University News

The Life of Beverley Taylor Sorenson

June 21, 2016
Category: Arts

Beverley Taylor SorensonBeverley Taylor Sorenson, who passed away in 2013, developed a rich legacy of love and support for arts education in Utah. Devoting her life to enhance the level and breadth of arts education funding and education, Beverley was a tireless advocate and visionary who believed in the power and impact art has on a child’s life.

Beverley grew up in a family deeply involved in artistic pursuits and she engaged in dance and music training from a young age. Later, she and her husband, the late biotechnology pioneer James LeVoy Sorenson, ardently supported both the arts and education, through the family’s Sorenson Legacy Foundation. It was Beverley’s greatest desire to unite the two worlds in her philanthropy.

For many years, Beverley was concerned about the lack of arts education in Utah schools, particularly elementary schools. She recognized both the lack of resources dedicated to teacher training in arts education and the lack of legislative funding for school-based art programs.

In 1995, Beverley had a first-hand experience at a Salt Lake elementary school where she witnessed the dramatic impact an arts program made on the troubled school. This experience reinforced her belief that the arts significantly influence a student’s critical thinking skills, increasing his or her ability to learn complex matters. The arts also decreased behavior problems and increased creativity, teamwork, and self-esteem in students. She also saw these benefits affecting students’ families and their surrounding communities.

This experience, coupled with a very personal concern for a grandson who was struggling in school, motivated Beverley to dedicate her time and resources to launching Art Works for Kids, a foundation that established a program for integrating arts into the core curriculum. She and a small team of professional arts educators started with just six schools and a K-2 program. The foundation has since impacted tens of thousands of children throughout the state.

In addition to serving students and schools directly, Beverley was a determined supporter for quality integrated arts education. For years, she lobbied lawmakers to put the arts back in elementary school classrooms. In 2002, she secured public funds to help expand the number of schools Art Works for Kids could serve, and in 2008, the Utah State Legislature recognized her efforts by adopting the model her team developed and naming the initiative the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program.

To develop a strong and lasting foundation, Beverley and the Sorenson Legacy Foundation have committed more than $50 million to ensuring the long-term success of arts education in Utah, including endowing the Southern Utah University’s ArtsFusion program, which brings arts to the widest possible range of southern Utah schoolchildren. ArtsFusion has been an extraordinary success and has positively affected the lives of thousands of young Utahns, many of which would not have otherwise been privileged to have any appreciable measure of exposure to the arts. The endowment, in addition, cements the permanent legacy of the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Endowed Chair in Art Education.

While the $38 million Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts is being made possible thanks to the generosity of many insightful and invested benefactors, and to the efforts of dedicated and visionary arts educators as well as campus and community leaders, the $6 million gift from the Sorenson Legacy Foundation provided funds to reach the goal to push the overall project forward.

The decision to name the center after Beverley was an easy one, as she formidably supported the arts throughout her life, and particularly as a tool to enrich the lives and futures of children.

The Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts will incorporate visual arts, live theater and dynamic arts education on the Southern Utah University campus in Cedar City, and will enrich the cultural life of an entire region. It will serve as the home of the Southern Utah Museum of Art and the Utah Shakespeare Festival, attracting thousands of visitors year-round and creating a vibrant arts mecca in the heart of southern Utah.

Over the years, Beverley has become renowned for her contributions to building a strong cultural foundation for arts lovers. Beverley was a dream maker who believed in the power and impact art has on people’s lives. Her passion and legacy will leave an indelible mark that will be felt throughout the Center grounds and beyond. The complex is a living memorial to her.



Contact Information:
Nikki Koontz
435-586-5487
nikkikoontz@suu.edu