Visual Arts=Soul Food
Utah's artsy types reveal how to forage for art.
Compiled by Lexie Levitt
We can relate. Honest. You're new in town and feel like a stranger in a strange land. So how do you find your bearings? The answer is, and always has been, art. There is something about the expression of visual art that defines the place where you live and the people who live there. We've asked a number of folks who are "in the know" when it comes to the local arts scene for the best ways to plug in and take part in Salt Lake City's vibrant arts community.
Lisa Sewell, Utah Arts Festival, UAF.org
As the largest outdoor multidisciplinary arts event in the state, the four-day Utah Arts Festival features more than 140 visual artists, 100 performing-arts groups and 18 culinary artists and draws 80,000 patrons to downtown Salt Lake City. In 2012, look for it June 21 to 24.
"Year-round, the art scene kind of shifts cyclically. Fall feels like the start of the gallery stroll season, so you see all the local galleries and people coming out to Gallery Stroll, which is on the third Friday of the month. When the holidays hit, a lot of the galleries focus on holiday shows, and they have extended hours in the evenings and on the weekends, so there's an opportunity to get more plugged into the art scene between Thanksgiving and Christmas and the new year. In December, EVE (Dec. 29-31) starts the new year as a downtown event to get people excited about what's going on artistically, activity-wise and community-wise. Then, big stuff happens starting in the spring with Living Traditions (May 18-20), then the Pride Festival (June 1-3), Utah Arts Festival (June 21-24), the Kimball Arts Festival (Aug. 3-5)—those kinds of events. There's stuff to do all the time."
Sheryl Gillilan, Art Access/VSA Utah, 230 S. 500 West, No. 125, Salt Lake City, 801-328-0703, AccessArt.org
Art Access/VSA Utah was founded in 1984 to make the arts accessible to people with disabilities. Its Art Access Gallery, located in the downtown artists community known as Artspace, exhibits the work of artists both with and without disabilities.
"I would make my big pitch for why you should buy art, which is to say that if you buy a piece of art as a gift, it's unique. It's one of a kind, and the money goes back to the artist and a small percentage of that goes to the organization that hosts the event. In our case, 70 percent goes to the artist and 30 percent goes to Art Access; we use that to fund our programs. If you buy a gift here, you're supporting an artist who lives in your community, and you're supporting an organization in your community that employs people, so it's a very grass-roots way to spend your money. It's absolutely an investment. People always say, 'Art is the first thing I cut from my budget.' Well, that might be initially true, but really, you can't live without art because it feeds your soul. People are wanting to come out of the recession, are wanting to buy art again because it feeds that part of yourself, the beauty side of yourself, the soulful part of you."
Kristina Robb, Salt Lake Gallery Stroll, GalleryStroll.org
Founded by the Salt Lake Gallery Association in 1983, Gallery Stroll is a self-guided tour on the third Friday of each month where galleries and other businesses that support visual artists stay open late to allow art enthusiasts to tour exhibits after hours. (In December, the Gallery Stroll is held on the first Friday of the month.)
"The Salt Lake Gallery Stroll Web page (GalleryStroll.org) has a cohesive list of what's happening not only in the galleries, but all of the other alternative venues. For instance, one is Cathedral Tattoo (249 E. 400 South)—they do some really great exhibits, as does Blonde Grizzly (15 E. 400 South). We partner with 15 Bytes Magazine. It's an e-magazine published by Artists of Utah (ArtistsOfUtah.org) where you can get information, not only about Salt Lake City, but the surrounding area. They do reviews and write stories about certain exhibits. These are some go-to places for visual arts in Salt Lake City. We overlap to a certain extent, but we also provide different information and then people can choose what they like."
Adam Price, Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (formerly Salt Lake Art Center), 20 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City, 801-328-4201, UtahMOCA.org
UMOCA has been around for more than 75 years, is housed in a beautiful downtown facility next to Abravanel Hall and is a must-see for those who crave contemporary visual art, especially large-scale avant-garde exhibits.
The way to get involved with visual arts in Utah is to visit the galleries and museums. I'll put in a plug for the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art which has some wonderful exhibitions up, but the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (410 Campus Center Drive, Salt Lake City, 801-581-7332, UMFA.Utah.edu), Brigham Young University Museum of Art (North Campus Drive, Provo, 801-422-8287) and even the Central Utah Art Center in Ephraim (CUArtCenter.org)—all have really terrific exhibitions. There's also some great local galleries that you could check out including Nox Contemporary (440 S. 400 West, Suite H, Salt Lake City, 801-289-6269, NoxContemporary.org), Phillips (444 E. 200 South, Salt Lake City, 801-364-8284, Phillips-Gallery.com) and Kayo (177 E. Broadway, Salt Lake City, 801-532-0080, KayoGallery.com). The Leonardo (209 E. 500 South, Salt Lake City, 801-531-9800, TheLeonardo.org) has some artwork that's quite good. If you want to get more involved in the local scene, you could start looking for the occasional openings of studios like Captain Captain (825 S. 500 West, Salt Lake City, CaptainCaptain.org) or Poor Yorick (126 W. Crystal Ave. [2590 South], South Salt Lake, 801-759-8681, PoorYorickStudios.com) or the Guthrie (158 E. 200 South, Salt Lake City), all of which are large collections of artists working in one place. Each opens about twice a year—some more frequently than that—and it's a great party you can go to and hang out with your friends and see artists in their studios and the things they're working on. It's a lot of fun.
Gretchen Dietrich, Utah Museum of Fine Arts, 410 Campus Center Drive, Salt Lake City, 801-581-7332, UMFA.Utah.edu
Of course, my first answer will be the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. We're a university museum, but we're also a community museum. We have 19,000 objects covering 5,000 years of human history and a really amazing special-exhibitions program and awesome public programs. There's always a lot happening in our museum, with new exhibitions, visiting artists, people giving talks and people doing performances.
Definitely on my list would be the big works of land art in Utah that put Utah on the international map for art, and that's Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty (Rozel Point, the Great Salt Lake, Box Elder County), which was built in 1970. When I first moved to Utah eight years ago, one of the first things we did was see Spiral Jetty. If you're an art person, and you're interested in art, it's one of the few things that a lot of people who move here know about Utah. It's incredible. It's one of the most important art works made in the 20th century in the world, period.