Gallery Spotlights | Visual Arts

Where Do We Go From Here? Developments in SLC’s Gallery Scene

The Green Ant continues to anchor this once vibrant retail district of Salt Lake City’s broadway. But galleries, like Michael Berry, are no more.

Salt Lake City, and Utah more generally, needs more housing. It’s indisputable. But one suspects that in five or ten years, or even less, all these apartment dwellers embracing urban life are going to be like, “You know what would be really cool? If this neighborhood had an art gallery. When I was in New York … [or Portland or Austin].”

As we reported last week, after 20 years in business on 800 South, HORNE Fine Art will be closing its doors. Rising rents, plans for apartment buildings, the usual. Bullock Frames, over on Richards Street, also recently closed after decades in business (Artist and framer Steven Sheffield has moved his operations from Bullocks to Tanner Frames). 

Galleries have always been in flux. New ventures open, others close. Being a gallerist is a generally precarious and financially unrewarding prospect, done for love rather than money, driven by passion more than by a business plan. The chance that any new space opening up this year will not be here in two is better than that it will. It was that way in the 1950s, a decade we’ve been studying in our Before Now series, and it was that way at the turn of the millennium, when we began publishing 15 Bytes. Any news item about a gallery opening or closing is part of that continual cycle.

Though never on a beaten path, Bullock Frame Co. served Salt Lake City’s visual arts community for years. It recently closed.

One thing that is different now, however, is downtown Salt Lake City is home to almost no galleries. Despite occasional talk of moving, UMOCA does remain. And it’s an exhibition space that serves its community well and one we can be proud of to represent our city. Something to show off to tourists. But those same tourists will have to rent a car to see other galleries — with one notable exception: for free they could take the Trax line to The Gateway, where The Art Shop Project and the Urban Arts Gallery have done an admirable job of pumping life into that ill-conceived urban renovation project. But you’ll search in vein the list of venues in the July Salt Lake Gallery Stroll for another one in downtown proper. 

We could come up with any number of current reasons why — the pandemic, withdrawal to the suburbs, gentrification — but downtown has been struggling for a long time. Every few years arts professionals will get together to talk of new initiatives. The arts attract people, especially the young professionals buying up all those expensive apartments, and elected officials want to use the arts to bolster the reputation of their city. At one time, and this might have been a decade or more now, Regent Street became a focus: an idea was even floated, of the city taking over some of the available properties and giving them over to arts nonprofits on a rotating basis. In 2010, legislation creating a county and city sales tax initiative was passed to strengthen the city’s “Cultural Core.” It began being implemented eight years later with the creations of The Blocks, principally a marketing and branding campaign. All the while, galleries have continued to move west and south, when they don’t close up completely.

The concept of gallery stroll has always been a misnomer.The galleries have never been located all in one place, easily walkable. But there have been neighborhoods. Pierpont was one of the originals, and that west side part of downtown always served as a nucleus for Gallery Stroll. Dolores Chase, Left Bank, Rio Gallery, Artspace (when they still hewed to their original mission), Art Access, Palmer’s Gallery: they were all close enough to walk to and you could spend your entire third Friday evening there. In the late aughts the 100 and 200 blocks of Broadway were a gathering place, especially for the hipster crowd. NoBrow, Frosty Darling, Kayo Gallery, Saans and Michael Berry were all neighbors. Modern West and the Guthrie studios were nearby. But now those blocks are being swallowed up by apartment buildings, and while a few indie shops remain, there are no operating galleries.

Phillips Gallery, Alpine Art and Anthony’s Antiques are just outside the downtown area. They are Salt Lake City institutions and one hopes they can remain. NOX, since closed, was also just on the outskirts. David Ericson Fine Art, now relocated to the Avenues, was as well. On the way to Finch Lane — definitely outside of downtown — you might stop at The Glendinning, since taken over by the governor; and, for a while, the late Tom Alder’s gallery, originally downtown, was nearby. These less urban areas are probably more appropriate for galleries: property values are less, parking is better, collectors are going to drive anyway. 15th Street Gallery and ‘A’ Gallery, in the city’s affluent east bench neighborhoods, know this. As does David Dee. These galleries aren’t surviving on foot traffic. 

When Modern West left downtown they moved west and south, a trend other galleries are following. Last year Tiffini Porter opened Current Work at 826 South 500 West. Jorge Rojas and Colour Maisch’s new project, opening in August, is even farther south (2970 South West Temple). Southam Gallery, now in Sandy, has taken it to an extreme. South seems to exert more of a pull than west. Though Salt Lake City rents are cheaper on the west side of I-15, few exhibition spaces have settled there, Mestizo and Sugar Space being two of the more notable exceptions. The redlining snake of I-15 is an oppressive beast.

