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Harold Petersen

Harold Dean Petersen was born in Hyrum, Utah in 1930. He is a conceptual artist and art educator whose influence has extended to many generations of Utah art students. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Petersen earned a BS from Utah State University in 1954, and his MFA from the University of Utah in 1966. In 1957 he began a 30-year teaching career at Salt Lake City's Highland High where Utah artists Shauna Cook Clinger and McRay Magleby were among his students. Petersen and his son Mark opened Petersen Art Center in Salt Lake.

In 1987, Petersen and his former students who were working as artists and designers were honored with a show called Pete and Repete. Petersen won the purchase award at the Springville Annual National Exhibit for Dan's is Now Open Across the Street in 1991.

Biography adapted from Artists of Utah and material supplied by the artist.

Harold Peterson, Cache Valley native, graduated from Utah State University with a baccalaureate degree and a commission in the United States Army. He accepted a position on the art faculty at Salt Lake City's East High School before completing a formal tour of duty at Fort McArthur, California. He had in the meantime requested appointment to join the art staff of the new Highland High School. He planned to join the capable crew at the new building at 7th East and 21st South as chairman of the art department in 1957, one year after the school opened. Arborgast shared feelings of personal worth and mutual respect for students who responded positively with an acceptance of responsibility for achievement. In short, he had a way of encouraging initiative and self-direction, enhanced by self-direction and responsibility. A good work for this is leadership, characteristics which inhered in the experience.

These are times when such goals gain ascendancy over less worth-while attitudes in education. When they do for whatever reason, youthful minds reach out with gratifying directness toward mature attitudes and achievement.

Petersen, like many others of the staff, shared mutual beliefs that privileges carried responsibility. Friendly and naturally outgoing, he believes that art experiences offer many avenues for gainful experience. Trained in the disciplines of painting, design drawing, etc., he realized those skills would follow individual effort if they were motivated. Students seeking to polish natural skills were welcome in his classes, but no more than others seeking to enrich their personal lives.

There are times in the educational experience when poorly oriented individuals can be helped by a sort of therapy found in the casual disciplines of an art class. Petersen had little patience for such clinical procedures when they interfered with professional ends. Classes for maladjusted individuals were special ventures that needed special treatment under other circumstances.

There is no more sympathetic and compassionate teacher in the system, but Petersen aims for the high endeavor and professionalism are positive and they worked in an environment charged with high concern for the welfare of individual students. He worked for friendly atmosphere and got it, so much that students regarded the art department as a home away from home. When he recently announced his early retirement to devote full time to catching up on his personal studio work and doing community service, his former students engaged in professional art areas wrote with amazement and consternation. While they no longer came to art classes, turning the key in his campus studio seemed tantamount to locking up the house and leaving without giving family members a key.

A school that rapidly developed leaders in other areas, produced artists with distinction. Work from Highland students appeared in such shows as the annual Utah State School exhibition (an event that has been augmented by a formal gallery exhibition in the Springville Museum of Art).

Portfolios displayed by Highland students offered a clear record of achievement and experience. A goodly number of those students earned scholarship offers from colleges and universities.

Petersen filled his students with a desire to excel. Competitions for winning designs submitted to the literary magazines, athletic posters, announcements, and various school needs were displayed with awards in prominent places in the school. With the permission of the school officials certain advanced classes were reserved for those whose progress warranted acceleration.

Meanwhile, Petersen's own creative works were gaining wide attention, particularly in the watercolor medium. He earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Utah and his command of the sensitive transparent watercolor approach won him the distinction of being the sole Utahn to date to be awarded honorary membership in the Rocky Mountain National Watermedia Society. He is the recipient of more than 50 awards.

He has found time to serve as an adjunct associate professor of art education at the University of Utah; as a teaching-art supervisor of the Salt Lake City School district and a teacher-leader of the Teacher Ladder Program. Twice honored by the Salt Lake Kiwanis International for teaching excellence, he has been granted master teacher recognition by the University of Texas and in 1983 and '84 was selected by students, parents, faculty, and administration at Highland High for the Golden Ram Award for outstanding teaching.

A long list of former students who have achieved distinction include Kim Whitesides, illustrator; McRay Magleby, University of Utah professor of art; Shauna Cook, portraitist; Mark Durham, designer; Nathan Jarvis, designer-illustrator; David Fetzer, architect; Gayle Weyher, owner of Weyher Gallery; Mark Petersen, advertising director and many others.

With more time for developing his own projects, Petersen is also including moments for community service, serving as bishop of an L.D.S. Ward and running errands for his wonderful life-companion through it all - Lucretia Cushman, who married him after college graduation.

He is also accepting private students in art. Perhaps his most heart-warming accolades come from former students: “He can bring out talent in art;“ “Never get frustrated;“ “He really takes time to help;“ He is really interested in your progress;“ “He motivates us;“ “He is firm in positive criticism but kind, withal;“ “He has respect for students;“ “He has a keen sense of humor;“ And there are many more.

Harold D. Petersen of Hyrum and Salt Lake City, has been a brilliant painter and an art teacher almost without local peer. His successful well trained students are legion and many were involved in KSL's statewide Sterling Scholar Awards competitions year after year through decades of judging during the mid to late part of the century. In the present period, many University of Utah-trained painters continue to pursue more realistic styles or tend more toward a semiabstract statement, due to the work of Petersen, a fine watercolorist and oil painter. He received degrees from Utah State University (B.S.1954) and the U. of U. (M.F.A.,1966) taught at Highland High School beginning in l957 and joined the U. of U. faculty as a part time art educator (l966-73). By mid career, Petersen was dividing his energies in painting between equally rich realistic landscape work and fluid semi-abstraction. He is also the founder of the Petersen Art Center in the Sugarhouse area of Salt Lake City and is the father of artist Mark Dale Petersen.

To contact this artist email: petencrete@aol.com

Biography courtesy of the artist.

Newspaper Articles

"Art Exhibit to Open." The Deseret News, March 31, 1978.

"Eight Winners Chosen for The Deseret News Art Show." The Deseret News, September 29, 1979.

"Former Students Honor Harold Petersen." The Salt Lake Tribune, November 27, 1988.

"Galleries." The Deseret News, November 29, 1998.

"Galleries." The Deseret News, December 7, 1997.

"Juror's Winners In Spring Salon." The Deseret News, May 13, 2001.

"These Paintings Compliment Music." The Salt Lake Tribune, April 21, 1968.

"Watercolorist Takes Work to L.A." The Salt Lake Tribune, July 20, 1975.


Olpin, Robert S., William C. Seifrit, and Vern G. Swanson. Artists of Utah. Salt Lake City, UT: Gibbs Smith Publisher, 1999.

Petersen, Harold Dean. "Planned Spontaneity: An Approach to Watercolor Painting." Masters thesis, University of Utah, 1966.


 Last Modified 4/1/20