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Gavin's Underground

Urban Arts Gallery

by Gavin Sheehan
- Posted // 2013-05-24 - Here's a truth that no official will come out and admit: The Gateway Mall has been slowly dying off. The once-prominent outdoor mall has watched business scatter due to high rental costs and now City Creek just up the street, taking bigger businesses away. While the mall still has plenty of shops taking up spaces and doing well for themselves, there's no denying the fact that one-too-many empty storefronts can been seen across the nearly three-block walk. But, with vacancy comes an opportunity for new local businesses to take shape and fill out the mall with more interesting spots.

One of those spots is the new Urban Arts Gallery, at 137 South Rio Grande Street. Just underneath the Megaplex 12 on the south side of the mall, it has become a new focal point of entertainment for the Gateway. The gallery, which is run by the Utah Arts Alliance, showcases art from dozens of artists at a single time, as well as selling gifts and crafts, all from local creators. Today, I chat with our old friend, photographer and now gallery curator Cat Palmer about the gallery and the work they're doing at The Gateway. All with pictures I took from a few weeks ago, which you can check out here.

Cat Palmer

UtahArts.org

Gavin: Hey, Cat. First off, how have you been since we last spoke?

Cat: I am well, busy and in need of sleep and perhaps a clone of myself. I am thankful to have some amazing staff, interns and volunteers.

Gavin: How have things been working out for you at the UAA Arts Hub and what's it like working with everyone there?

Cat: I love it at the Arts Hub! It feels like one big art family there. There is a great energy throughout that place.
Gavin: Getting right to it, how did the idea for the Urban Arts Gallery come about?

Cat: Well, the Gateway approached Derek Dyer in August 2012 about having a gallery at The Gateway. Derek has always wanted an urban arts gallery ... so, it happened! I came on board in about December of 2012 and offered to run it.

Gavin: Considering the new hub and other UAA galleries around the city, why did the UAA want to start a new one outside the hub?

Cat: Well, it was mainly The Gateway who approached us, and the UAA is not one to pass up a good opportunity. It is a great location and a beautiful space.
Gavin: With all the spots in the mall currently available, how did you land the spot you're in by the theater?

Cat: Because I came into the project late in the game, I have no idea how the exact location location came to be. I do believe that Derek had his choice of available spaces.

Gavin: What was the space like when you first came in, and how much work did you need to do on it?

Cat: The space was beautiful. We just removed a few things, replaced bulbs and hung a lot of amazing art! 
Gavin: What made you decide to come on board as the curator?

Cat: I decided if I did not get the teaching job I had applied for that I would offer up my services. I loved the location and Derek's vision. Even though I do not need more to do, I could not pass up this exciting new adventure.

Gavin: Prior to opening, how did you decide who to have around the space to exhibit and showcase?

Cat: Derek and I sat down and made our wish list. We also sent out an open call for submissions. We then planned out the year. We were able to get everyone on our wish list.
Gavin: Aside from being just an art gallery, you also sell artistic and craft works. What made you decide to introduce that element on a smaller scale, rather than just sell major works?

Cat: That was actually my idea to have a boutique within the gallery. I wanted to showcase some of the talent we have in Utah. I also know that not everyone can afford $3,000 art pieces and wanted to have some more-affordable locally made items.

Gavin: What was the opening like, and what was the reception like from both patrons and the mall?

Cat: Our grand opening was on February 16 and it was a huge success. We have been well-received and the public loves having culture and locally made products in the mall. We have our regulars who come in and say hello to us weekly.
Gavin: How do you go about choosing who to display each month, and who are some of the featured artists you've had since opening?

Cat: Basically, we look for art that fits into our feel of "urban art." We have had Jimmi Toro -- who we still carry some of his work --, Mason Fetzer, Kier Defstar, Fred Conlon -- Sugar Post Metal --, Tim Little, Anthony Granato, Tai -- weird chief --, Jorge --Stencil Jam--, Julie Lucus, BACEE,  Grant Fuhst and Stephanie Swift. We currently have our SLC Urban Alchemist exhibit happening with the works of SRIL, CHEW, BETSO, BERG and KUHR.

Gavin: The UAA's Connect events are now held there, and the Urban Arts Festival will take place in the Gateway, as well, with the gallery as a focal point. What other events are you looking to hold there?

Cat: We have regular DJs who come in and spin. Throughout the month, we feature dancers: the B-Boy Federation -- break-dancing --, the Fourteenth Ward -- belly dancing --, and Porridge for Goldilocks  -- modern dance. We are also starting a once-a-month poetry slam.
Gavin: What is the long-term goal with the gallery, and what are you hoping to achieve with it at Gateway?

Cat: We are hoping to breathe back some life into the Gateway. We want to show the new direction that the Gateway is going and support our community, there. We are hoping the gallery will continue to be successful and that we will continue to be a venue for people to showcase their art.

Gavin: What can we expect from both you and the Urban Arts Gallery over the rest of the year?

Cat: Expect an amazing Urban Arts Festival, to be held on July 20. It will be free to the public and feature 100 local artists, a live demo wall, a fashion show, three entertainment stages, SLUG's "Summer of Death Tour" with a skatepark, a skateboard deck show -- you can currently pick up a a board at the gallery --, a kid's yard being supported by the Discovery Zone, a BEER garden and a student-run film festival from East Hollywood High.
Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?

Cat: I will be doing round two of my I Have A Secret exhibit in August, to be displayed at the Urban Arts Gallery.


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