Nearly four decades ago, State Bank of Southern Utah (SBSU) Executive Vice President Eldon Schmutz bought a painting from one of his clients to help satisfy debts.
Over the years, the Bank continued investing in the talent of this local artist who eventually came to be known as “painter of Zion” and “premiere landscapist of southern Utah.” And at his passing, the bank had amassed 11 original Jim Jones paintings and gained reputation as both financial institution and art gallery.
In fact, current SBSU President Eric Schmutz says the art gazing of patrons has more than once caught the attention of security personnel anxious to distinguish whether ten silent minutes in front of a teller’s line is indicative of an art lover or would-be robber.
Considering the reputation this impromptu exhibit space has gained over the years – on top of a deep emotional connection after spending his childhood amidst the landscape paintings at what was then his father’s bank – it comes as little surprise that the knee-jerk reaction of Schmutz and the SBSU Board of Trustees was to balk when Southern Utah University approached them in appeal for a donation of Jones’s work to the anxiously anticipated Southern Utah Museum of Art (SUMA) at Southern Utah University.
But, says Schmutz, after further consideration, “We realized SUMA was a culmination of all that Jim had worked for.”
He muses that it’s almost like a passing of the torch from one museum to another and adds that Jim was anxious to see the visual arts better represented in what is largely considered a very arts-friendly community.
Of the two paintings gifted SUU from SBSU, Schmutz lightly notes, “I do have visitation rights.”
With a floor plan that includes a permanent Jim Jones gallery as well as uniquely designed interior glass walls that allow visitors a behind-the-scenes museum experience with unrestricted views of artists and art technicians at work, SUMA should offer Schmutz, his colleagues and the community a very warm reception.
But fans of Jim Jones need not wait until SUMA’s ribbon cutting to enjoy his desert-hued panoramas.
The State Bank of Southern Utah has also partnered with SUU in a reproduction agreement of three additional Jim Jones paintings within SBSU’s permanent collection. Each of these three paintings will be reproduced in 50 limited edition giclee prints that will be available for public purchase.
The prints, which will be released in November and December, will be sold through SUU’s Braithwaite Fine Arts Gallery; advance orders are currently being accepted. All profits will benefit the Southern Utah Museum of Art.
Meanwhile, Jones work can be viewed in the Braithwaite Gallery’s temporary Jim Jones exhibit, as can early Southern Utah Museum of Art planning documents.
The Braithwaite Gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 7 p.m. Admission is free.