While the Salt Lake Gallery Stroll may be the most prominent of the artistic jaunts held every month, there are many other cities that have joined in the experience in their own ways. --- Provo, Ogden, Moab, Park City and even St. George have coordinated their own efforts to bring people out on a Friday evening, creating their own versions of Stroll with roughly the same guidelines and amount of galleries around. But few have ever tempted to duplicate the same experience anywhere around the Salt Lake Valley.
However, back in February, Sugar House became the first area to branch off from Stroll with its own monthly version, the Sugar House Art Walk. Roughly 20 galleries, businesses and normally unconventional spots within a three-block area open their doors on the second Friday of every month. The evening features artists from around SLC and parts of Utah for people to browse and maybe even make purchases, and brings people back to Sugar House. As we get ready for the next one happening this Friday, June 8 from 6-9 p.m., we chat with Art Walk founder James Adleman about the event and his thoughts on the art scene.
Gavin: Hey, James. First off, tell us a little bit about yourself.
James: I was introduced to art by my family at an early age. My grandmother was a designer in NYC and eventually became an accomplished oil painter in Arizona. My mother introduced me to music and I followed this passion throughout my childhood and attended Interlochen Arts Academy, where I majored in jazz trumpet. My son, Nicholas, attended Interlochen Arts Camp for two years, focusing on graphic design and 2- and 3-dimensional art. He and his sister, Samantha, attended The Academy of Art San Francisco.
Gavin: How did you first take an interest in the locals art scene, and what really drew you to going out and seeing what was there?
James: After opening The Joint, I met Laurie Bray, Photography by Laurie, at her studio in Rockwood Gallery. I was intrigued with the unique concentration of local artists in the area and mentioned that I thought Sugar House would be a great area to have a "walkable" Art Walk. Together with Sugar House Coffee, 21st Studios, Artistic Framing, Adjusting Sails Dirtworks and Sprague Library, we formed the first Sugar House Art Walk, SHAW).
Gavin: Before that, where did the original idea come from for Art Walk?
James: My uncle had started the Scottsdale Art Walk in the early '70s and it inspired me to start a similar version in Sugar House.
Gavin: What was it like for you going around and getting businesses and galleries on board, and what was the criteria for picking whom to approach and work with?
James: At first, it was something I thought would be fun to do with my children, but as time went on, it became a way of creating a unique identity for artists, galleries, restaurants and small businesses in Sugar House.
Gavin: Considering the places involved, how much of the art is chosen by them and how much do you yourself pick out to showcase?
James: All galleries, studios and businesses select the art they wish to display. We have encouraged small businesses to display art in all forms -- food art, paintings, sculpture, pottery, jewelry, crafts; just artisans of all kinds. Live Art is one of our trademarks, from painting to pottery throwing. The artists at the venues submit several options, then the graphic designer -- my son -- chooses the best image to fit the overall design of the quarterly poster.
Gavin: You held the first walk being last October. What was that first evening like, and what did you learn from that first run?
James: We actually held several art walks, in October and November of 2011, and in February of this year. This April, though, was the debut of the monthly sequence, on second Fridays. It was very exciting in the first night. We had a great response from local merchants, artists and patrons. The buzz caught on and the rest is history. We started with eight venues and now have over 16. We learned that the Art Walk is a great concept, and that it will be a great event for Sugar House. We also learned that all good things take time, effort and commitment to thrive. We really needed to organize, communicate and coordinate better. And most importantly, we have to find ways to advertise and promote our event, which is why we really appreciate the opportunity you're providing us now.
Gavin: Who are some of the artists you've had on display, and what's their reaction been to the event?
James: In addition to my Grandmother Elsie Orovan and my children, Nicholas and Samantha Adelman, we have showcased notable local artists Pamela Nielsen, McGarren Flack, Clarence Bowman, and most currently, Darin Jones.
Gavin: For many familiar with our art scene, there's a lot of similarities between your event and Gallery Stroll, or any of the “art evenings” held in other major neighboring cities, for that matter. Aside from location, what do you do to separate yours from the others in the public eye?
James: Our walk is unique in several ways. Not only is our event concentrated in a specific location and therefore actually "walkable," we also encourage artists of all types to participate, beyond the traditional galleries involved in the Gallery Stroll. For instance, our venues include independent studio artists, coffee shops, medical clinics, public libraries, gift boutiques, night clubs, and sponsoring restaurants, just to name a few. We also sponsor and encourage "After Party" events including movie screenings and night club events.
Gavin: You've only set three of these up for the spring so far. Are you planning to do this for every season, or is the plan to keep it exclusive to this season?
James: Our plan is to have Art Walks on the second Friday of every month, February through November, skipping December and January due to weather.
Gavin: Tell us about some of the work we'll be able to see during the June event happening this Friday?
James: There are a number of unique events for the upcoming June 8 Art Walk. Darin Jones will be unveiling a commissioned painting with live art demonstrations at The Joint; Sprague Library will be showcasing a light-art installation synchronized to live music from The School of Rock; and Adjusting Sails Dirtworks will have live raku firing and pottery throwing. We have multiple independent-art studios participating; Rockwood Art Studios, where you can see the works of over 25 Sugar House artists; an artist cooperative group, Local Colors; the Sugar Space theater; Awakening Hearts book and gift shop; and Two Dancing Cats -- a gift boutique and gourmet food vendor. Unhinged will have a variety of art mixed with vintage clothing, Fankhauser Jewelry will showcase live jewelry works and Sugar House Coffee will have live music and multiple local artists.
Gavin: Moving on to local art, what are your thoughts on our art scene as a whole, both good and bad?
James: Salt Lake City is a vibrant cross of styles. Each individual neighborhood has a uniqueness and eclectic nature, from the Avenues to 9th & 9th, 15th & 15th to Sugar House -- a cool cross-section of demographics, architecture, vibrancy and music. Sugar House is unique in that it is truly a "walkable" art and music scene, with most venues within a five- to10-minute walk. With the new Sugar House Street Car line, this "Jewel of Salt Lake City" will be accessible to art lovers from around the city. What a great way to experience art!
Gavin: What's your opinion on the galleries around SLC in general and the work they're doing to promote local art?
James: The Gallery Stroll is a more traditional event, focused on Fine Art represented in galleries. It is a wonderful event that supports many of our great Utah artists. From our point of view, the downtown area tends to enjoy most of the benefits of the Stroll. Our walk has no intention of taking anything away from the city's Gallery Stroll, but to bring some attention to one of the thriving art communities within the Salt Lake Valley. Participants of our Art Walk can see artists in their own "homes." Visiting an artist's studio is quite a different experience than visiting a gallery. The artists themselves are the hosts, and visitors can get a feel for the process of how art is created. Additionally, The Sugar House Art Walk Association's goal is to give exposure to some non-traditional fine-artist venues, and artists of all kinds in the Sugar House Area. We hope participants of our Art Walk spend an entire evening in Sugar House, enjoying a variety of art, music, dining and dance.
Gavin: What can we expect from you and the Art Walk over the rest of the year?
James: Our theme for June is: It's All About Dad. July's Art Walk is centered around the first annual "Sugar House Jazz Festival" with the Wasatch Jazz Project -- Carol Stephens. Fall events will be featuring harvest events and live music
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?
James: I personally find great satisfaction in my interactions between my family, customers and staff at The Joint. They all enjoy watching changing variety of art on display and our participation in promoting art and music in our local community. My son has created every Art Walk poster, which are pieces of art in themselves! Without the passionate assistance from my son, Laurie Bray, Emily Potts of Sugar House Coffee and Colleen Reynolds with 21st Studios, this event would have never succeeded.
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