In the early
days of the 337 Project, long before I got my blog on here, I took
photos of it for the KUTV website and was given the rare chance to
see the project unfold. Yes, Peter Rosen was the first to talk about
it anywhere and cover it's initial conception... but I got to watch
Going from an empty office building that was a refuge to many of the homeless who refused to live on the west end, to what's now become a cultural monument of the Salt Lake City art community. As of when I type this, the building has but a mere day left to stand before it's taken down to give way to the first green building in SLC. But in its final hours hundreds of people have come by to gaze at the art, photograph it for prosperity, and at least one wedding video has been done outside the main steps, all within the past month. Proof positive that all you really need is a vision and a little planning to make an impact around here. Before the demolition takes place I got a chance to ask Adam Price, the man behind the project, a few questions about numerous topics from the start of 337 to what lies ahead.
Adam & Dessi Price
Gavin: Hey Adam. For those who don't know you, who are you and what do you do?
Adam: I am an attorney with a general litigation practice at the law firm of Jones Waldo. More recently, I have been fortunate enough to be the owner of the building at 337 South 400 East, otherwise known as the 337 Project.
Gavin: A year later, how does it feel in general?
Adam: As the 337 Project comes to an end, I've been feeling pretty nostalgic about the whole thing. Sometimes I'll let myself into the building and just wander around for a while, trying to recapture the sights and sounds and energy of the 337 Project when it was in full swing.
Gavin: For those who seriously don't know, explain what 337 Project was and how it came to be.
Adam: In about November 2006, my wife, Dessi, and I decided that we were going to demolish the building at 337 South because of its generally poor condition. Shortly after making the decision, we traveled to New York City to visit my mother. While we were there, we happened to see the 11 Spring Street show, an old building that had been turned over by a real estate developer to the Wooster Collective to be used as a temporary canvas for a wonderful graffiti-inspired show. On the flight back home, Dessi and I wondered whether there would be any interest in a similar project in Salt Lake City. The rest, they say, is history.
Gavin: What was the initial reaction from the community when it debuted?
Adam: When we started, I was very concerned that there might be a negative reaction from some part of the community, if only because we were doing something that had never been done here before. Fortunately that never happened. The community was incredibly supportive of the 337 Project.
Gavin: How many people came to see it during it's original run?
Adam: During the six days that the 337 Project was open to the public, over 10,000 people visited the building. The line to get in was frequently several hours long.
Gavin: Many assumed it would be torn down immediately. What caused the delay?
Adam: Because vacant lots are not very strong contributors to the community, Salt Lake City is reluctant to issue a demolition permit unless plans are in place for something to replace the demolished building. Unfortunately, it took Dessi and I much longer than we had expected to get plans for the new project in place.
Gavin: Did anything happen to any of the art inside after its doors closed?
Adam: Shortly after the show closed, all of the artists were invited to remove as much of their artwork as they desired. Very few artists took us up on the offer, however, and so most of the artwork is the same now as it was when the show was open to the public. Except that there is now a noticeable energy of decay that permeates the building and the artwork in it.
Gavin: The original concept that was on the billboard out front changed from what we have seen the designs are now. Why the design change?
Adam: We changed the design for two reasons. First, it was very difficult to come up with a design that wouldn't force us into bankruptcy halfway through the project; the somewhat lower cost of building with shipping containers helped to solve that problem. Second, because of the success of the 337 Project we wanted to create a building that was not only green, but that also honored the contributions that the 337 Project artists made to the community. The 337 Project succeeded, in part, because of the miraculous transformation of an ordinary building into a work of art; by using discarded shipping containers to create a place where people live and go to see new artwork, we hope to capture some of the transformational dynamic that was so much a part of the 337 Project.
Gavin: Tell us a little about the new building.
Adam: The building will be the first mid-rise container building in the United States, joining a small number of similar projects in Amsterdam and London. In order to maintain continuity with the 337 Project, Dessi and I have designated several places on the exterior for public art. Our plan currently will be to support the local art community by commissioning new works of art for those spaces approximately every six months. If everything goes well, the building should be a continuing source of new aesthetic experiences for many years to come.
Gavin: Have any of the artists objected to the teardown or what's being put in it's place?
Adam: Much the contrary. The artists were, in fact, somewhat frustrated about the delay in demolition because the destruction was always an integral part of the art.
Gavin: What do you think its impact has been on the community in general?
Adam: I can't really say how the 337 Project impacted other people. What I can say, however, is that it was amazing to see how many thousands of people--most of whom don't ordinarily go to Salt Lake's museums or gallerieswere willing to stand in line for hours to see the 337 Project. Dessi and I have recently incorporated the 337 Project as a nonprofit so that we can explore how to better meet this demand in the community for more accessible visual arts experiences.
Gavin: How about it's impact on the local art scene?
Adam: I think people who were part of the arts community before the 337 Project would be better able to answer this question than I could.
Gavin: And then you've said before in other interviews it's changed you. What's been it's impact on you?
Adam: Sometimes, very rarely, you can have an encounter with art that takes your breath away, that you think about repeatedly for many years thereafter. I've been having that encounter every day for the last year, every time I walk past, or into, the 337 Project. The whole thing has given me a sense of excitement and optimism about the future that I think was missing from my life before.
Gavin: I know it seems like an odd question, but do you personally have any plans down the road to keep doing things like this, or are you planning to just go back to being an attorney?
Adam: I plan to continue practicing law for the foreseeable future, but I can't imagine going back to a life where I had no involvement with the local arts community.
Gavin: Any final thoughts you wanna express before it comes down?
Adam: Dessi and I have some fun ideas in the works for new visual arts explorations through the 337 Project, some of which may find you unexpectedly. Keep your eyes open!