"Giving everyone their fifteen bytes of fame"
September 2003
Page 5
Public Events: Salt Lake City
Mainly Art

by Linda Bergstrom

Where can you go on a Friday or Saturday night and see artists congregating on the sidewalk selling jewelry, painting landscapes, making didgeridoos, or chiseling African stone? How about listening to live music, watching interpretive dance, or having your kids make their own hula-hoops or mosaic art? San Francisco? Chicago? SoHo?

Main Street in Salt Lake!

Hold it! Pick yourself up off of your keyboard and hang on tightly to your mouse, because it's finally true. Salt Lake has a burgeoning and thriving public art community on Main Street! If you're surprised, you're in the same boat as the downtown passersby, where the reaction has ranged from surprise to pure gratitude. One twenty-something was heard to say, "I can't believe this! I've never seen downtown like this." Most of the comments from the general public seem to be, "Thank you!" and "Finally!" "Mainly Art" has erupted down on Main Street, and it could be here to stay.

How did this come to be? For years various grass roots organizations and individual artists have diligently worked to make our downtown rival other cities in regard to public art and selling on the street. Selling freely on the street. That means no fees, no booth regulations, and no registration. Trying to integrate this type of art into an already thriving art scene including successful galleries, clubs and theaters seemed difficult at best.

Bruce Case painting on Main Street
That was until a hot, muggy day in August of this year, when the idea of art on the streets began in earnest. Mayor Rocky Anderson called together a group of public artists and city officials to discuss the possibility of this kind of event actually coming to fruition. The decision was made to finally "just do it." "It" being to get artists of all genres out on the streets.

This goal was not without hindrance, however, since the ordinances for public artists are firmly set, and these ordinances are difficult to circumnavigate without breaking certain laws. After much debate, it was decided that, at least for this year, a Special Events Permit would need to be issued, which would alleviate some of the more stringent details of the artists' ordinance.


Salt Lake City stepped forward and donated the permit, and things began full steam. Ambiance lights were meticulously strung from trees, storeowners were informed of the decision, and banners were hung. But the big question lurking in everyone's mind was, "Would any artists show up? And would they then continue to show up weekend after weekend through the end of October?

Thankfully, the artists showed up en masse and descended on Salt Lake's Main Street. As Dr. James "Torg" Torgerson sat whittling gnarled wood into lit walking sticks, we converse about his experience selling various Shamanic Art items, as well as doing hands-on integrative healing to those who needed it. "It's been fun to see people with diverse talents get together under one cause," he says. Noting that people have been very interested in what he is doing and he's sold quite a few things, he adds enthusiastically, "We're never going to leave!"

Next to Torg is Renee Shaw, a mosaic artist and a volunteer artist on the committee that made "Mainly Art" happen. She teaches classes in mosaic art and has a huge piece of wood set up where the public can come and either watch Renee make the mosaic, or smash the tiles themselves and then glue them down to her piece. Shaw says that she enjoys "the environment of being around the other artists. I like the idea of art being out in the community." Though she has had success at selling her beautiful mosaic pieces, she is not in it for that reason. "My main objective is to have the interplay of artists and community." The community seems to be eating it up.

main street

My own Hardwear Jewelry booth is located in a bustling spot directly in front of Nordstrom. My business partner, Lisa Oliver, and I have been amazed at the amount of people who stop and peruse. Oliver says, "This is unprecedented for Salt Lake, and we're hoping we see this grow year after year." Next to our booth the "Wanderlust" bus pulls into an empty parking spot, and unloads a veritable art community in and of itself.

Stephen Dean of the Peregrine Adventure Club begins setting up his huge metallic hula-hoops, as his friends and various children grab hula-hoops and the fun begins. Dean is a performance artist and entrepreneur, and when he is not performing his show on the sidewalk, he is making and selling didgeridoos. And his own clothing line as well. Durable canvas and denim pants, bags, skirts and shorts hang from the outside of the bus, which is itself a factory on wheels. The bus is equipped with two industrial sewing machines so he can make your special order on the spot. Dean says, "This is the way urban downtown should be: alive and not dead. This is Salt Lake's own Renaissance. We are literally waking up to the arts."

