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Murals reflect religious, pioneer heritage

The story of westward expansion has come East.

On display at the Washington Temple Visitors Center here are 21 pieces of artistic works - including paintings, murals and sketches - by LDS artist Minerva Teichert. The exhibit, sponsored by the center's cultural arts committee, gives the public an opportunity to see pioneering and religious themes from an LDS woman's perspective.The display portrays stories from America's westward expansion, particularly featuring Mormon women pioneers, and stories from the Book of Mormon and Bible.

Sister Teichert, who died in 1976 at age 87, embraced mural art because of the "concept of educat

ing those too hurried to read, and even the illiterate, and she came to regard murals as the highest form of art," wrote her granddaughter, Marian Wardle, in a visitors center brochure about Sister Teichert.

"The story she wanted to tell was the westward expansion, the Mormon heritage and the Mormon pioneers in the westward expansion - and especially the role of women," said Sister Wardle, a member of the Potomac South Ward, Washington D.C. Stake, in a Church News interview.

Dorotha Smart, chairwoman of the cultural arts committee of the visitors center, explained that the cultural arts committee has set up monthly cultural events.

Shelley Holley, publicity chairman for the exhibit, said the art exhibit "is part of a larger whole that the visitors center is sponsoring. This exhibit is one of a series of things to get people to come and find out more about the Mormons. They can see the Church is very supportive of the fine arts."

Also included in the cultural events is a concert series that features professional artists and a family hour program one Monday night each month where families can come enjoy music together.

The art exhibit, said Sister Holley, is in celebration of the newly remodeled visitors center, which reopened April 9. She added that the exhibit formally opened April 10, and within the first week drew 2,000 visitors. It will continue through May 21.

The art pieces on display, consisting of oil on canvas, oil on paper and sketches, are on loan, primarily from the Museum of Church History and Art and from BYU, Sister Holley explained.

Some of the murals displayed include the "Handcart Pioneers," "Christ With Mary and Martha," and "Lehi Departs Jerusalem."

The exhibit's theme is "That He Who Runs May Read," said Sister Wardle, who is studying for a doctorate in art history at the University of Maryland. She added that the phrase, meaning those who view a mural can quickly understand its story, comes from beaux-arts traditions, the form of art under which Sister Teichert trained in Chicago and New York as a young woman. Although Sister Teichert chose to paint with a loose brushwork, "the beaux-arts goal to educate the public, however, stayed with her throughout her life," wrote Sister Wardle in the brochure.

Sister Wardle said her grandmother created at

least 1,000 art pieces during her life. Included are at least 60 murals in public buildings in Wyoming and Utah, including six government commissions.

Sister Teichert was reared on a homestead near Pocatello, Idaho. She married Herman Teichert and they reared their five children on a cattle ranch in Cokeville, Wyo.

Sister Wardle wrote that her grandmother had no studio but her living room. "Her desire to paint murals was so strong, however, that she painted on large canvases tacked to her living-room wall. . . ," said the brochure.

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