Mixed Media

How Come Salt Lake’s Not Like . . .

If you hang around Utah’s art community long enough you’ll hear a version of the discussion, “How come Salt Lake’s not like ___________?” Oftentimes the blank is filled by “New York” or “San Francisco;” sometimes by more modest comparisons: Portland, Seattle or Minneapolis. But you’ve probably never heard “Raleigh” or “Richmond” as the source of our inferiority complex. But those are two of the metropolitan areas closest to Salt Lake in size (see here). That’s considering “Salt Lake” as the entire county, plus Davis and Weber (if you only count the city we don’t even appear on the country’s list of 100 most populated areas). If you want to add the Orem/Provo metropolitan area and consider Salt Lake the entire Wasatch Front, we move up a dozen slots, to keep company with the Virginia Beach and Providence, Rhode Island areas. The point is that if you find yourself wondering why Salt Lake’s art world is not like San Francisco’s the simplest explanation is “because they have about 3 million more people.”

Size isn’t everything, of course. Santa Fe is tiny compared to Salt Lake, but they have a thriving art scene (at least in terms of galleries and sales). Similarly Salt Lake may be home to factors that make our art scene  more than you would expect of it based on its size (it’s been a long time since any of us were in Richmond, but we’re willing to bet we’ve got a better art scene). Take geography. It separates us from the major art centers of the country. At the same time, Salt Lake is the only city for hundreds of miles, so it acts as a natural gravitational center, pulling in anyone with an interests in the arts (if you lived in Providence, on the other hand, it would be fairly natural to gravitate towards New York or Boston). Also, our unique geography provides unique opportunities. There’s a reason Smithson chose the Great Salt Lake over Lake George.

There may be other factors. The Salt Lake Tribune recently commented on a report that found Salt Lake was the 7th most “bohemian” metropolitan area in North America.
“The greater Salt Lake area, according to the Creative Class Group, has 40 percent more artists and entertainers than other cities of the same size. That’s based on U.S. Census and Labor Statistics data.” You may find, as we did, the adjective “bohemian” unfortunate, and you may disagree with the Tribune’s Jarvik as to the reasons or results of this “bohemian” concentration, but reading the article will give you a little something extra to chew on the next time the “How Come Salt Lake’s Not Like __________?” conversation comes up.

Here’s some more mixed media articles we came across recently:

6/13 Frank McEntire: Reli-Queries.

6/14 LDS President Monson helps U. break ground on art complex

6/14 Utah Arts Festival: City party offers street theater, music and, yes, visual art.


6/15 Artists turn trash into treasure at Logan Summerfest


6/15 Is Utah’s arts scene creative? Or just creatively conservative?

6/17 Art, music, food and fun at free, day-long Kaysville event

6/17 More events at the Utah Arts Festival

6/17 Ogden artist thanking his lucky frogs.

6/19 Starting an art collection? Take time to learn.

6/19 Art foundation seeks new Spiral Jetty lease.

6/19 Utah Arts Festival’s ’35’ exhibit offers solid snapshot of state’s current art scene

Rosi Hayes’ installation at the Utah Arts Festival’s ’35’ exhibit.

Categories: Mixed Media

1 reply »

  1. I’m glad to see this topic discussed: it’s common for people to return from a trip and say “Why don’t we do this?,” rather than “Wow, there is a lot going on in Salt Lake.” Add to your list of articles the current issue of AmericanStyle magazine, where Salt Lake City was ranked as a “Top 25 Arts Destination” in the mid-size city category for the sixth year in a row. There will always be new ideas and new efforts; at the same time, our current arts scene is really quite rich and interesting.

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