Art Lake City | In Plain Site | Visual Arts

Caro Nilsson’s The Birds Drew a Doorway, and We Walked Through

Caro Nilsson’s mural is located in South Salt Lake’s City Hall dog park. It will look all closed up, but the gates should be open. Watch your step. 130 E. Oakland Ave.

Caro Nilsson has a professional background in architecture, but the Salt Lake City artist embraced art full-time after a painting residency in early 2021. Painting murals — a process of collaborating with the built environment — seemed a logical marriage of the two practices. In 2022, she completed a mural near El Potero Market in Midvale as part of their Mural Fest. She’s also painted a window-well at Salt Lake City’s Sprague Library, the interior of Park City Yoga Collective in Kimball Junction, the Mobile Moon Co-op in West Valley and several private residences throughout the valley.

For South Salt Lake’s 2023 The Mural Fest, Nilsson was commissioned to paint  “The Birds Drew a Doorway, and We Walked Through” along a wall in city hall’s dog park.  “Most of the things that I paint about are translated from direct experiences, my art practice relies heavily on my relationship to the place I live in- the ways the seasons look on different plants, who grows where, the way the light at many times of day reflects into canyons,” she says.

“This piece is no different, it’s from an experience that I had up in the foothills on the way to Little Black Mountain. I was on a ridge, totally alone, stopped to look around at all the beautiful things. Suddenly before me, magpie after magpie arced from one side of the ridge to the other, it lasted as long as I stood still. Perhaps 15 magpies later, I wondered if they had drawn a doorway, and I cautiously stepped beneath the repeated flight path. When I got to the other side, I looked all around expecting the world to be different, to suddenly be full of magic after walking through the magpie door. And suddenly, it WAS. Suddenly everything felt full of magic, just because of noticing that everything could be. This piece is about the invitation of doorways, about how perception changes everything. We have every opportunity to notice about magic, and I hope we can walk into more of them as we spin on a planet where the most beautiful things you can imagine are happening all at once.”

How sharp are your eyes? Or our image? Can you see the squirrel perched above Nilsson’s mural, as if about to pounce on the magpies below?

She carried this idea around for many years, waiting for the right space “to make it real.”  “Every brush stroke takes this nebulous and many-dimensional idea from a place where it could be anything into a place where it is ‘something’, hardening it into something singular and stagnant,” she says.

Transferring her initial design onto the 60-foot wall wasn’t too difficult. Filling that 60 feet with solo brushwork — “every single surface of this mural has many colors contributing to it, nothing is color-blocked,” she says — was another matter.

You can view more of the artist’s work at




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  1. I hate to say it, but I’m at best a conflicted fan of the mural surge that’s been going on lately. It was great at the start—just look at some of the older works still around—but commerce reared its ugly head and the desire for businesses to project a positive image (despite their often negative behavior) led to acres of images of endangered animals doing just fine, and scenes of nature that are nostalgic and serve to make those doing nothing helpful feel better. That said, I urge everyone to take the suggestion above and follow the link to, where one wonderful image after another will be found. Caro is a genuine artist and presents her vision without covering up the underlying truth. I hope she gets all the work she can handle, so we can all contemplate what she sees.

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