Art | Bringing It All Back Home: Salt Lake City’s innovative 337 Project turns garage doors into artistic canvases. 

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Art—and artists, for that matter—have traditionally had a hard time finding a place to feel at home, from artists of the Renaissance who struggled with an uneasy relationship with wealthy patronage to Van Gogh who lived in poverty to today’s street artists whose work doesn’t fit in a restrained gallery space. A new Utah installation investigates the possibilities for places art can be “housed,” and ways art and the community can feel more at home together.

One of the most popular local art phenomena of the last 18 months was born of sheer serendipity: the 337 Project. A residential property purchased by attorney Adam Price didn’t suit the needs of Price and his wife as housing, and in the months before he planned to tear it down to make room for another edifice, he turned it over to local artists to be infused with their creative energy.

As the 337 Project blossomed into a full-blown arts organization, Price started to entertain ideas for other projects. Executive director Jacob Brace of Neighborhood House, a nonprofit child daycare and adult day-services site, approached Price this May to brainstorm the possibility of creating an art installation to give a gift to the community on the occasion of the unit’s 30th anniversary of adult day services and their child daycare program’s 114th. The Urban Gallery at Neighborhood House will open October 3.

Initially the two conceived of having inside doors painted but then decided it would be more accessible to the community to allow artists to paint on a series of garage doors adjacent to the parking lot. It was another stroke of genius. Price explains, “The first site taught us that some people don’t go to galleries, but [put] the right art in the right place and people will line up around the block.” Facing the street, the pieces will be visible 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Price says the 337 Project tries to form collaborative partnerships, first with the Salt Lake Art Center in hosting the just-ended 337 retrospective exhibit. This new show is aided by Professor Lela Graybill of the University of Utah Museum of Fine Art, who led the jury selecting the artists. “At their best, the suite of garage-door paintings takes into consideration both the scale of the site and the nature of an urban setting,” she maintains, “playing around with a billboard aesthetic, for example, or with the idea of graffiti art.”

Art works were still in progress as of press time, including Trent Call’s 1930’s-style cartoon character. Joe Thomas’ portrait of Captain Kirk includes scan lines that make the piece look like a giant TV from a distance. Sri Whipple’s abstract squiggles are still evolving. Margaret Willis’ flowery designs were the product of members of the adult day program. Ben Wiemeyer’s sailing ship resembles a charcoal sketch. Caleb Workman’s sunshine background will include a robot with tentacles.

Brace notes, “The playfulness of the art speaks to the kids here and to our mission, which includes art therapy.” Trent Alvey’s circle of Tibetan prayer flags in Neighborhood House’s playground was created with help of kids at the site as well as local schoolchildren. Artist Jann Haworth says, “The ‘social mission’ of the original 337 Project was a consequence, not an objective, so we might say that the consequence here will unfold over the coming months.”

Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon is set to unveil the work, noting, “Neighborhood House is a great nonprofit, and the gallery is a wonderful way to marry an art project with a community organization.” Although the county isn’t funding the project directly, part of 337’s funding comes from ZAP (Zoo, Arts & Parks) through partner VSA Arts (formerly Very Special Arts), as well as the city Arts Council and law firm Snow, Christensen & Martineau, all of which enables the project to pay the artists involved.

“It’s amazing to see the process of each artist at work,” Jacob Brace points out. “We’re grateful for the enthusiasm of the artists to participate in a show that will help break down stereotypes of the west-side community. It will open up new opportunities for gathering and sharing.”

The Urban Gallery opening is part of a larger event. “A Night of Art on the Westside” will offer the first peek at Ruby Chacon’s Bridges Over Barriers project in addition to openings at Captain Captain Studios, Mestizo Coffee House and Art Access Gallery.

Adam Price is planning a mobile “art truck” to travel around the community by year’s end, initially partnering with Brigham Young University’s Museum of Art. His newfound career as an arts organizer seems to be on a roll. “The transformation of space makes art more personal,” Price believes. “Imagine the entire city filled with wonderful images.”

337 PROJECT’S URBAN GALLERY @ Neighborhood House, 1050 W. 500 South, Friday Oct. 3, 6 p.m., 364-4589

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