Artist Sought for New Golden Spike Monument in Uta...

Artist Sought for New Golden Spike Monument in Uta...



 Promontory City, UT, Unknown

The Spike 150 Commission seeks an artist’s vision to create public art that includes and honors the voices of the diverse communities that labored on and were impacted by the driving of the Golden Spike and the creation of the Transcontinental Railroad.

BUDGET: $250,000

ELIGIBILITY: Artists living in the United States

DEADLINE: February 28, 2020


On May 10, 1869, a Golden Spike was ceremoniously driven into a polished laurel tie at Promontory Summit, Utah, linking two great oceans, uniting a Civil War-torn nation and propelling America to become a world industrial leader. Shortly thereafter, this singular moment in time was memorialized by Andrew J. Russell’s “East and West Shaking Hands at Laying of the Last Rail,” commonly known as “The Champagne Photo.”  Over the course of a century and a half, this photo has been framed by historians, scholars and educators to capture the entire narrative of the construction of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad. The Champagne Photo has been both a source of pride of accomplishment and for some a painful reminder of exclusion.

However, in Russell’s “Chinese laying the last rail on May 10, 1869,” eight Chinese railroad workers are placing a ceremonious rail on behalf of the Central Pacific Railroad just shortly after eight Irish railroad workers placed a ceremonious rail on behalf of Union Pacific Railroad and just prior to driving the Golden Spike. Same day.  Same photographer.  Different story.

While the old adage says a picture is worth a thousand words, it may not necessarily tell the entire story. The Spike 150 Commission is setting out to widen the lens of history and expand the timeline to truly understand the breadth and depth this magnificent and unprecedented project, considered to be the greatest engineering feat of the 19th century. By giving voice to the voiceless and exposing the invisible, the Selection Committee hopes the artist(s)’ final piece will evoke empathy for these workers and within the learning context encapsulated at the Golden Spike National Historical Park and demonstrate to the world that great things are possible with vision, hard-work, dedication and collaboration.

  • Chinese Immigrants: An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 Chinese immigrants were heavily recruited by the Central Pacific Railroad to build the section from Sacramento, California through the treacherous Sierra Mountains and then through the Nevada and Utah deserts to Promontory, Utah. At one point, 90% of the Central Pacific workforce were Chinese. Although earning less than 1/3 wages of their European-descendant counterparts and facing discrimination, the Chinese were assigned the most laborious, backbreaking and dangerous tasks including handling the highly powerful but unstable nitro-glycerin explosives.  The Chinese helped dig 15 tunnels through the granite (hardest substance in North America) of the mountain range.  The Summit Tunnel #6 (see photo) was the longest at 1660 feet and took two years to complete with workers staying through winters with snow drifts up to 60 feet in height. An estimated 2,000 Chinese railroad workers along with eight (8) Irish workers laid an unprecedented and unduplicated 10 miles of track in one day on April 28, 1869 as a result of a purported $10,000 ($200,000 in 2019 dollars) wager between the Central Pacific’s Charles Crocker and Union Pacific’s Doc Durant. In a span of 12 hours, the Central Pacific amassed an incredible arsenal of statistical records.  While Crocker won the wager of $10,000, the eight Irish rail handlers were given only 4 days wages bonus ($4/each for a total of $32.00) while the Chinese were not paid any bonuses.
  • Irish Immigrants: An estimated 10,000 Irish workers primarily on the Union Pacific portion and partially on the Central Pacific portion had to overcome discrimination, lack of supplies and suffering from dysentery to lay hundreds of miles of track. Irish Ambassador to the United States, Dan Muhall, spoke at the sesquicentennial celebration ceremony on May 10, 2019 at Promontory Summit:  “As Ambassador of Ireland to the United States, I am truly proud and honored to stand here in recognition of the enormous role played by some 10,000 Irish men in the building of the transcontinental railroad whose 150th anniversary we commemorate today. Theirs was a magnificent contribution to the making of modern America .…Those railroad workers were drawn from the six million Irish immigrants who crossed the Atlantic between 1840 and 1900 escaping from famine and seeking better lives for themselves and their families. They and their descendants became part of the fabric of modern America but they never forgot their ancestral Irish homeland. Their achievements in America have been a perennial source of inspiration to the Ireland they left behind,” the ambassador added.
  • African Americans: “As early as 1863, hundreds of former slaves had already begun working on the railroad. Walking off their plantations after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in January, displaced freedmen were recruited and hired by Grenville Dodge to aid the Union Pacific’s construction of a transcontinental railroad. After the Union’s triumph in 1865, former slaves finally secured their freedom as well as legislated protection with the Freedmen’s Bureau Bill. The bill helped freedmen adjust to their new lives, find their displaced families, and ultimately find gainful work. With so many former slaves already finding employ under the Union Pacific during the war, freedmen need look no further than the transcontinental railroad for antebellum wages. And indeed, over 300 freedmen immediately departed their southern geography and sought out work in Omaha. Ultimately, this congregate of former slaves would become an invaluable piece of the railroad — working just as hard as the Irishmen for nearly half the three to four dollar per day wage.”  – AMC’s Real History of Hell on Wheels – The Freedmen’s Experience.  November 2011
  • Mormon Graders: “In 1868, Brigham Young signed a contract with the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) to employ Utahans to build the line through Echo and Weber canyons. Laborers were readily available due to a recent drought that left many farms barren that year. Mormon labor on the transcontinental railroad mirrored the organization of the LDS Church. Brigham Young called local bishops to be head contractors and gave them a section of track to build. These bishops would then find their own employees, tools, and supplies. This system took advantage of the social hierarchies already available in Utah, which had been used for other projects like irrigation and city planning. The Central Pacific Railroad grade, parallel to the UPRR grade through most of Utah, resulted in Mormons working for both railroads. Despite Brigham Young’s financial commitments to the UPRR, individual Mormons used railroad employment as a way to make ends meet and worked for either railroad company without prejudice. Both railroads needed laborers to win the race to Promontory Point.”  From Utah State University:  A World Transformed: The Transcontinental Railroad and Utah: Latter-day Saints on the Transcontinental Railroad.
  • Civil War Veterans: The U.S. Civil War ended in April 1865 about mid-way through the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad.  Both Union and Confederate soldiers were displaced and ended up working for the Union Pacific Railroad.  Their experience working in teams, carrying our difficult orders and navigating less than safe or desirable environments proved essential for the success of the Union Pacific’s portion.  Once battling against each other, Union and Confederate soldiers were now working side by side to build the Transcontinental Railroad.

