In any city, folklore can come from almost anything.
In Herriman it could be a skyline shaped by hills, copper mines and Butterfield Canyon. Or by his rugby teams, his neighbors or his mascot Herriman Yeti.
In the eyes of folk artist and puzzle maker Eric Dowdle, every landmark, person and vestige of the city’s past can represent narrative art with a dash of nostalgia – a real image transformed into a fairytale piece.
Dowdle has visited more than 400 cities and created puzzles inspired by their feelings and heartbeats. He hosted the TV show The Piece Maker, in which he tours US cities like New Orleans, Miami, and Anchorage, Alaska with locals while drawing sketches for his pieces.
Now it’s Herriman’s turn.
“People will find something that means something to them personally,” Dowdle said while pointing to small details in the puzzle, like teenagers enjoying the city’s favorite pastime. “Usually in a picture like this, the focus is on football. Football gets all the attention.”
But that wouldn’t capture Herriman’s strongest sports: lacrosse and rugby.
An unveiling of a wooden puzzle wall by Herriman Dowdle will take place at W&M Butterfield Park on Saturday 6 May from 10am to 2pm. It is part of an “Experience Herriman” event, an initiative by Friends of Herriman to introduce residents to the city’s diverse cultures.
The puzzle presentation, Dowdle said, could be a great way for the city to unite in one big party and interact with art.
“Every artist wants their art to be seen. So you think galleries, you think all kinds of venues, but you don’t think puzzles,” he said. “And yet we get more eyes and more time with people than any other art form because it takes three to four hours to solve just one puzzle.”
According to the 2020 census, Herriman added the most residents of any city in Utah over the past decade, growing from under 22,000 to over 55,000 residents between 2010 and 2020. That’s a jump of 153%.
Kody Crowell, a resident of Herriman for nine years and a member of the Friends of Herriman board of directors, believes this is a way to bring the community closer together. Some people depicted in the artwork can put pieces of a puzzle together; others can explore the city’s landmarks through a different lens.
“Herriman is growing so fast. It’s changing so quickly,” Crowell said. “I felt like this was a good piece of art to capture something like that, to capture our pioneer heritage and history while also looking at where we’re going as a city.”
The play was paid for by donors from local businesses, he said, and the Friends of Herriman board of directors hopes it will spark more cultural events and more advocacy to promote trails and outdoor activities.
Other highlights of the puzzle include the “Up” house, pioneer houses, some small shops, a Fourth of July parade, banners from local schools, parishioners (who may not know they are there) and Dingo and Hondo, two Herriman police dogs killed on duty.
“Exactly what Herriman is about,” Crowell said. “[The artists] went through hundreds of pictures of the city and its events and they just pulled out pictures of people enjoying themselves in the city and put them in there.”
The big party includes food trucks, pony rides, family games and a jazz band.
It’s a chance, Crowell said, “to bring everyone out of this hibernation.”
This puzzle is also part of Dowdle’s effort to win US cities and towns for the America 250 Commission, a movement to celebrate the nation’s 250th anniversary by 2026.
Dowdle selected 12 Utah cities for this project, including Spanish Fork, Pleasant Grove, South Jordan, Sandy and Lindon, where his studio is located. There are currently no plans to add Salt Lake City and the state’s most populous communities.
“The small towns are narrow. Everyone knows each other,” Dowdle said. “They just have this heartbeat of America, and they just have a great feeling.”
In a way, they also offer an opportunity to take close-up photos of a 60,000-piece jigsaw puzzle of the world map that he and his team created, which also happens to be the world’s largest jigsaw puzzle.
“Our message isn’t missing pieces,” he said, “which means it takes everyone to make a city to make room.”
Alix Cabrera is a Report for America Corps member and writes for The Salt Lake Tribune on the status of communities on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley. Your donation of our RFA grant helps her write stories like this; Please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking Here.