In every city, folklore can come from almost anything.
In Herriman, it could be a skyline defined by its hills, copper mines and Butterfield Canyon. Or by its rugby teams, its neighbors or its Herriman Yeti mascot.
In the eyes of folk artist and puzzle maker Eric Dowdle, every landmark, person and trace of the city’s past can make storytelling art with dashes of nostalgia — a real-life picture turned into a fairy-tale-like piece.
Dowdle has visited more than 400 cities and has created jigsaw puzzles inspired by their feel and heartbeats. He hosted the TV show “The Piece Maker,” in which he tours U.S. 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, such as teens playing the city’s most popular pastimes. “Usually when you do a painting like this, football would be the focus. Football gets all the attention.”
But that wouldn’t capture Herriman’s strongest sports: lacrosse and rugby.
An unveiling of a Herriman Dowdle wooden puzzle wall will take place Saturday, May 6, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at W & M Butterfield Park. It’s part of an “Experience Herriman” event, an effort by Friends of Herriman to connect residents with the city’s various cultures.
The puzzle presentation, Dowdle said, might be a great way for the city to unite for a big party and to interact with art.
“Every artist wants their art to be seen. So you think of galleries, you think of all sorts of different venues, but you don’t think puzzles,” he said. “And yet we get more eyes and more time with people than any other form of art, because it’s three to four hours of just doing one puzzle.”
Herriman added the most residents of any Utah city in the past decade, according to the 2020 census, jumping from a population below 22,000 to more than 55,000 between 2010 and 2020. That’s a 153% leap.
Kody Crowell, who has lived in Herriman for nine years and is part of the Friends of Herriman board, believes this is a way to bring the community closer together. Some people represented in the artwork can put together puzzle pieces; others can explore city landmarks through a different lens.
“Herriman is growing so fast. It’s changing so fast,” Crowell said. “I felt like this was a good art piece to catch something like that to catch our pioneer heritage and our history, while at the same time, looking toward where we’re going as a city.”
The piece was paid for by donors from area businesses, he said, and the Friends of Herriman board hopes it kick-starts more cultural events and more advocacy to promote trails and outdoor activities.
Other highlights from the puzzle include the “Up” house, pioneer homes, some small businesses, a July Fourth parade, banners from area schools, community members (who may not know they have been included) and Dingo and Hondo, two Herriman police dogs killed in the line of duty.
“Just what Herriman’s all about,” Crowell said. “[The artists] went through hundreds of pictures of the city and their events, and they just kind of pulled pictures of people having fun in the city and put them in there.”
The big party will include food trucks, pony rides, family games and a jazz band.
It’s a chance, Crowell said, to “get everybody out of this winter hibernation.”
This puzzle is also part of Dowdle’s endeavor to capture U.S. cities and towns for the America 250 Commission, a movement to celebrate the nation’s 250th anniversary through 2026.
Dowdle selected 12 Utah cities for this project, including Spanish Fork, Pleasant Grove, South Jordan, Sandy and Lindon, where his studio is located. As of now, there aren’t plans to add Salt Lake City and the state’s most populous municipalities.
“The small towns, they’re tight. Everybody knows each other,” Dowdle said, “You just have that heartbeat of America, and they just have a great feel.”
In a way, they also present a chance to make close-ups of a 60,000-piece puzzle of the world map he and his team created, which also happens to be the largest puzzle in the world.
“Our message is no missing pieces,” he said, “meaning that it takes everybody to make a city, to make place.”
Alixel Cabrera is a Report for America corps member and writes about the status of communities on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.