Ogden celebrated the grand opening of the newly completed Dumke Arts Plaza, on the corner of 25th Street and Ogden Avenue, on Dec. 3 with a night of music, poetry, art and gratitude.
A press release from Ogden Arts described the plaza as an “arts-focused community space, a dynamic outdoor gallery and an intimate performance venue,” designed to “inspire creativity, elevate diverse perspectives and anchor Ogden as a hub for contemporary art.”
The new plaza will be used to feature art installations and community-led arts programing, like concerts, dance performances and video art. However, the community space will also be an open place for casual, everyday gatherings, such as a walk with family or lunch with a friend.
The plaza’s design has the ability to support many types of art, from large-scale installations to small performances, and includes an LED screen for displaying film and video art. Included in the space is an elevated platform, known as “the plinth,” which allows for more room for seating and displaying art.
The plaza also features a permanent sculpture, called the “Beacon,” which extends a few feet over 25th Street. The same unique lighting used throughout the plaza is used on the piece, allowing it to change colors.
Visitors to the new plaza could be heard making comments such as “Ogden’s cool now!”
The lead founder of the arts plaza, for whom it was named, was the Dr. Ezekiel R. and Edna Wattis Dumke Foundation, partnering with Weber County R.A.M.P., Ogden City, Weber State University and Ogden Contemporary Arts. Speakers at the grand opening included Jeremy Dunn, Weber County R.A.M.P. chair, Mike Caldwell, mayor of Ogden City, and Claire Dumke Ryberg, president of the Dumke Foundation.
The speakers all gave their gratitude to those involved in the project and told the story of how the plaza came to be, talking about the inspiration to revive the little corner of land behind the Bigelow Hotel in which an old, dilapidated motel once stood. The motel was torn down and plans for a community arts plaza came forth. The Dumke Foundation then decided to take the leap of faith and get it going with a gift of over $2.2 million.
The Dumke Foundation operates in honor of the Ogden-based couple for whom it was named who held a love and passion for the Ogden community, the arts and the outdoors. Because of how the new arts plaza embodies all three points, Ryberg called the donation a “trifecta legacy gift.”
“Our grandparents loved Ogden, and they were committed to Ogden, and they would be so thrilled to know that their lives live on in this great place,” Ryberg said.
Ryberg said their contribution will also go towards plans to make improvements to the adjoining portion of Ogden Avenue this summer.
The whole Dumke Arts Plaza project embodies a goal to continue reviving and revamping parts of Ogden, a theme which was on display in the inaugural art exhibition curated by WSU’s Mary Elizabeth Dee Shaw Art Gallery and Department of Visual Art & Design.
The exhibition, titled “Revive,” features three major recent pieces by American artist Chakaia Booker. Lydia Gravis, Mary Elizabeth Dee Shaw Art Gallery director, said the abstract pieces, which were crafted from repurposed automotive tire rubber, were intentionally created for the Dumke Arts Plaza, speaking to the characteristics of transformation and re-contextualization embodied in the plaza.
“Considering the history of cars and transit, and the freedom they afford, the automotive tires that she uses inherently symbolize upward mobility, expansion and possibility,” Gravis said. “This new Dumke Arts Plaza represents the same for Ogden as it enhances the Nine Rails Art District and eliminates the barriers inherently associated with traditional white-cube art galleries that sometimes deter the masses from experiencing meaningful, thought-provoking art.”
Gravis also talked about how the Ogden Bicycle Collective donated bike tires for Booker to make additions or repairs to the sculptures, which have already been on display in Chicago, Illinois, and Laguna Beach, California, before coming to Ogden. Booker used them on the side of one of the sculptures, so the exhibition will carry a little piece of Ogden with it to its next destination.
Booker’s art will be on display in the plaza until May 15.
The grand opening festivities also included an interpretive dance performance from Ogden MoveMeant Collective and live music from Infusion Rock and C. Valenta. Ogden’s Poet Laureate, Abraham Smith, also performed a five-minute poem expressing his gratitude for the position he has held the last couple of years and for Ogden.
“Friends, take a look at this Dumke glory and the Monarch just up the hill. These are surely architectural poetries with visual poetries just indoors,” Smith said in his poem.