Jun 8, 2023 - Things to Do

Exclusive: Last chance to see the "Christian School"

A face is built around a fireplace at the Christian School art display at 1324 S. State St. in Salt Lake City. Photo: Jacob Barlow, courtesy of the Christian School.

A face is built around a fireplace at the Christian School art display at 1324 S. State St., in Salt Lake City. Photo: Jacob Barlow, courtesy of the Christian School.

A well-known eclectic display of religious art is being dismantled this month after the artist's death last summer.

Driving the news: Utahns have one more week to visit State Street's "Christian School" — the art studio of the self-taught sculptor Ralphael Plescia.

  • Plescia's father willed the building to the Shriners hospital before his death. The Shriners sold it to a developer, and Plescia's family will lose access on June 30, volunteer Alexis Rausch told Axios.

What's happening: Friends and family of the prolific sculptor began booking tours last month as they sought help to preserve the art, much of which is built into the building.

  • "The majority of the sculptures that are in the basement — which he dug out by hand — [are] going to take a lot more resources … to remove those safely and not have the building fall down around them," Rausch said.

The latest: The art that can be removed will go to Plescia's home on California Avenue, which also is adorned with his sculptures inside and out, Rausch said.

  • "The goal is that we will hopefully move as much of the artwork as we can and then turn the home into kind of like a small museum space that people can come and visit," Rausch said.
  • The Utah Arts Alliance is also evaluating storage options, Rausch said.

What's next: Public tours have sold out, but volunteers are scheduling as many private tours as they can for groups of four to eight until June 18, when they will start trying to move the artwork out of the space.

Context: Plescia, a fixture in Salt Lake's art scene, was inspired by watching sculptor Thomas Child build Gilgal Garden in the 1940s and '50s.

  • His work doesn't advance a specific denomination or church, but is informed by a lifelong fascination with Christian theology, his widow Vonna Rae told Axios in September.
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