Daily Bytes

337 Rising A New Project to Rise from the Rubble of the Old

Adam and Dessi Price in front of the 337 Project

Artist rendering of the new building at 337 E 400 S

This Saturday, April 5, a ten-month wait is over. Eager viewers will watch as bulldozers level the graffiti-covered, installation-filled building on Salt Lake’s 400 East that became famous last year as the 337 Project.

The brainchild of Adam and Dessi Price, the 337 Project turned a rundown building into a unique art event, attracting thousands of visitors over the short ten days it was open to the public. Over 150 artists participated during a three-month period to help put Salt Lake City on the contemporary art map. When “Artland: USA” traveled to Utah they pointed their lens at four artistic icons in Utah: the Spiral Jetty, the Salt Lake Main Library, the Sun Tunnels and the 337 Project.

When the building closed its doors on May 27, 2007, the thought of its imminent destruction stirred a lot of conversation. Many visitors couldn’t see the point of destroying something that took so long to create and that had thrilled their imaginations; but the majority of artists, many of whom had joined the project precisely because they knew it was going to be destroyed, were eager for it to be torn down and for the process to be completed. Some even got impatient, complaining as month after month passed and Price still hadn’t demolished the new local landmark. Was Price not willing to embrace the idea of impermanence? Had he turned his back on the original intentions of the project? But the inaction was not Price’s fault. It was a matter of paperwork.

Without a construction permit Price couldn’t get a demolition permit. Due to costs and design factors, Price had had to change his plans for the projected building on the property. And without a viable plan, the city wouldn’t let Price near a bulldozer.

Price now has that plan. Unveiled on the front page of the Salt Lake Tribune last week, Price’s building will be a seven-story condo tower made from old shipping containers. The bottom floor will include a retail space, which Price hopes to keep an art venue, to reflect the location’s recent history. And in the future the 337 Project may find a home there.

Price won’t be hauling in rubble from the old building to fill up the space. He has registered the 337 Project as a nonprofit, with the hope of continuing the creative artistic community he saw evolve with the project and to bring contemporary art to underserved communities. The street level space at the new building may eventually serve as a fixed gallery for installations and exhibitions, but in the meantime Price hopes to take the 337 Project on the road.

Price plans to turn a 25-foot moving van into a mobile art gallery he can drive around town. His route might be aimless, simply to attract curiosity; or maybe to a specific spot, like a school or underserved neighborhood, where he will park the van and allow visitors to look experience the art — whether through a glass side or by entering the van. “I’ll start on my block and keep driving until it doesn’t make sense anymore.”

Adam Price swings a sledgehammer at the interior of the 337 Project

Price wants to bring art to people who don’t ordinarily feel empowered to seek it out, something that was a big part of the project last May. Over 10,000 people came through the 337 Project in the few days it was open, and many commented that they had never been into a gallery or museum. Price wants to serve “artistically underserved parts of the community.” The ephemeral quality of the moving van — you never know where it will be — will also reflect the original project. Price wants people to be able to see something exciting out of the corner of their eye as they go about their everyday life and stop and investigate.

Developing his nonprofit hasn’t been the only thing keeping Price busy over the past ten months. During the construction and since the completion of the project, he has maintained communication with the 337 artists through email. He announces shows by fellow artists, notifies them when the media does something on the project, sends updated demolition dates and passes on opportunities that come his way. One recent opportunity resulted in artists from the 337 Project helping the children who are cared for at Neighborhood House by painting all of the interior doors 337-style.

Another opportunity is Present Tense: A Post-337 Project, an exhibition at the Salt Lake Art Center in June curated by BYU Museum of Art director Campbell Gray that will feature new works by 337 artists. The most pressing opportunity, however, involves the bulldozer. Price has invited the artists, and the public, to join him on Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., as the demolition team finally completes the project the artists began over a year ago.

The 337 Project is located at 337 South 400 East in Salt Lake City.

The founder of Artists of Utah and editor of its online magazine, 15 Bytes, Shawn Rossiter has undergraduate degrees in English, French and Italian Literature and studied Comparative Literature in graduate school before pursuing a career in art.

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