Visual Arts | Creek Art: Artists congregate in a fascinating East Bench setting. | Arts & Entertainment | Salt Lake City Weekly

Visual Arts | Creek Art: Artists congregate in a fascinating East Bench setting. 

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Old buildings, especially those with rich histories and original façades, make the most illustrious art studios. Why the hell, then, do so many old buildings face the imminent threat of being leveled or converted into luxury condos? The answer may seem obvious—big bucks. But there is a more interesting reason why some of these buildings survive: The answer: landlords who are committed to, and enamored with, an artistic environment. There are still those weirdos who prefer the smell of hazardous art elixirs to that of the long green. Huzzah!

Eleven years ago, Kevin Flynn acquired a building in East Mill Creek—Pierpont was his original plan—with the intent to subdivide it into artist studios. “I have a passion for art, myself, and being around creative people,” he says, “and, being a musician and writing music, I like the environment.” He also sought a music studio of his own for his jazz band the Slickrock Gypsies.

The Baldwin Building, located at 3474 S. 2300 East, has had a history of enabling creative, artistic and otherwise eccentric individuals that extends much farther back than Flynn’s vision. Nathaniel Baldwin, said to have been a particularly peculiar and brilliant man, had the then-plant built to produce military-ordered headphones in the 1920s. Noteworthy for his inventive tendencies, Baldwin devised not only these headphones, but amplifiers, radio speakers and other devices that contributed to the high-tech boom of the era. It is rumored also that Philo T. Farnsworth fabricated the world’s first television in Baldwin’s plant. Baldwin not only was an insatiable inventor but a devout polygamist. His plant was self-sustained by a rigged hydroelectric system and, today, still conceals underground tunnels from building to building where water flowed. Interesting factoids for an almost-commune-feeling art space.

Today, “Artipelago”—as Flynn calls it—stands spiffier than ever, nestled between the East Millcreek Library and a quaint, secluded little park. Flynn has put a lot of work into the building; he was finally able to make the studio subdivisions a reality only in the past couple of years. The result is a sort of art enclave with spacious studios and amiable tenants. There are painted, hanging wooden signs over studio doors, making it feel much like the main drag of a little old Western town.

The overall area seems conducive to creating art and music, and there is an almost old-timey sense of community and dedication to trade. It’s quite the art space to stumble upon unexpectedly in the quiet upper-East Bench neighborhood. And it’s deceptively large. Including the labyrinthine basement under the front portion, the building hosts 16 artists, a handful of musicians and three small businesses. They participate in gallery stroll about three times a year.

Vintage Arts, among the building’s oldest tenants, has been in the space since 1981. Brothers Chris and Craig Timm took over their father’s custom furniture/antique restoration business and have been there through changes in artists, businesses and owners. “The county had their eye on the building at the same time Kevin did,” Chris Timm recalls. “They wanted to level it.”

And this was not the only time the building was threatened. He remembers several occasions over the years when uncertainty loomed over the drafty but well-preserved building. “We really like it here,” Timm says—and why wouldn’t they? Their shop used to be a glass studio, Timm said, housing the last glass-blowing furnace in the state in what now functions as their spray booth. It’s still gilded with stained glass windows, a legacy of a highly specialized trade.

Zach Hixson, a painter who recently exhibited at Patrick Moore Gallery, also has an enviable set-up worth checking out for the build-out alone. All too rare in Utah, his warehouse-style quarters encompass a studio, lofty living space and art-infused surroundings—complete with a woodshop right next door. Old pool tiles—which came from a pile of treasure-laden rubble that was on the premises—line the kitchen and bathroom areas. He even used materials from this pile for some of the remodeling.

In addition to Hixson, painters at the site include Dawna and Jill Barton, Paris Gerrard, Stephanie Saint Thomas, Sheryl Thornton, Laurel Hart, Leah Kathleen Moore, Debra Russell, Candy Rideout, Greg White, Tyler Hamblin, Debra Russell, Gregory Stocks and Cheryl Merkley—all of whose studios will be open for the upcoming gallery stroll.

It’s refreshing to know that places like “Artipelago” exist outside of downtown. Although many prefer to stick close to the (sort of) art district, it’s nice to take a short trip southeast to experience a retro-communal art plaza. The turnout for previous gallery strolls so far has been good, Flynn says, and the festivities should be on par with the downtown scene—live music, refreshments and lots of stuff to see.

And as for the work itself? Strollers can see for themselves if the work matches the fascination of the setting.

MILLCREEK GALLERY OPEN HOUSE @ 3474 S. 2300 East, Friday Nov. 16, 6 p.m.-9 p.m.

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About The Author

Cara Despain

Cara Despain is an artist, freelance art writer and curator. She is co-curator of GARFO Art Center and faculty at the Visual Art Institute.

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