Visual Arts

Laura Durham: The Curated Home

Earlier this year, Laura Durham was asked to be on a panel for a book club discussion hosted by Utah Arts and Museums about Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven. “The book is set 20 years following a pandemic,” Durham says. “Crazy timing, right? Anyway, the book is about how art endures and gives us something to live for. The citizens started a spontaneous museum called The Museum of Civilization. It made me realize how my home is a museum of my life.”

Durham is what is what one would call a “pillar” of the arts community. She currently works for PBS Utah curating engagement projects for both PBS and local productions that foster trust and value to the communities in Utah. Before that, she spent 15 years at the Utah Division of Arts & Museums in the visual arts program and later managing communications, branding, marketing, and public value projects for all arts and museums programming. She has been assistant editor and music editor for 15 Bytes, and has served as vice president of the Salt Lake Gallery Association and program director for the Salt Lake Gallery Stroll. She lives in Salt Lake City and sings with Utah Chamber Artists.

Like most of us, Durham is spending a lot of time in her home, so for a week at the beginning of April, she posted a series of images to her Instagram account featuring works from what she has dubbed “The Museum of Laura.”

Here we have a shelf that has a bird my mother gave me. I believe it was made by my great uncle’s wife, Antonia.  Next to it is a brass “r” that came from the word “Arts” in Utah Arts Council. Those of us who survived the rebrand were each given a letter to take home when facilities removed the lettering from the building. Next we have a sheep (I ❤️ sheep) that my mom brought back from England several years ago when my parents returned from six months as study abroad directors. The sheep sits atop books that I helped publish with 15 Bytes called Utah’s 15 Most Influential Artists — One of my proudest accomplishments. Two editions so far!


I bought this little side table as a birthday present for myself a couple years ago. It sits next to my couch. The “tree” is something I made with my mom and sister several Christmases ago out of wooden shims. The little plate was a gift from my mother (don’t remember when). She likes to give us holiday decorations. The little copper bunny came in the mail yesterday from none other than my mother. The flowers I bought myself last week. They’re in a vase that was sent to me along with a pretty arrangement when @lucythewittykitty died, and I’ve kept fresh flowers in them ever since.


Below the shelf are the books that are next in line for me to read. So far this month I’ve read Do You Mind if I Cancel by @garyjanetti and Text Me When You Get Home by Kayleen Schaefer


The plant on the left was bequeathed to me when @beian13 left PBS Utah to move to Chicago a couple years ago. I bought a nice pot for it, Alex. It’s really happy by that window, too.
All the copper angels were gifted to me over the years by Mom, although I wonder if she forgets that she’s already given me some, or if she wants me to have a solid choir here. I believe they’re candle snuffers. The Lladro angel was my Grandma Durham’s. When I was in my 20s she would try and entice me to get married by telling me she’d give me a Lladro. It wasn’t exactly the incentive she wanted it to be, but when she moved in to assisted living she asked me to take some things off her hands. So I took the angel for my collection. The watercolor I purchased from a street vendor in Rome in 2018. I used my Italian and everything.


In the middle here we have a photo of my great grandparents Harold and Eddith Ockerman. They look like they stepped right out of the Dust Bowl. They had a house in Payson that I would visit during the summer when I was little. I don’t remember my great grandpa very well but I had Grandma Mom (as we called her) until I was 14. The teacup to the right was hers and my mom turned it into a candle for me. The bird on the left belonged to Ehren Clark. If any of you from the arts community went to his funeral a few years ago you’ll remember how his family placed all of his D.I. finds on tables. We were all invited to take one on our way out to remember him by. Apparently he went thrifting every day.


Several things sit on top (and above) my piano. Here we have a painting by @jennavonbenediktart . I named him Atticus. Then we have a train whistle my friend Emily Utt bought for a bunch of us many years ago when we did a day trip to the spiral jetty and the golden spike monument. Then there’s a photo of my Grandpa Lowell at his piano, and then a little smoker I bought in Germany when I toured with Utah Chamber Artists in 2014. Looks like he’s peddling some German handicrafts.


I have five floating shelves next to this brick wall in my house. This is just one of them. There’s no rhyme or reason to the books displayed. The elephant tile is from Mexico (I ❤️ elephants) and the Preach candle was given to me by a colleague at KUER. Preach is a great podcast if you haven’t listened to it yet, look it up. The angel on the brick wall is called a misericord. They rest on the choir stalls in cathedrals.* I think they hold candles? This one is a replica from Chester Cathedral in England. There’s a little star I hung on there. I got that at the MFA in Boston in 2018 when I visited my friend @carrihulet. I got her one too. I do not remember what they mean because I left her the little card they came with. *Ive been corrected by my mom who says misericords are for monks to lean on when they get tired.


This is a shelf just left of my television. When I first started working for PBS Utah, I was so proud to work for public television because I truly believe in its mission and I was already a fan of its programming. For Christmas gifts in 2017, I made everyone in the Creative Services department an embroidered “7” (our channel and original logo) and one for myself. The item on the left is a deck of cards I bought in Florence in 2018 from a cute little shop called L’Arte de’ Ciompi (❤️ you, Italy!) The wishbone was something my mom gave us (her kids) and the photograph is my Grandma Bonnie. Mom says she thinks this is a picture of her when she was in Payson High’s musical, Alice Blue Gown. This quarantine has me cleaning house, sorting through old things, etc. I’ve found old photos that I decided should be on display to help me reflect on my family. The entertainment center these sit on also belonged to my grandma in the photo. The candle thingy was on sale at Michael’s a couple years ago.

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