Thursday, March 17, 2011

Art in Salt Lake City, Utah

A. Paul & I headed out to Salt Lake City under gray skies. With umbrella and camera in hand, we took this last day opportunity to explore the art venues that Salt Lake City has to offer its residents and visitors.  Our first stop was to the Utah Museum of Fine Art (UMFA).

Don Olsen artwork
Given its location on Utah University's campus, UMFA was buzzing with students of all ages visiting the exhibits within the building.  On the lower level of the museum, we encountered the works of Don Olsen, who, in 1954 at the age of 44,  studied with Hans Hofmann in Provincetown, MA.  The works exhibited demonstrated Olsen's study of push/pull theory under Hofmann's tutelage and was in honor of what would have been Olsen's 100th birthday.  Olsen was both a visual and performing artist, being one of Utah's notable violinst in its symphony.   In addition to the Olsen Abstract Expressionist exhibit, there was an extensive collection of  23 artists' works based on and influenced by contemporary artist Robert Smithson.  On the second level of the museum was a photographic exhibit of  photographer Helen Levitt's work.

Though the museum is comparatively small to other museums that we have visited, it was well curated and incorporated works in American , Greek & Roman, European, Asian, Pre Columbian and Native American cultures alongside  its special exhibits.

Upon our departure, A. Paul & I made our way through the heart of the city taking in its sights.  Very notable are the many artistic structures throughout the city including bronze birds permanently perched upon the transportation station stops and bronze arches spanning across its streets.  Along the center square, the Mormon Tabernacle spires rose towards the sky above the solid walls that surround it.  Past the Energy Solutions Arena, home to the Utah JAZZ, stand two bronze bastketball players memorialized for eternity. 

On the west side of the city, we arrived at ArtSpace,  our next destination. ArtSpace is a non for profit organization created in 1980 whose mission is to assist in the revitalization of communities through its creation of mixed use housing and commercial spaces. The ArtSpace converted warehouse we visited today  houses artists' live/work spaces, non for profit organization ART ACCESS, the Utah Arts Festival Foundation,  Tanner Frames, a very active frame shop, and other supportive community based businesses. 

L-R: Amanda Finlayson, Sheryl Gillian, Ruth Lubbers,
& Cori Redstone
We began our visit at ART ACCESS, where we were graciously received by the three directors of the organization.  Executive Director Ruth Lubbers, Programming Director Amanda Finlayson, and Assistant Director Sheryl Gillian, though busy hanging the new exhibit for the upcoming gallery opening, took time to explain the roll ART ACCESS fulfills in the community.  ART ACCESS, chartered in 1984,  is associated to VSA, a non for profit organization founded in 1974 by Ambassador  Jean Kennedy Smith.  The mission of the organization is to promote the arts through providing the tools, education, and representation  to those with disabilities and  to those disenfranchised in the community.  The organization offers a multitude of programs such as residence artist programs, art mentoring, teen and adult workshops.

Cori Redstone artwork
In 1991, ART ACCESS established the Art Access Gallery, which showcases the works of its network of artists in two gallery salons.   At the time of our visit, artist Cori Redstone was hanging her paintings for her "Women of Their Time." exhibit.  Her  works feature women who have developed a confidence in their lives and at times challenged the norms within their social arenas. The effect of the pieces is thought provoking.  The execution of the work masterfully balanced to their intent.   It was a pleasure to meet all of you and best wishes to you on the success of Art Access and the upcoming openings.

Across the hall from ART ACCESS is the Utah Arts Festival Organization. UAF has been in operation for 35 years and hosts the largest outdoor multi disciplinary arts venue in the state of Utah.   The four day June event brings over 80,000 people to Utah and is ranked in the top 100 festivals in the nation. The festival collaborates with over 100 performing artists of theater, symphony, and jazz and 140 visual artists of various mediums.
Travis Tanner & Kerry

Down the hall from UAF we met artist and framer Travis Tanner.  A. Paul was immediately impressed with the skill and artistry of Tanners handmade canvases and extensive collection of frames.  Tanner has been creating custom canvas and frame work for artists, collectors, galleries and museums for nearly 20 years, almost 10 of these in his own shop, Tanner Frames, which he opened in 2003. Tanner Frames is part frame shop and part gallery where he exhibits few of his own assemblage pieces alongside those works of artists he knows or admires personally.

lobby artwork historic rendering
After our visit to ArtSpace, we traveled across to Rio Gallery housed in the historic Rio Grande Train Station.  When we stepped into the space it was as if we stepped back in time.  The old cafe was empty as if it were waiting for the next train of passengers to arrive.  In the midst of the interior space were free standing contemporary display walls where a new exhibit was being hung for this coming Friday's opening. The Rio Gallery was established to provide a free venue to exhibit emerging and established Utahn artists. 

Our last stop of the day took us to the  Salt Lake Art Center where we met artist/volunteer Maggie Willis.   Maggie provided us some background information on the non for profit Art Center and introduced us to the current exhibit "Sundance Film Festival: New Frontier.".  The Art Center is a main venue for the contemporary arts in Utah and hosts not only exhibits but educational talks, youth programs, workshops, and internships. 

Maggie Willis & Kerry
The structure of the Art Center is a perfect backdrop to its contemporary exhibits.  As A. Paul & I explored the Sundance exhibit, we could not overlook the architectural lines of the steel stairs and vast dark space that encompassed the visual, graphic displays of art.  Each exhibit space was perfectly lit and most had a hands on or interactive component which enhanced the overall experience of the exhibit.

As we exited the Art Center, the skies had increasingly darkened as an approaching storm was making its way across the state.  Throughout our drive back to Sandy,  we took notice of the many sites of construction work taking place throughout the city.  We take this as a positive sign that the economy is showing signs of improvement in Salt Lake City and are pleasantly surprised and pleased to see such a committed emphasis on the arts in Utah.  

Tomorrow we depart to make our way to Telluride, CO for the next few days. 


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