Visual Art | Work in Progress: The Temporary Museum of Permanent Change chronicles a city in flux 

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As anyone who sucks our inversion-laden air already knows, a sizeable chunk of Salt Lake City’s historic downtown recently has succumbed to the wrecking ball of progress. What may be news is that one helluva museum—with a fluid footprint extending north to City Creek Park, east to the Cathedral of the Madeleine, south to Library Square and west to Central Station (300 S. 600 West)—is working hard to fill the gaping hole left behind.

As you can imagine, operating such an extensive project can be quite a daunting chore. Thus, when Sundance once again reared its cinematic head, curator Stephen Goldsmith leaped at such auspicious timing. After consulting with fellow curators (graphic designer Gilberto Schaefer and photographer John Schaefer), the Temporary Museum of Permanent Change’s Goldsmith opted to devote the entirety of one of its four distinct wings to the festival—City Creek, Gateway, Main Street and Broadway.

Mind you, this particular “wing” is far more conceptual than physical. “What’s going on in Salt Lake [City] right now is a museum of change,” Goldsmith explains. “Cities are these revolving places with an ever-changing series of events and people and ideas. We simply thought with downtown experiencing all of this cataclysmic construction, what a great opportunity to take a teachable moment about how places change over time. So instead of having part of the festival in Salt Lake City this year, let’s have it in the Broadway Wing of the Temporary Museum of Permanent Change.”

As a result, a series of “plakats”—the German word for “poster”—have been installed up and down Broadway with images designed specifically for the festival; a slideshow of the work can also be seen on the museum’s Website. When all the cinema hype eventually skips town, these spaces will be used to display local artwork including photography, written word, collage and more. In fact, depending on funding and collaborative interest, there are plans to mount similar street-side art installations throughout the other three wings of the museum—all of which will remain decidedly non-commercial.

“It’s important to keep in mind that all of this is artistic in vision,” Goldsmith says. “This is not to advertise somebody’s business or anything; these are specifically art installations designed to animate downtown. As curators, we’re out there unearthing the treasures of Salt Lake [City], and we’ll be highlighting it all, including on our Website.”

For Shari Frilot, the curator for the Sundance Film Festival’s art exhibition New Frontier on Main, the idea of creating a museum out of an entire city undergoing major construction was simply just too brilliant to pass up. “I love their approach,” she says. “Even though they’re brand new, I thought, who cares, their idea is really interesting, and they have a lot of energy. I like where they’re coming from and there are a couple of artists in our lineup that seem quite appropriate.”

Enter The Cause Collective and The Graffiti Research Lab, two of the Sundance-associated artists scheduled to spend some time down in Salt Lake City proper. In addition to musicians and activities happening at the Beehive Tea Room (Salt Lake City’s Sundance Festival Café), the plan is to project films onto the sides of buildings and virtually “tag” spaces about town with an open-source Weapon of Mass Defacement (WMD).

With the sole purpose of enabling the common citizen, The Graffiti Research Lab designed this particular WMD to provide the ability to communicate on the same scale as advertisers, corporations and governments. According to press materials, “The L.A.S.E.R. Tag payload allows individuals to write their own personal communications and expressions with a 60 milliwatt green laser on industrial facilities, monuments, towers, bridges, city skylines and other hard and soft targets of interest.”

As Frilot noted, this particular New Frontier artist seems to be a perfect fit for the mission and direction of Salt Lake’s newest museum. Although this initial year is admittedly somewhat of a pilot run, both parties see it as the possible beginning of a long-term relationship. Such immediate curatorial results are proof of a dynamic and mutually beneficial relationship between these two artistic organizations. Not only has Sundance found a way to bring more of its energetic festival atmosphere to the Salt Lake valley, the Temporary Museum of Permanent Change now has one impressive exhibition housed within its nonexistent walls. Such a coup will help promote its artistic message of cultural exploration and community celebration.

With the likes of Sundance providing support and artistic fodder—not to mention a downtown seemingly suffering from a condition known as “perma-construction”—there is no limit for creatively filling Salt Lake City’s gaping hole. With plenty high-minded plans, this ground-breaking curatorial notion is broadly inclusive enough to suggest a long life, regardless of how contradictory that may read on paper: A Perpetual Temporary Museum of Permanent Change?

The Temporary Museum of Permanent Change @ MuseumOfChange.org

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