Major International Art Piece To Be created In Sugarhouse As Open Air Tunnel
Patricia Johanson uses art to create a benevolent world
By Cathy McKitrick
The Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated: 04/12/2007 01:40:44 PM MDT
Patricia Johanson, a world-famous environmental artist, works on art and design for Parley's Creek bicycle and pedestrian trail. Johanson, who uses art to heal the earth, stands at the site where an open-air tunnel will be built under 1300 East. The tunnel will be part of "The Draw at Sugar House." (Ryan Galbraith/The Salt Lake Tribune )
Don't expect to view some of Patricia Johanson's most notable works of art on museum walls or under glass.
For one thing, they're just too big.
Picture some problem areas within some of the world's most-congested cities and you've located her canvas.
"My projects are always layered so people get something and the infrastructure functions," Johanson said.
Combining the beauty of art with down-to-earth pragmatism, Johanson's handiwork weaves the worlds of normally crass human infrastructure with an area's cultural history and existing wildlife habitats.
The result? Art that can heal the earth.
"Art can be used to create a benevolent world, rather than avant-garde novelty," Johanson wrote in her booklet Art and Survival, Creative Solutions to Environmental Problems.
"Fair Park Lagoon" in Dallas took the New York native five years to complete. Johanson took a stagnant flood basin adjacent to the Dallas Museum of Art and transformed it from a deathtrap into an educational playground and thriving ecosystem.
"People had no experience of the water - which spanned five blocks - except that a number of children had fallen in and drowned," Johanson wrote.
In town this week to work on "The Draw at Sugar House" - the 220-foot open-air tunnel that will cross under 1300 East - Johanson reminisced about the opening of "Fair Park Lagoon" in 1986.
"A huge flock of birds flew in at the dedication," Johanson said, reflecting on what she took as a positive sign that, given the right conditions, life can return to areas gone dead from neglect. "It's now a national historic landmark."
Johanson's Sugar House design - a collaborative effort with Salt Lake City-based G. Brown Design Inc. - incorporates a giant Sego Lily and the snakelike shape of Parley's Creek to link Hidden Hollow to the west to Sugar House Park and Parley's Canyon on the east.
The bulb of the Sego Lily serves as a roadside overlook and also the roof of the underground crossing. The lily's stem and leaf form paths through the park.
"Parley Pratt tells a very engaging story," said Johanson, who read the Mormon pioneer's journals in detail. Pratt was in the initial advance party that descended into the Sugar House area to survey the land.
"They were hacking through the underbrush, with thorns pressing in on all sides. Pratt heard the rattle of a snake and blessed it rather than trying to kill it. The snake withdrew," Johanson said.
She took daily walks through the area, mulling Pratt's writings and the subsequent settlers and their mills.
Johanson said she also thought about the life-giving nature of water and the current jumble of activity on 1300 East, with the restaurants, gas stations and fast traffic.
"I understood why this crossing is needed," she said.
Along Parley's Creek, Johanson envisioned "Snow's Snake," a winding creek-side trail named for Erastus Snow, another pioneer who entered the area with Pratt.
Johanson plans to capture stormwater runoff, via three waterfalls, to bolster the flow in Parley's Creek and install decorative retaining walls to promote sustainability in the area.
Born in 1940, Johanson married art critic E.C. Goossen in 1973. The couple reared three children. She earned two bachelor's degrees, in art and architecture, then later returned for a master's in art history.
Other projects include the 912-acre Ulsan Dragon Park in South Korea and the Rocky Marciano Trail in Brockton, Mass.
Like Pratt and Snow, Johanson is a pioneer.
"This work wasn't being done when I started," she said, acknowledging that projects - several designs throughout the country remain undone - often get political, and budgets get slashed halfway through the process.
Federal transit dollars and Salt Lake County ZAP funds will be tapped for the $5 million Draw, supplemented by private donations from the community.
"Our goal is to raise $2 million to make sure all the elements that Patricia and Jerry Brown designed will be included," said Lynne Olson, vice chair of the PRATT Coalition. "It will be a major international art piece when it's done, so it has to be perfect."
* 1992: Pedestrian passage across 1300 East incorporated into Salt Lake City's Open Space Master Plan
* 1998: Beacon Heights Elementary students study how to connect Hidden Hollow to Sugar House Park via a 1300 East pedestrian crossing
* 2000: Their adult advisers join trail advocates to form Parley's Rails, Trails and Tunnels (PRATT) Coalition
* 2002: Salt Lake City sponsors a national competition to design that connection; G. Brown Design and environmental artist Patricia Johanson are selected
* 2008: Construction on "The Draw at Sugar House" is expected to start early in the year and finish by year's end
* For more information about "The Draw at Sugar House," visit www.parleystrail.org/initiatives.php