Gilgal Sculpture Garden
The Gilgal Sculpture Garden is a small public city park, located at 749 East 500 South in Salt Lake City, Utah, United States. The park, which is filled with unusual symbolic statuary associated with Mormonism, notably to the Sphinx with Joseph Smith's head, was a labor of love designed and created by LDS businessman Thomas Battersby Child, Jr. (1888-1963) in his spare time. The park contains 12 original sculptures and over 70 stones engraved with scriptures, poems and literary texts. Gilgal Sculpture Garden is the only designated "visionary art environment" in the state of Utah.

Thomas Child, a masonry contractor and Bishop of the 10th Salt Lake LDS ward, conceived of a symbolic sculpture garden that would be a retreat from the world and a tribute to his most cherished religious and personal beliefs. He began building the garden in the back yard of his family home in 1945, when he was 57 years old, and continued to pour his time and money into the work until his death in 1963. Child named the garden Gilgal after the Biblical location where Joshua ordered the Israelites to place twelve stones as a memorial. The name "Gilgal" is sometimes translated to mean "circle of standing stones," an appropriate appellation for a sculpture garden. Gilgal is also the name of a city and a valley in The Book of Mormon, a sacred scripture in Mormonism. Many of the sculptures and quotations found at Gilgal refer to LDS themes: the restoration of the Priesthood, the great Mormon migration west, and the many similarities Child saw between the ancient Israelites and his LDS forefathers, who sacrificed all for their faith. Although Child was not a classically trained artist, he went to great lengths to obtain and shape the perfect stones for his beloved garden. He created a complete workshop in his yard for handling and cutting the stones, proudly stating that all the finish work for his statues was completed on the site. He also used some unconventional tools to cut the stones, including an oxyacetylene torch (usually used for welding). The finished statues are likewise unconventional, even eccentric: a sacrificial altar, a shrine to Child's beloved wife Bertha, even a sphinx with the face of Mormon prophet Joseph Smith, Jr. Child, who shared the garden with thousands of visitors over his lifetime, knew that not everyone would appreciate his particular artistic vision. His primary concern, however, was that the garden would succeed in making people think: "You don't have to agree with me," he said. "You may think I am a nut, but I hope I have aroused your thinking and curiosity."

Until 2000, the Garden was owned by the late Henry Fetzer family. Fetzer was a neighbor who bought the property after Child's death in 1963. Only open on Sundays, the garden was visited and often vandalized by late night trespassers. The family, tired of keeping up the garden considered making it the centerpiece of an apartment development. Instead, a group of citizens called the Friends of Gilgal Garden purchased an option to buy the property provided they could raise funds by January 10, 2000. The group arranged a $400,000 commitment from Salt Lake County and $100,000 each from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation, covering the lion's share of the purchase price. However these commitments were conditioned on the garden becoming a city park, which Salt Lake City Council was reluctant to take because of a budget crunch. The property was eventually purchased for $679,000 and turned over to the city. On October 21, 2000, Gilgal Garden reopened as a city park. At a ceremony celebrating the occasion, Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson called the Garden "an absolute jewel." After many years of neglect and damage by vandals, the garden is badly in need of restoration. The Friends of Gilgal Garden, who serve as the park's curators, and a number of other nonprofit entities in the Salt Lake City area are in the process of raising funds to restore the damaged sculptures.

Visiting hours
Gilgal Garden is open to visitors during the following hours:
  • April-September " 8 am to 8 pm daily
  • October-March " 9 am to 5 pm, weather permitting
The Garden is closed on Christmas, New Year's Day, and Thanksgiving Day.

Building Activity

  • Matthew Horn
    Matthew Horn commented
    Mormonism is not normally associated with artists that challenge. Gently, Gilgal does exactly that.
    about 6 years ago via Mobile
  • removed a media
    about 6 years ago via