Who says there's no role for socialism in Utah County?
Vern Swanson, a respected art scholar and director of the Springville Museum of Art, has been honored by the Russian government for his dedication to Soviet-era art.
Swanson is being awarded the Plastov International Prize, which, includes the world's largest financial reward for an art prize— 25 million rubles! Which is about $125.37 by the current exchange rate. (Ha. Ha. No seriously, it comes to $833,000).
Swanson will receive the award in Russia, along with a diploma, a cool statue and a medal from the Russian Federation, 300,000 rubles down and all the borsht he can carry.
What's the connection, you ask? Swanson is one of the foremost experts on the school of 20th Century Social Realism. The Springville Museum of Art has one of the world's best collections of Soviet art outside of Russia, with five of 29 galleries dedicated to it, which puts in far in the lead as the Little Stalingrad of Utah.
“I consider this award a great honor because it came from the family of my favorite Russian artist," Swanson said. "I am humbled to think they know my work and considered it significant enough to confer the Plastov Prize."
State Sen. Jim Dabakis, who is also and art dealer and commissar of the Utah Democratic Party and therefore sort of a socialist too, said that, “Dr Swanson's dedication to Russian Art and the people of Utah is a major contribution to the art heritage of the United States and especially to Utah.”
Before the Utah Legislature convenes the Committee on Un-Utah Activities, Swanson is no fellow traveller. "I firmly believe that Socialist Realism has much to teach and inspire Utah artists about humanity, power, sensitivity, and ambitiousness in art," he says. "I come to this conclusion as a staunch anti-Communist and a lover of the Russian Motherland and people.”
Seriously, having interviewed Swanson many times, he's the epitome of dedication to art—operating from the red heartland. Er, not that kind of red.