Public Issues

Sights & Sounds Downtown

by Jon R. Blanchard


A packed Washington Square hosts the SLC Jazz Festival this past July 4th weekend.

A packed Washington Square hosts the SLC Jazz Festival this past July Fourth weekend.

As a part of Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson’s initiatives for the revitalization of Downtown and Main Street, and to facilitate opportunities for artists, the Mayor’s office has started a new and unique program called “Sight & Sounds Downtown.” This program was established to take advantage of the energy and spirit generated by the Winter Games, and to encourage residents and visitors to rediscover and re-establish Downtown SLC as the premier gathering place in Utah. 

The program includes musicians, performers, artists, merchants, property owners, and SLC Corp. Community & Economic Development, RDA and the Office of the Mayor. While a major focus of this program is Main Street, the scope of the program encompasses the entire Downtown Core. A major component of this program as we see it involves visual and performing art. The vision for a new Main Street includes a variety of Art, Cultural and Entertainment oriented businesses, such as galleries, restaurants, and specialty retail stores. We are looking for a significant shift in the area, and wish to create a unique environment that captures the imagination and capitalizes on the many existing cultural and entertainment assets presently Downtown. 

kiosks2A shift has already begun on Main Street. As many as 16 leftover Olympic food kiosks on Main Street have been transformed into 22 foot tall Pyramid Murals created by local artists, facilitated by the Sights & Sounds program. Live music, entertainment and performers are also keeping the weekends alive. In addition to these activities, we have scheduled other art-oriented events to take place this summer and fall.

We are currently planning to host a monthly grassroots (Utah Artists) Arts Celebration on Main Street to include visual artists, performing artists, crafts, live music, demonstrations, etc. to be held on the third weekend of each month. By having these Celebrations on the third weekend of each month, we hope to support and strengthen the monthly Gallery Stroll. 

We also want to encourage and facilitate other opportunities for Utah and Salt Lake City visual and performing artists. We would very much like to invite and assist young artists in displaying, selling and performing their work in these celebrations and in other public spaces, and encourage local artists to consider mentoring a young artist.

The Sights & Sounds Downtown program operates as a special event every weekend on Main Street and can facilitate public events for groups interested in using Main Street for public, all age events and activities. These may include art, entertainment, benefits, etc. In addition to currently providing musicians, bands and performers on Main Street, Sights & Sounds Downtown is establishing a plan to: coordinate programming with and for the Downtown Malls (Crossroads Plaza and ZCMI Center), The Gateway and Downtown Merchants. We are providing promotional materials to highlight events and activities downtown; and through sponsors, provide advertising for events and activities downtown.

As mentioned previously, we have planned art oriented events for the summer and fall. However, our main objective is to facilitate ideas and support groups with their art and entertainment oriented projects and events. We would like to extend an invitation to all “Artists of Utah” to get involved.   For information call: 801-725-6662
Dear Mr. Blanchard, 
The Thunderbird Foundation for the Arts is certain that this is the right idea for downtown Salt Lake City. It is our plan to move the foundation headquarters to that area soon as we believe that the venue is not just important for Utah, but for the intermountain west. We believe that a new and creative point of view that is more professional than a street fair needs to be addressed in such a way as to bring a higher level of participation into the mix. There are already many art fair approaches that can continue to be held in parks and local communities.

What Main Street needs and wants is a row of high level professional establishments that deal in fine art at all levels and approaches. We need to demonstrate to the world that we are indeed a seriously cultured and established art community with deep and broad clarity and substance; with roots in American art that precede the California movement and all the other groups, western, modern or otherwise that occurred in the west. This should be our purpose. Otherwise we will never have sustaining interest as the average art buyer needs to come from the world and not just our local community. It is the art buyers and not the browsers that will support and make this successful.
We need the serious buyers here.
Paul Bingham
Chairman, Thunderbird Foundation for the Arts



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