Public Issues: Salt Lake City
The Proposed Utah Arts Center
by Shawn Rossiter
The Utah Arts Alliance would like to give
Salt Lake City a full-blown arts center in the heart of downtown. But they
may need your help.
The Utah Arts Alliance, a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization, was formed
in early 2003 by Derek Dyer, Angela Brown and Jason Stewart, all active
members of their respective arts communities. Brown, a photographer, dancer,
business owner, and community leader has taught photography classes locally
and is owner/publisher of SLUG Mag, the oldest alternative paper in SLC.
Stewart currently works for Ken Sanders Rare Books in the production and
publicity of all his shows by local, regional and national artists. He is
also on the board of Slam Utah. Dyer is well-known to the local visual arts
scene both as an artist and as an arts organizer. The three formed the Utah
Arts Alliance with the principal goal of creating an art center in downtown
Salt Lake. And now they say they’ve found the perfect place for it -- the
building formerly known as the Hansen planetarium.
But, Dyer says, they will need your help to make it work.
Renovation of the building will costs millions of dollars, but what Dyer
and his group are looking to the arts community for are a few letters. The
historic building located at 15 South State is owned by the City, which has
indicated that they want to see the building put to public use rather than
sold into private hands.
In proposing their Utah Arts Center for the space, the Alliance feel
they will create a much-needed cultural outlet that will help revitalize
the downtown area while remaining true to the historic purpose of the building.
What has most recently been the Hansen Planetarium was originally built in
1905 as the city’s first public library, a position it filled until the 1960s.
When the library became too large for the building, George Hansen underwrote
the cost of transforming the facility into a planetarium. It remained as
such until 2003 when the Clark Planetarium was opened in the Gateway project.
The Utah Arts Alliance wants to continue the building’s role as an educational
facility by creating an arts center devoted to classroom education, exhibition
spaces and a performing arts theater.
Dyer says that the Alliance wants to use the building to create a “cultural
classroom that has the spirit of an arts festival everyday.” Their plan uses
every square inch of the building for a variety of visual arts and performing
arts activities. They plan to use the unique quality of the building --
its planetarium -- to create a performing arts space that would be available
for theatre, concerts, poetry readings, and a unique use of the dome -- multi-media
projection shows. In addition, classrooms, workspaces and a darkroom will
be built to allow for instruction both for children and adults. Credit and
non-credit classes will be available from professional instructors, including
professors from some of the area’s top educational facilities. The classes
will run for fourteen week sessions, one day a week for three hours. Classes
offered will include computer design, photography, foundation art classes,
and advanced art classes. In addition they will also provide performance
Of particular interest to the visual arts community, The Alliance’s plan
would also provide three exhibition areas on three different floors of the
building. The building’s ground floor lobby area would be transformed into
a 4000 sq. foot exhibition space for shows by local artists. The Alliance
wants to use the other two floors of the planetarium to “expand [the public’s]
horizons beyond Salt Lake and Utah.” The second floor would hold exhibitions
by regional artists in its 1700 sq foot area. Exhibitions by national and
international artists are planned for the third level, which will have 2400
sq feet. Member’s of the Alliance’s Advisory Board often travel to various
international art centers such as New York, Paris and London, and will take
the opportunity to bring the international art scene to Salt Lake City.
The Alliance plans not only to use every available square
inch but also every available minute of the day. In keeping with the City’s
plans to revitalize night life in downtown Salt Lake City, the Alliance wants
to keep the center open late and provide programming well into the night.
“During the day it’s a busy educational center,” Dyer says, “and at night
it becomes a hotspot.” They will keep the gallery spaces open until 9pm Monday
through Saturday (which is hours after most galleries and museums have closed)and
twelve to five on Sundays. In addition they will have a wide variety of performances
in the theater for extremely reasonable prices.
The Alliance’s proposed art center will provide a number of positions
for members of the art community, including gallery staff, theater staff,
educational staff and facilities managements. If all goes well, the Alliance
hopes to open the Utah Arts Center in the fall of 2005, the 100th anniversary
of the building‘s construction. They will be presenting the City with a plan
for the use of the space and are encouraging all members of the community
who would like to see this project become a reality to write letters of recommendation
to the City to help it determine community support for the plan. To learn
more about the proposed Utah Arts Center and to find out how you can help,
visit the organization’s website at:
Inside the Vault:
Truths & Myths
from the Utah State Fine Art Collection
The State Fine Art Collection, begun in 1899 as the Alice
Merrill Horne Collection, now consists of over 1,200 works
by Utah artists in all media. The pieces are on display
in various state and office buildings throughout Utah and many
travel with the Utah Arts Council Traveling Exhibition Program.
The continued acquisition of artwork comes
from purchases made through the visual arts program
and donations from patrons and artists of the state of
This series is an effort to preserve and
share the stories and experiences surrounding the artwork
and artists of Utah as seen through the eyes of the
Utah Arts Council staff.
Compiled by Laura Durham
Assistant Visual Arts Coordinator, Utah Arts Council
That Doesn't Mean It's Yours!
"Cherry & Snowball Blossoms"
watercolor on paper
Because the Arts Council is a state agency,
we are often asked to provide paintings to adorn the offices of politicians
and other big names in government. We are slowly trying to phase
out the practice for several reasons, including the one surrounding
this painting by LaVerne Stevens.
The Visual Arts Program makes an effort to inventory loaned
artwork on a regular basis. We visit the capitol, the governor’s
mansion and other state buildings to make sure everything is in its
proper location. We check the backs of the paintings to make sure
our contact information is correct and we secure the “DO NOT REMOVE”
stickers, ensuring their legibility. One day the Stevens painting
was missing from its designated wall. The visual arts coordinator
and registrar searched high and low, but couldn’t seem to zero in on its
location. They added the painting to the “missing artwork” list, but
still, no word on its whereabouts.
Many years later, a state employee walked into the visual
arts offices with the missing painting. He said he was retiring
that day and wanted to thank us for letting him hang this painting
in his office throughout the years. He had changed offices several
times, but he loved the painting so much, he packed it up and took it
wherever his work sent him.
It is pretty.