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Man behind Salt Lake City sculptures was much more than artist

Posted at 3:58 PM, Sep 15, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — On any given day, hundreds, if not thousands, pass by his sculptures throughout Salt Lake City. In fact, many residents could probably point out where they're located from a photo.

But would they know who the artist is? Do you know?

The sculptures are by Angelo Caravaglia, a longtime University of Utah professor. But he was much more than an educator, Caravaglia was also a mixed media sculptor, printmaker, and painter.

And while Caravaglia died in 2008, his art has left a lasting visual impression on the landscapes of Utah and those he taught.

“He's touched most of the people that work in the state of Utah, and one way or another, either directly is their professor or through people that he taught then moved to other institutions,” said Brad Taylor, a former student of Caravaglia who is now chair of the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

Caravaglia was born in 1925 to Italian immigrant parents in Erie, Pennsylvania, and according to local historian Rachel Quist, at 9 years old he began carving soap with his pocket knife.

“He was incredibly diverse,” Taylor said. “So he worked with all media and nobody would ever question his facility with wood and metal and clay.”

While perfecting his skills, Caravaglia collected many awards and frequently traveled to Italy to study. He eventually headed west in 1956 and helped to modernize the University of Utah’s sculpture department, eventually becoming chairman of the Department of Sculpture.

Caravaglia not only influenced a whole generation of sculptors in over four decades of teaching, but also played a role in Salt Lake City’s growth as a city.

“He had an enormous contribution to the way that our city actually looks,” Taylor said, “and Angelo was somebody that was participatory with all of the commissions that happened in Salt Lake over the years.

“And he was involved in the restorations of the buildings, and he was interested in the history. And he was interested in traditional process. And so some of those things that have been valued and saved by the city are connected to him.”