Visual Arts

The SLC Art Castle: In Small Things Forgotten

Courtesy Utah Arts Alliance

There may be a thousand tiny pinholes in the hardwood floor of the chapel area in the old 15th Ward Building at 915 West 100 South, Salt Lake City.  

The building, with its unique Victorian Gothic revival architecture (think Disney Magic Kingdom castle), was dedicated in the early 1900s and provided space for the LDS congregation’s chapel and meeting rooms. The companion cultural hall, added in the 1930s, provided space for LDS ward gatherings and cultural events until the 1960s when the LDS Church merged the 15th ward with the 34th ward and sold the building. In 1980, the building was converted to a recording studio by Universal Music, dba LA East. Legendary artists like B.B. King, Elton John and Eminem have walked those floors and music for hundreds of films, including Disney’s Lion King, Toy Story, Jurassic Park and Wonder Woman, has been recorded there.

In 2020, LA East discontinued its recording business. As soon as LA East shuttered, there was interest in the site, especially from developers of high-end condominiums, townhomes, and live-work-play high-density space. But Derek Dyer, Executive Director of Utah Arts Alliance (UAA), had different ideas. He has long been in love with the building — he lived in the Poplar Grove area of SLC for more than 10 years — and the thought of losing this historic unique building was not acceptable. UAA negotiated an option to buy the land and building, and its plans are to raise $4 million to complete the purchase and renovate the building. The modified spaces to be used for a gathering place for artists, recording studio, venue for theater events and immersive art experiences, an incubator space for arts related businesses, and a sculpture garden.

Dyer told Artists of Utah the purpose of a recent press conference (April 16, 2021) was to apprise the community of positive progress being made since UAA entered its option to purchase, including receipt of $500,000 from the Utah legislature (for a total of $1 million raised so far).  Making the announcement at the press conference of the funding from the legislature was Representative Susan Hollins, who represents the Poplar Grove and Glendale neighborhoods.  

Artists of Utah also spoke with Kent Rigby, AIA, who works ajc Architects, the firm in charge of the renovation. Rigby is not only an architect designing buildings, he is an architect of sound: He designed and built Midnight Record Production studios (he’s also an accomplished visual artist and was one of 15 Bytes’ early writers). Rigby knows good sound and spaces that produce good sounds.  He told Artists of Utah he felt a tug of his heart strings when he saw the thousands of pinholes — fixed points designed to hold cellos in place — in the flooring of the old chapel floor as it represented all of the cellos and cellists who had performed in the space. 

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Categories: Visual Arts

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