The Golden Spike Commission was created by the Utah State Legislature through Senate Concurrent Resolution 10, passed during the 2017 General Session to mark the 150th anniversary of the driving of the Golden Spike at Promontory Summit, Utah. The resolution empowered the state to commemorate the anniversary with special events and entrusts the governor with the responsibility of appointing the commission to plan the celebration.

The Golden Spike Foundation (aka “Spike 150”) was established by the Commission in order to facilitate the organizing process of the event.  Both the Commission and Foundation comprised of leading Utah state and federal officials as well as prominent business and community leaders.

The sesquicentennial celebration goals of Spike 150 are to Unify, Educate and Inspire a new generation to lead Utah into the next century while Leaving a Legacy.  By expanding the lens of this historic moment through Spike 150’s official historical, educational and arts partners, Spike 150’s series of activities and events showed the world that great things are possible with vision, hard-work, dedication and collaboration.


The purpose of Golden Spike National Historical Park is “to serve as a national memorial commemorating the completion of the first transcontinental railroad across the United States.”

The National Park Service’s General Management Plan is to:

  • To manage the park’s historic scene and resources, as closely as practical, in keeping with their character and appearance in 1869.
  • To support preservation and restoration of the site through identification, evaluation, and interpretation of historic resources.
  • To provide visitors the opportunity to understand and appreciate the railroad race to Promontory, and the effects of its completion on the development of the West, and on the social, political, and economic history of the nation.
  • To promote a better understanding of the historic site within the region by increasing the level of programs and activities for school and other organized groups.
  • To promote enjoyment and understanding of the park’s resources through the provision of visitor services and recreational facilities that do not adversely affect historic values.
  • To promote the sphere of Service influence in this region to support interest and action in the preservation of our national heritage.

