While living in mining community of Scranton, where there was no school, John and Eunice Hutchings encouraged their son, H. C. Hutchings, to “bring home rocks and birds' eggs and arrowheads” and to “give a good description of where he found an item and what it was.” After moving to Lehi, H. C. helped his father with the mail route, so they could have time to go collecting together. Three more children were born into the family and also became collectors.
“From the first, the Hutchings collection was overflowing. It filled the large back shed and spilled over into the house. Hutchings can't remember a dinner hour that wasn't filled with excited conversation about the latest mineral, fossil or bird's egg someone just discovered. Almost every night dinner was interrupted when a visitor - a Boy Scout, maybe, or a neighbor - stopped by to see the new find.”
In 1968, “the townspeople found a building and helped form a nonprofit organization so the John Hutchings' natural history collection could have a public home.”
Lehi City took over management of the John Hutchings Museum of Natural History after signing a 99-year lease with the museum board. Sometime after January 1996, the museum moved from 685 North Center Street into the newly renovated Lehi Memorial Building at 51 North Center Street.[1, 2]
In the first part of 1996, the Lehi Arts Council renovated the former museum to create the Lehi Arts Center. The first theatrical production in the center's Horseshoe Theater may have been “You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” opening on 9 May 1997. The theater seats 100 and has a combined dressing and green room. The center also features a music room, dance room, and an art room. The yearly schedule includes concerts by community choirs and bands, workshops for children and adults, and three to four theatrical productions a year.
After Lehi voters rejected a bond measure in November 1997 which would have funded a $17 million recreation center and a 1,000 seat theater, the Lehi Arts Council separated itself from Lehi City, formed a non-profit corporation, and made plans to build a new cultural arts center.[6, 7, 9]
Plans for the Lehi Arts Center featured a 1,800-seat auditorium, with multiple balconies, that would rival Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake and attract touring Broadway shows. In addition, the center would have two smaller theaters, one with 248 seats and another for theater-in-the-round. The five-story, 155,000 square-foot complex would have had classrooms, practice studios, an art gallery, a recital hall, and a senior citizen center with a capacity of 10,000 people. The lobby and reception area were designed to be used for dance classes and as ballroom dance floor. Thirty office spaces would be rented to pay for building maintenance.[6, 7, 8, 9]
The first site considered for the new Lehi Arts Center was city-owned property at 200 North, containing a soccer field, an old tennis court, basketball courts, and a parking lot. The city preferred higher visibility, so the location was changed to land adjacent to I-15 on South Millpond Drive, but this was later rejected because of wetlands considerations.[7, 8] In August 1999, Thanksgiving Point officials offered four acres north of its animal park. Greenhouses would be relocated and the brick promenade would be extended to the new arts center.
The cost of the proposed arts center grew from $11 million to $15.2 million as the plan expanded to include two additional theaters, a black box and a dinner theater; an increase to 2,100 seats in the main auditorium; and a change from concrete construction to steel frame and glass.[6, 7, 8, 9] The Lehi Arts Council had pledges for $6 million from two anonymous donors before Utah County Commissioner Gary Herbert formed a county arts council in April 2000 to consider where a county arts center should be built. Speaking of multiple arts initiatives in the county, Herbert said, “Personally, I have concerns as to how many performing arts centers we can support. . . If one emerges ahead of the others, I think the other communities would throw their support behind it." Ray Carter, Development Director for the Lehi Arts Council, saw a “slowdown in fundraising” following Herbert's actions, but in 2002 he said the Winter Olympic Games took most of the donor money and expressed optimism that more funds would become available after the games had completed.
On 24 June 2003, Lehi City officials unveiled a newly renovated Lehi Arts Center at its existing location at 685 North Center Street. The $150,000 project included a new roof, sky lights, air conditioning, a separate dance room, and handicap-accessible walkways. The Little Horseshoe Theater was renamed the Glenn M. Smith Family Theater, in honor of the Lehi Arts Council chairman during the 1996 renovation.[13, 14]
After scheduling conflicts kept the it from using school auditoriums for the 2009 holiday season, the Lehi City Arts Council entered into an agreement with property owner Tom Grassley to use vacant retail space next to Partyland at 310 North 850 East. In the 6,000-square-foot storefront, High Craft Construction built a 250 seat theater with “ample space for a green room for the cast and staff and women's and men's dressing rooms.” The Lehi Arts Council hoped to recoup the $9,000 construction expense from revenue from the four productions scheduled at the temporary venue. The Partyland Center of the Performing Arts opened on 15 October 2009 with “Jekyll and Hyde” and likely closed with the December musical “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.” According to the agreement, once the space was leased to a business, the Arts Council would have to find a new venue.
1. "Lehi Leaders Reject All Bids to Restore Building", Deseret News, 28 November 1993 , page B3
2. "Transfer of Lehi Museum May Require Another Year", Deseret News, 31 December 1993 , page B3
3. "Museums: Where the Past Lives", Deseret News, 07 August 1994 , page S1
4. "150 Museums to Choose From", Deseret News, 28 January 1996 , page S1
5. "Lehi Arts Council to present 'Charlie Brown' production", Deseret News, 06 May 1997 , page B3
6. "Future of Lehi cultural arts center hangs on one family's generosity", Deseret News, 29 July 1998 , page B3
7. "Lehi aims to become arts hub", Deseret News, 28 June 1999 , page B3
8. "Point offers a home for the Lehi Arts Center", Deseret News, 26 August 1999 , page B3
9. "Lehi Arts Council tackles fund raising", Deseret News, 04 February 2000 , page B6
10. "Arts centers: one, 2 or 23?", Deseret News, 10 April 2000 , page B1
11. "Utah County weighs art-center options", Deseret News, 17 October 2000 , page B3
12. "Drive still on for Lehi arts center", Deseret News, 03 January 2002 , page B7
13. "Lehi officials to unveil renovated arts", Deseret News, 21 June 2003 , page B2
14. "Remodeled theater gets a new name", Deseret News, 03 July 2003 , page B2
15. "Local arts facility gives Lehi burg a creative edge", Deseret News, 22 June 2006
16. "Lehi City Arts to occupy Partyland for performances", Daily Herald, 02 October 2009
17. “Building Rental Packet”, www.lehicityarts.org, accessed November 2011