Great art wouldn’t happen without great places to show it. Aaron Moulton and Shilo Jackson, two people behind some of the most notable local art exhibits in the past few years, are leaving their respective key roles, and the loss to the local art scene is incalculable. So, as UMOCA’s Moulton departs for new opportunities and Jackson closes Kayo Gallery, we bid them farewell and won’t soon forget the impact they had on not only the art scene, but Salt Lake City as a whole.
Aaron Moulton was selected as senior curator at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art at the beginning of 2012. He had been the editor of Flash Art International magazine in Milan, and then operated the Feinkost gallery in Berlin for five years before coming to Salt Lake City.
Of entering a curatorial role, he says, “It was an obvious move to go from thinking about how art is packaged and what strategies professionals are using to employing my own ideas in practice. My curatorial research and approach came out of that naturally. From the beginning, my work was more about intellectual pursuits possible in art versus entertainment or spectacle.”
UMOCA has shown more conceptual art recently, but also made its programming more accessible, and Moulton’s tenure culminated in the first-ever Utah Biennial, titled Mondo Utah, which is a retrospective show of local contemporary art, on display through until Dec. 14. It took someone like Moulton—not from Utah, but with a gift of looking at this place and seeing the depths of its artistic eccentricities, and the genius of the local imagination—to assemble the sheer diversity of local artists in this monumental exhibition. Moulton also brought many notable international artists to exhibit there, and added to the gallery’s reputation internationally.
Under Moulton’s curatorial vision—as well as the vision of Executive Director Adam Price, who recently departed to take the position of executive director of the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha, Neb., the gallery entered a much more progressive phase, and also accelerated its community outreach. “At UMOCA, we have an ability to respond light years faster than most institutions and produce programming that is more relevant to today based on that speed,” Moulton says. “In doing so, this institution is one of the more cutting-edge kunsthalles [German for “nonprofit art space”] in the country.”
Moulton is moving to Los Angeles to continue to make art exhibitions, “but on a very different level. … Moving on from my position here is incredibly bittersweet,” he says. “I have never had such an intense level of creative control and opportunity for impact in this industry for a regional art scene.”
UTAH MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART
20 S. West Temple
Shilo Jackson acquired Kayo Gallery from founder Kenny Riches in 2008, and the space—a must-stop on monthly Gallery Stroll nights—was an ideal venue for smaller works. But the works showing there weren’t small in stature; nationally renowned artists Lora Fosberg and Tony Fitzpatrick were among the exhibits Jackson brought to town, and locals like Amber Heaton, Mary Toscano and Elmer Presslee used the wall space in unconventional ways.
Before owning Kayo, Jackson was involved with the nonprofit Women’s Art Center, and saw the difficulties Kayo was experiencing. “There seems to be a lot of energy around art here in Salt Lake City, but not a lot of money to support it. It’s a sad state of affairs.” Still, she took on the challenge of Kayo, and the gallery became an important niche in the local arts community.
“I knew owning a business—a gallery especially—was not for the faint of heart,” Jackson says. She has worked a day job and never drawn a salary from Kayo, hoping to make it self-sustaining. She found that “the sacrifice, at the time, was worth it to me. I think art is incredibly important and enriches people’s lives. My goal was to keep Kenny’s vision for Salt Lake, having a space where artists have total control over how their work is displayed, and showcasing progressive contemporary art.”
But the harsh financial realities of operating a gallery in this city, in this economy, finally took their toll, and earlier this year, Jackson decided she couldn’t afford to keep supporting Kayo out of her own pocket. “Kayo has been a labor of love, exhilarating, a gut-wrenching heartbreak, a roller coaster,” she says. “I feel so fortunate for having had the opportunity to run it for the past six years. I got to host some incredible shows, work with some amazing artists, and I will miss it immensely.”
But she will be remaining in Salt Lake City. “I’m going to take some time to relax and regroup, and work on my art,” Jackson says. “And I’ll be attending Gallery Stroll for the first time in six years.”
A lot of galleries have opened and closed in this town, and 66 months worth of shows is a considerable run. A lot of local artists made their mark on the map at Kayo first, and the gallery’s overall caliber of shows was hard to beat. “Even if it failed a bit, it delivered on the art,” Jackson says. “Kayo always delivered on the art.”
Kayo Gallery’s final show—featuring Sri Whipple, Jeff Christensen, Natalia Pierandrei, Chad Crane and Emily Hart Wood—runs through July 13.
177 E. 300 South