New UVU Museum of Art at Lakemount to open this fall

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The UVU Museum of Art at Lakemount Manor, located in south Orem, is planning to open its doors this fall. The building was previously the private home of philanthropist Melanie Bastian, who passed away in 2016 and left the mansion to her four sons. (Utah Valley University)

The UVU Museum of Art at Lakemount Manor plans to open for the public this fall following delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, supply issues and lack of construction workers.

Lakemount Manor was the residence of philanthropist and community activist Melanie Bastian and her family. After her death in 2016 from leukemia, her children decided to donate the home to UVU’s art program.

In November 2018, when the announcement of Lakemount Manor becoming the new home of the UVU Museum of Art was first released, the plan was for the museum to be ready for the public by 2020.

However, this deadline wasn’t met and the completion of the project had to be postponed as the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020. In addition, other challenges came up with the return to work on the construction, such as a lack of workers and supplies.

“People quit their jobs and got better-paid ones during the pandemic,” the museum’s facility manager Jason Girot said. “Right now with the lack of construction workers we are behind schedule.”

According to the UVU Museum of Art director Lisa Anderson, the museum may be ready to open its doors to the public this fall.

“Taking a residential home and turning it into a museum takes a long time, and we also wanted to add ramps to make it accessible to everyone,” Anderson said. “Even though we don’t have an exact opening date at this time, we have scheduled that we can open this fall for the public.”

A look into Melanie Bastian’s life

According to a 2003 Deseret News profile article, Bastian is known for having been married to Bruce Bastian, computer programmer and co-founder of the software company WordPerfect.

Bruce built his fortune through WordPerfect, which he started in 1976 along with BYU computer science professor Alan Ashton. In the same year, Bruce married Melanie. According to an article published in 2004 by The Salt Lake Tribune, he had known he was gay since high school, but he didn’t come out to his wife until 1984.

He continued living with her and their four kids until 1994, when the couple divorced and Bruce sold WordPerfect to Provo software company Novell. This decision made him a multimillionaire.

After the divorce, Melanie continued raising her children, kept up with her philanthropy work and built Lakemount Manor.

When she passed in 2016, she left the estate to her four sons Robbie, Darren, Jeff and Rick, who spent some time trying to come up with a meaningful way to still utilize it.

“My mom didn’t build the house for herself only, but for her and the people that she loved,” Darren Bastian said when asked about the reason why they donated the home. He said all of Melanie’s children agreed they needed to make the house available to others to honor the way their mother always kept the doors of Lakemount Manor open to people from the community.

“We thought about an educational institution that could maybe use the house for some good. At the time, we got information that UVU was trying to find a way to expand their visual arts program and give their students a home for their art,” Robbie Bastian said.

According to her son Darren, Melanie came from a musical family. Her brother was an artist and a painter, which meant she grew up appreciating the arts.

“We all agreed that this was something that really lined up with our mother’s goals as a philanthropist, as one of her big focuses was education and fine arts in the community. We thought what an interesting marriage this would be, to merge her support for the arts and her love for education,” Robbie Bastian said.

An outlet for artists’ untold stories

Although UVU didn’t become a full-fledged regional state university until 2008, it has the highest student enrollment in Utah.

In addition, according to UVU’s Dean of the School of the Arts Courtney Davis, “UVU has over 1800 majors in the School of the Arts and of those, more than 1200 are majors in art and design programs, which makes UVU’s art department the largest in the state school system.”

Thanks to Melanie and her children’s donation, the UVU Museum of Art at Lakemount Manor will be a precious addition to the arts program. The institution will focus on serving UVU student body and the community.

“There are some exhibitions that I am not ready to announce, but they are from artists from all kinds of backgrounds who have not been showcased and whose stories have not been told yet,” Anderson said.

Darren, Robbie and Jeff all expressed their excitement for the opening of this new museum. They also said they would love to be a part of the inauguration ceremony.

“I think the opening of this new museum of art will not only open doors for the public to come in and see great art, but it will also welcome artists and faculty to show who they are through their artwork,” Robbie Bastian said.

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