Jane Ball: Avenues Walkabout 

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Jane Ball, a part-time library aid and massage therapist, spent a year photographing the small architectural, decorative and landscaping details of the Avenues neighborhood. Her resulting exhibit of photographs will be displayed at the Sweet Library (455 N. F St., 801-594-8651) through June 11, with a public reception May 14 at 4 p.m. Those visiting the Avenues Walkabout exhibit can pick up a map and explore the Avenues to try to locate the details that Ball captured.

What gave you the idea for this exhibit?
I decorated windows for a fashion shop in Sugar House. When you’re doing that, you find out that color, line, pattern, everything leads the eye. I found that to be true for architecture, landscaping and, of course, here in the Avenues. It grabs your eye and keeps you looking back. [The library] had a call for artists, and last spring, I decided I would take the photos. I always think, “Why didn’t I take that photo of that house, or that little detail in the garden?” It’s really just a memory to me now. That’s what’s wonderful about photography. It crystallizes that time and space, and you can always refer back to it.

What makes the Avenues noteworthy?
This is an ideal place to live. It gives you everything. People have front porches, and they are all placed close together. You don’t have white fences and miles in between the front door and your neighbor’s. There are people walking their dogs, pushing their baby carriages, jogging, riding their skateboards, walking to the grocery store and everything. You’ve got so many things to see and explore—restaurants, shops, parks, the library. If you’re into visuals, it’s a great place to be, and it’s safe. There’s more of a mentality to walk here because of the diversity in architecture and, of course, the people.

Did you draw any conclusions about the neighborhood?
I’ve walked the Avenues for many, many years because I live here and have to walk it with my dog. The thing I found that was interesting is that things change; they’re very fluid here. People move a lot—there are a lot of renters in the Avenues—and people die off. There are changes that come with that. Sometimes there’s beautiful landscaping, and then it’s gone, because the landlord said, “You’re using too much water,” or they’ve moved and nobody knows how to take care of the yard.

What rules did you set for yourself?
I didn’t go to South Temple, or above 11th, or to Virginia Street. I tried to not trespass. What good is it if I go in an alley and find something that nobody else can? I tried to take the images from the street so they could be discovered. I was taking the pictures up to the very last day. I had to take one of the photographs out of the exhibit because the original had disappeared. It was a stained glass window and [the residents] had taken it away.

Why did you make a map?
There always has to be something for me that’s extra. Beyond coming and looking at my work, I thought, “Well, why not make this something so other people could explore and have a good time and see the beauty here in the Avenues?”

Do you plan to do more exhibits?
I took so many pictures that I’m thinking I’m going to work with those and have a booth at the Avenues Street Fair in September and show some of them. I got to know all these homes, and it’ll be interesting for me to see how I follow them up. What are they going to look like in another five years, 10 years? Are they going to change dramatically, as well?

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