the artists were saying and responded by validating us." So did you feel when you were working at the museum that you were giving an audience to people who had been left out of the conversation?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: I mean, I guess not on a conscious level. I want to say yes and no. I was very aware and very sensitive to the notions of inclusion and bringing in artists that had previously not been a part of that conversation. That was a goal for me and something I was consciously doing. But I guess I wasn't aware artists knew I was doing that. Does that make sense? Or that they somehow picked up on that. Does that make sense?

 

Glen Nelson: Well, I mean, none of these artists and others is saying this, but I think inherent in all of their comments is that this is in some way a change from what might have happened in the past or the perceptions of what might've happened in the past. And so for them, I think they see what you did as putting the visual culture on a certain new path, which I think is fair.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah.

 

Glen Nelson: You know, I'm not criticizing anybody in the past. It's a new time and all that kind of stuff.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah. You know, the week or two I was hired, I went to this meeting, and at the time my boss was Brad Westwood, who's now the head of the historical department for the state. And right before I went in he said, you know, "There's quite a few people that are really mad that I hired you."

 

Glen Nelson: And welcome...

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: “And they're all in this room.”

 

Glen Nelson: Oh.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: And they weren't staff. They were volunteers. It was an art event. "And they're all talking about you, and go in," you know, "and good luck." That was his pep talk. And there was another person...

 

Glen Nelson: That can be really burdensome. Did you feel you have something to prove, then?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: You know, partly I felt like, well, "If you don't like me, okay." And I already am not going to fit in, right, because I was a woman, and much younger than that group, and a mother. And I knew... I didn't fit my own stereotype for who worked there. And so you don't have a lot to lose if, you know, they already don't like you, you know? I would be very worried about impressing Richard Bushman because he's going to walk in and give you a chance, right? But if people have already written you off, then, you know, you can't... there's not anything to lose.

 

Glen Nelson: Then the logical follow-up to that is: that is absolutely not the impression that you get now when you're talking to those people. So at some point you changed mind.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: There was a shift.

 

Glen Nelson: Were you aware of that happening? Where people, you could tell people were nodding and saying, "Okay, I get it"?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yes.

 

Glen Nelson: Or the feedback that they were hearing was positive, so then they decided that they needed to change their own opinions?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yes.

 

Glen Nelson: Yeah. That must've been a satisfying...

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: It was.

 

Glen Nelson: ..., series of events.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah.

 

Glen Nelson: Yeah. The last one is Jason Metcalf, who's Jason?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Jason is a very smart artist. He's shown at Gagosian and several biennials and whose work I've collected, and has shown in the last two international art competitions, lives in L.A.

 

Glen Nelson: Here we go. Jason said. “I would say Laura has certainly shifted the visual culture of Mormon art in a monumental way, through helping expand their collection and exhibitions outside of traditional figurative work, with all the contemporary work she has brought into the Church, etc. I've talked to a few people about this, and I have gotten a lot of feedback from people that have expanded their minds on what Mormon art can be, and they feel transcendent/feel the spirit type of experiences with works that aren't just literal depictions of Christ or Church type beliefs. For me for sure, I am very grateful that my work has been included in the Church History Museum. So many of my family that I don't think would respond to it normally, finds it validating and it opens their mind up to see what I'm doing, pointing minds and souls to divinity and light and the love of God.

My Mormon grandmother said she really felt the spirit strongly when she saw my "Paved Work of Pure Gold" piece at the museum at the last juried show, and it brought her to tears. She's pioneer heritage, the head of the temple workers at the Salt Lake Temple. It was a way for us to connect with divinity in a way that I don't think would have happened if Laura hadn't encouraged that work to be brought into the exhibition--although it wasn't her decision, she encouraged me to submit it.”

 So I suspect that you didn't think that it was going to go that way...

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yes.

 

Glen Nelson: ...his comment. So there are many things in here, but the thing that struck me is how his own family hadn't really got him or got the connection of his work and religious belief until you gave them permission to see him and that work like that. Is that how you would read his comment?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah.

 

Glen Nelson: So what do you think about that? What's your reaction?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: [Pause.] I don't know. I mean...

 

Glen Nelson: You're not angry at hearing this.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: I'm not angry. I do think that there was a level of acceptance, that there was a stamp of acceptance for artists when they got into the Church History Museum and when their work was on display, especially if they felt like their work was nothing like the kinds of work that they thought would show there. And that acceptance, I think, has impacts for one's career but also has impacts more broadly.

 

Glen Nelson: Well, I hope that you're hearing this and really internalizing it. The work that you've done has affected their lives a lot more deeply than on the surface--a lot more than their bank account, let's say, or bragging rights. All of these artists... I have to say, when I decided to--I could have written to, you know, 50 or a hundred different artists, and I wanted to choose artists who are stylistically all over the place, different ages, different genders, and people outside of the art world and inside of it, in a way--and each one of them said that you really made a difference in their personal life, which I think is pretty much the highest complement they could have given.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah.

 

Glen Nelson: Yeah. Are you feeling happy?  

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: I'm feeling humbled, actually, and blown away.

 

Glen Nelson: A job like that comes with lots of pressures, as you've described, and vulnerabilities and so on, but it just has so much possibility, too.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Yeah, that's right.

 

Glen Nelson: They haven't named a new person to take over that job, the global curator job?

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: No, not yet. They're in the process. And I think they have a good pool of applicants. So they'll...

 

Glen Nelson: When I interview that person 10 years from now, it wouldn't surprise me at all if I say, "How did the legacy of Laura's tenure affect you?" And maybe they might go a completely different way. And say, you know, whatever they say. But on behalf of all of these artists and the 1.1 million people who have been in the museum since it reopened, not even knowing your participation, I want to thank you for all of your work. The music that we've been listening to in this podcast is by Laura's son and husband, Sam and Tom, and used with permission. Thanks so much Laura. Thanks everybody for listening. This is Glen Nelson:. Bye.

 

Laura Allred Hurtado: Bye. Thank you.

Glen Nelson