Before there was a Nine Rails Creative District or First Friday Art Stroll, there was the Eccles Community Art Center. It was, and still is, the only art center in Ogden, said Executive Director Pat Poce.
The historic Victorian mansion, on east 25th Street and Jefferson Avenue, was once home to David and Bertha Eccles. Built in 1893, the home became an arts and culture center in 1959 “to promote the arts, in all forms, and to enhance the quality of life within the community.” The Center continues to foster the arts in Ogden with art and design competitions, rotating exhibits in the Carriage House gallery, classes and workshops, outreach programs for youth and more.
“Everything around us is some facet of art,” Poce said. “Not just two dimensional art, but all kinds of art: singing, dancing, music ... the arts inspire people and put a smile on their face.”
Poce, director at the center for the last 10 years, is an artist and floral designer for 50 years who has been involved with the nonprofit organization for almost 40 years. He recalls early first talks of an arts district, long before the city got involved, among artist and arts advocates who envisioned Union Station and Eccles Art Center as anchors for the district. The First Friday Art Stroll started with the two original landmarks for Ogden arts and culture.
Now, with Argo House, Cuppa, The Monarch, Ogden Contemporary Arts and the upcoming Dumke Arts Plaza, the Eccles Art Center and Union Station are in good company. Poce looks forward to the new transit system that will help people to get around and be more active in the arts. There will be a stop somewhere between the Argo House and Eccles to get more foot traffic into the district. People will easily be able to get east to Eccles, the library and Cuppa, and walk downtown to 25th Street.
The new track line will not be completed until 2023, but all of the events coming back this year are sure to attract visitors.
The Summer Art Fair, which launched in 2020 to help artists with nowhere else to go during the pandemic, is returning again in 2021. Every Saturday from July 10 to Sept. 18, the outdoor event will host 24 artists and 20 musicians and performers.
The Colors of Pride Show returns in June, a statewide competition honoring the colors found on the Pride flag, with this year’s donations going to the new Encircle house in Ogden. Also returning are the popular events Art in Bloom and Plein Air Competitions, among many others.
Poce says the vision for Eccles currently is working on funding for art supplies in elementary schools. “It’s important to keep the arts in the schools,” he said. “The lowest budget is given to the arts, if there is any.”
Last year, the center made 2,000 art-to-go projects for Weber and Ogden schools, and they’re hoping to make it larger this year. Another goal is to reach out to younger audiences by doing more competitions. Competitions bring vast amounts of people across the state, Poce said. Another focus is a scholarship program for high school seniors. The Center awards $20,000 a year in scholarships. They also engage young artists by hosting the Student Portfolio Review, a Saturday fair for students to bring their portfolio to professors from universities across the state.
This weekend during First Friday Art Stroll is the opening reception and exhibit from the Frame Your Pet Competition and Keith Dagley art on display in the main gallery.
The community can make a big impact by visiting the art center, taking tours of the historic mansion, taking classes, attending events and becoming a member of Eccles Art Center.
“We are fortunate to have such a great following and hope that it continues,” said Poce. “Art really does make the world a better place.”