Whether you think graffiti is the most innovative artistic expression in the world, or a wanton criminal assault on private property, you’ll have a chance to think about it intelligently if you hustle over to Utah Valley University’s Woodbury Art Museum in Orem. Hidden Voices, featuring Utah County graffiti artists, has been extended thru Saturday, March 12th.
Hidden Voices is an exhibition designed to acknowledge and showcase messages coming from local urban artists and the surrounding youth culture. “This exhibit is the first major community-driven project for the Woodbury Art Museum, and we are proud to be a part of something that reclaims space in a positive and productive manner,” says Melissa Hempel, Interim Director/Curator. “The most important thing to note is the dedication of our eight artists, who committed the majority of their weekends for about five months to complete sketches, critiques, painting sessions, artist statements, and help plan the exhibition layout.”
The exhibition is a riot of color with well-placed canvases and accompanying artist statements. There is also a plywood wall near the entrance that is a work in progress – graffiti artists show up irregularly to add to its content. There are even a few benches that have been “graffitied” with knit and crochet – an example of a worldwide “yarn bombing” movement making its way to Utah. Two comment boards in the museum invite viewers to contribute their two cents to the graffiti discussion, and a short video features interviews from many of the artists whose work is on display.
Hempel says the exhibition’s goal is to bridge the cultural divide in Utah County and strengthen the community. She concludes, “As a museum, it was important for us to present the exhibition from multiple perspectives, including concerns about placing street art in galleries and differentiating when graffiti becomes vandalism. Our message boards have been a nice gauge to measure visitor response. For example, one person wrote: ‘I prosecuted some of these guys – it’s good to see them putting up work where it isn’t vandalizing other people’s property.’”
The Woodbury Art Museum is open Tuesday 11:00am to 8:00pm and Wednesday – Saturday 11:00am – 5:00pm. It is located in the University Mall in Orem, immediately west of Nordstrom.
received her B.A. in Psychology from Lewis and Clark College, and Masters in both Social Services and Law and Social Policy from Bryn Mawr College. She is an award-winning quilt artist and the Executive Director for Art Access.