History of the Park
Following the 1869 celebration, Promontory Summit remained largely ignored and neglected until the efforts of Bernice Gibbs Anderson.  The 1919 50th Anniversary was celebrated with a parade in Ogden, Utah.  On September 8, 1942, an “Undriving of the Spike” also known as the “Funeral of the Rails” ceremony was held as the rails and railroad ties were removed in order to utilize the resources for the World War II effort. The site was authorized as a National Historic Site on April 2, 1957 under non-federal ownership. It was authorized for federal ownership and administration by an act of Congress on July 30, 1965, as Golden Spike National Historic Site and on March 12, 2019 it was re-designated as Golden Spike National Historical Park. and

Visitor Center
The National Park Service is currently in the design phase of remodeling the Visitor’s Center for completion by May 10, 2021.  This is relevant to this project in that the “viewshed” is paramount to the site and the experience of visitors to the Center. Any artist proposal must not interfere with the historical viewshed as per the 1978 general master plan.  The plan’s primary goal is to maintain the site’s scenic attributes as closely as possible to its appearance and characteristics in 1869. The shaded area below is the protected view shed.

Existing Monuments
Currently, there are several memorial plaques and a plinth at the Park. There is a proposal under review to move these plaques and plinth to the opposite side of the visitor center to ensure the viewshed is better preserved.

A large bronze work of an American Bison by the artist Michael Coleman has recently been donated to the park and is scheduled for installation in 2020.  The National Parks Service plans on providing information on how the Transcontinental Railroad affected the American bison population which saw it dwindle from an estimated 30 to 50 million in 1850 to just a few hundred by the turn of the century.  This had a direct effect on permanently changing the way of life for Native Americans.

Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty
Robert Smithson’s iconic Spiral Jetty is approximately 30 minutes to the southwest of the National Park Visitor Center at Rozel Point on the shores of the Great Salt Lake. The road to Smithson’ work passes by the Visitor Center and is frequently visited by those driving to / from the Spiral Jetty.


The location(s) of this commission has not been pre-determined. The Committee will be open to reviewing proposed sites as envisioned by the finalist artists and as appropriate to the proposal, the site and restrictions as outlined. One area of the site has been identified as possible placement as the triangular area immediately outside the main entrance to the visitor center. Please note the site is not equipped to provide power nor water for any proposal.


  • RFQ open: January 2, 2020
  • Submission deadline: February 28, 2020
  • Finalists notified: March 13, 2020
  • Finalists Presentation: May 8, 2020
  • Selected artist(s) notified: May 15, 2020
  • Artwork installed: April 15, 2021
  • Official Unveiling: May 10, 2021


The Spike 150 Legacy Selection Committee, in consultation with the Utah Division of Heritage Arts, Utah Public Art Program and the National Park Service, has full oversight for the selection of an artist(s) for this project.

Artists may submit qualifications via Once reviewed by the Committee, up to four finalists will be invited to present proposals to the Committee in Salt Lake City, Utah. Finalists will receive a travel stipend and proposal honorarium. Finalists will be asked to present a full proposal of concept, design, material, budget, and timeline.  The finalist honorarium will be applied toward the commission amount for the artist(s) awarded the commission.

Once reviewed and selected the National Park Service will initiate a secondary review process. The current overall philosophy for management of the cultural landscape focuses on the use of compatible site features (materials and finishes), protection of viewsheds, selected screening of visually intrusive development, and addition of non-historic contributing elements, such as reconstructed track, wye, and locomotives.


  • Letter of interest and /or statement of personal connection to the project
  • Clarity of conceptual approach
  • Evidence of ability to complete quality projects based on prior work samples and references


  1. Images:  Up to ten digital images, video and/or audio files of relevant completed artwork. Upload images as jpg files under 5MB – Audio files: AIFF, WAV, XMF, MP3 under 10 MB – Video files: MOV, MP4, WMV, 3GP, AVI, ASF, MPG, M2T, MKV, M2TS under 100 MB.
  2. CV/Resume: Upload up to three pages.
  3. Three Professional References: Provide the contact information for references that have a deep knowledge of your art and working style in the public realm.
  4. Letter of Interest: Briefly describe how your work may relate to this project. If you have a concept in mind you may include that information. 5000 Maximum Character Limit.


All applications are being accepted through Spike 150 and partner organizations will not be responsible for applications delayed or lost in transit. Faxed or e-mailed applications cannot be accepted.

Spike 150 reserves the right to withhold the award of a commission or re-release the call for entries.

QUESTIONS? Contact the Utah Public Art Program:  Jim Glenn at 801.245.7271 or, or Lisa Greenhalgh at 801.245.7270 or