Further down the sidewalk, artist Bruce Case has set up an easel and is painting with oil on a large canvas. The painting is of Main Street, looking south toward the old clock. The vibrant colors mesh together to create a most authentic view of Main Street -- a Main Street that is alive, thriving and filled with artists, poets, musicians, and dancers. This painting ends up hanging in a prominent spot in my living room as I fell in love with it the minute the brush hit the canvas. Bruce has returned almost every weekend in various spots, painting every angle of Main Street, and delighting everyone that happens by him.

Walking south to the corner, a band called "Zentherstick" is setting up. Their motto is, "Instruments you've never seen. Music you've never heard." Kent Rytting, Matt Hepworth and Tony Korologos begin pulling out instruments that make their motto seem like an understatement. They begin playing a Zendrum, the Chapman Stick and a Theremin. As promised, these are sounds we've never heard, but they are amazing and mesmerizing sounds. A crowd quickly forms and adults and children alike are smiling and swaying to the music. More acoustic musicians come and go throughout the day and evening, each staying as long as they desire, and leaving with a hatful of dollar bills and a promise to return to Main Street.

Stephen Dean's bus

This could go on ad infinitum. There’s Ed, the Native American artist carving detailed cuchinas in wood and selling his pencil drawings. Token and Alex, of No Fierce Streetwear, are having a raging success selling their unique wristbands. Various street poets and singers co-mingle and enjoy a beautiful fall day. All participating in a form of art yet unseen in our city. We finally have the beginnings of a thriving, bustling outdoor art community in downtown Salt Lake. Our hope is that it will continue.

As the evening comes to a close downtown, the artists begin to pack up. Before the Wanderlust bus pulls away I'm conversing again with Stephen Dean and his friends. Dean said it best when he said, "This experience downtown is more of a belief in what can be; a downtown being alive with art, poetry, music and dance. We can only grow and live and learn when we openly express ourselves freely."

If you are a visual artist, crafter, or performance artist, come downtown and set up wherever you want for free. Just choose a spot on Main Street in Salt Lake between South Temple and 200 South on the west side of the street. The times are Friday from 4:00 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday from 1:00 p.m. to 10 p.m. If you love art, come and support the artists and musicians simply by showing up downtown with your family or friends. "Mainly Art" runs until October 25th, when the "Last Blast" party will happen to bring it to a close.

(For more information, call the mayor's office at 535-6338.)

Utah Art Projects
Do You Know These Artists?

Judy Dykman, of the University of Utah's Marriott Library's Fine Art section is compiling a bibliography on Utah artists and needs your help. Dykman has collected books, periodicals, web sites etc. on over 250 well known Utah artists. She  is looking for any information, references or contact information on the following artists:

Berry, Michael Willie
Blundell, Martin
Boardman, Jan
Fisher, Brandon
Fehner, Greg B
Haaser, Craig
Hamilton, Shari
Hawkes, Chris
Henrie, Cary
Johnson, Richard

Larrabee, Bruce
Loveland, Reed
Mecham, Dennis
Miles, Kent
Molen, Norma
Montanaro, Carlos
Nackos, George
Oelerich, Carl
Peterson, Rose Ann
Rafferty, Michael
Serma, Dayna
Stavrakakis, Andrea
Stenerson, Marty

Judy can be contacted at: judy.dykman@library.utah.edu

Artists of Utah  Projects
Deceased Artists of Utah

Artists of Utah has for a long time wanted to compile a web directory for sites on deceased artists of Utah, similar to our listings for live artists. We would like to compile as many sites as possible for each artist. To do this, we need a team of volunteers who would be willing to work for an hour or two a week for the next few months to compile a directory. If you are interested in helping, please contact us at artistsofutah@netzero.net.

Do you or your organization have an art project the Artists of Utah community can help you with? Email us at artistsofutah@netzero.net