The Harvard-educated attorney and his wife, Dessi, inspired by a similar project they visited in New York, had considered how they could use the property they owned at 337 S. 400 East in a similar way, as the building occupying the space would be demolished. Price turned his attention from the courtroom to something that allowed him, he says, “to participate in the local art community, something that was getting me out of bed in the morning.” This “fortuitous moment” would also have lasting implications for Price and the Salt Lake Art Center’s future.
After the closing of the initial 337 Project, Price—who graduated in 1996 and worked as an attorney in Utah for 13 years—realized, “This is what had been missing. I didn’t even know what it was, I just remember not being entirely satisfied with the direction of my life,” he says.
“Being around the art, being around the artistic community, this was making me really happy in a way I had been trying to figure out how to get to, and then the door opens up and there it is.”
Accepting the position of director of the Salt Lake Art Center wasn’t a difficult decision for Price, who was already on the board of directors at the center when previous director Heather Ferrell stepped down. Although it meant a significant reduction in salary and treading new waters, now, five weeks into his new position, Price is energized, motivated and determined. It is apparent that Price has a vision for his role as director and contributes a personable and approachable management style.
No stranger to the art world, Price was raised in an artistic environment in Washington, D.C. “Through much of my childhood,” he says, “my mother dragged me every weekend, willing or unwilling, to every new gallery or exhibition, and we always had an enormous amount of art in our house, so it’s always been a second language that I’ve been very comfortable with,” he says. “But after I left home, I largely didn’t pursue it. The chance to continue in that direction, and leaving the practice of law and taking on the role, seemed like an exciting prospect.”
Now somewhat of a fixture in the local arts scene, Price says he offers the skill set to measure “both a qualitative level, such as critical response, and quantitative, such as how many people are coming through the door.” A gifted administrator, he’s also “very passionate about the local artistic community, about wanting to facilitate its growth, be a part in it, to share in it. I could go my whole life and never have as much fun as I had with the 337 Project,” says Price.
Price is motivated, and he thinks big. Two of his favorite artists are Andy Goldsworthy and Dan Steinhilber, who both work on a monumental scale. Price and his team already have lined up projects for the the coming year, including the installation of a fully functional, 18-hole miniature golf course and a 48-hour continuously running performance piece.
The projects on the roster for the center reflect Price’s drive and leadership, but he’s also cautious and mindful that “with any transition, there is extra work to be done. … If all are pulling in the same direction—if I put in the hard work, if everybody puts in the work—we have a vibrant institution,” he says.
Ultimately, it is his responsibility, says Price, “to ensure that, as a charitable institution, we provide as many people with the opportunity to encounter contemporary art and to think about whether they want it to be a part of their lives or not. How do we provide work that is generous and accessible and make the audience and viewer welcome? That is very important to me.”