Pierpont and the surrounding spaces were attractive because of the city’s westside warehouses. But these were eventually bought up, renovated, sold. And warehouse districts are like old friends: It’s hard to make new ones. Bogue Foundry, home to Modern West, Saltgrass Printmakers and several artist studios, is a small island of a warehouse district surrounded by freeways and electrical grids. Salt Lake City was never that big, and there are just not that many warehouse spaces left to renovate or occupy. Rather, expect artists and gallerists to look at former industrial spaces along the I-15 corridor. (This is South Salt Lake’s current pull.) And when they do, let’s remember that Brad Slaugh, at Poor York Studios, and Dan Cummings at Spectrum Studios, were the trendsetters.

As yet there are no galleries in Salt Lake City’s Maven district, but there are plenty of murals, including these on a recently build apartment complex at 176 E. 900 South.

Salt Lake City still has a couple of promising neighborhoods (none of them downtown: downtown, we should admit, is done). The Maven district has a great vibe, with lots of small shops. None of them galleries, however. Salt Lake’s 800 and 900 South has the artsy, cool feel we’re looking for: like Broadway once was, just a few blocks south. How long will these buildings last? Across from the Randy Records, a new apartment complex has gone up. And, well, see above about HORNE Fine Art. (We should check in with Brushworks, their neighbor.) The Granary district is another neighborhood we’ve all had our eyes on, but developments there have been more promise than delivery. 

The same thing that attracts artists and galleries attracts developers: cheap properties. An old warehouse space is easier to buy up than individual homes. The areas developers end up buying up are often first occupied by artists and creatives, and any would-be developer should keep one or two artists in their circle just to know where the up and coming districts will be. Skip the retainer fee. Just buy a painting every once in a while. (Or you could just follow 15 Bytes: but be sure to donate.)

More than galleries, the city needs housing. That is indisputable. But it’s sad to note that all these apartment spaces being erected are horribly bland. We’re making a quick buck rather than a vibrant city. (We can throw some zoning laws at new developments — like the first-floor retail requirements. But the ensuing rents are, inevitably, prohibitive. And far too many developments have skirted these regulations by putting their rental offices on their bottom floors.) The thousands of new dwellings, and the opening of the S-Line, have not made Sugar House particularly more vibrant. At one time, when 15 Bytes was first launched, Sugar House was home to at least half a dozen galleries. And three or more book stores. Old-timers will flex their credentials to newcomers by reminiscing about these times. The Sugar House Art Walk — the second Friday of the month — is doing its best for the area. But if we’re listing recent closings, we should note that Local Colors has closed after more than a decade in Sugar House. If there are still some artist studios at the Rockwood building, it’s because the developer was not allowed to build up on that property: it goes right over a creek. 

Sugar House’s S-line itself seems a particularly genial location for a gallery district. You could stroll or roll along the protected pedestrian area. Or jump on the trolley. It connects South Salt Lake to Sugar House. You’d probably see buskers popping up during gallery openings. But the potential remains untapped. Several spaces, including Sugar Space, Saltgrass, and the Wasatch Plaza studio complex were all along that corridor when the S-line opened in 2013. But then came gentrification and apartment complexes. The only remaining art space was the block at 700 East, once home to Patrick Moore Gallery and King’s Cottage Gallery and studios. Almost the entire block was razed this year for an apartment building. All they left was the murderer’s house (a story for another time).

Cranes and studs have taken over this block at 2200 East 700 South, once home to more than one gallery and several artist studios.

This is all observation, not accusation. There are no villains in this story. Nor will there likely be any heroes — the patriotic developer, lover of the arts who wants to help create a vibrant city and offers subsidized rent on the bottom floor to arts organizations. Salt Lake City is unlikely to ever create a gallery district (Provo and Ogden have a much better shot at that). More likely, the arts community — at least the visual arts community — will continue to expand farther and farther out, becoming more disparate and less settled. (Yes, we will continue to have to drive our cars to all the new exhibits about the worsening climate.) Maybe each neighborhood will have its own gallery, its own art experience? That might be more egalitarian, and every community does deserve access to the arts. Will Millcreek put an art space into its new city center? Will mid-valley become the heart of our arts community? Salt Lake’s West side is getting a new park. Does it want a new art space as well? Maybe all the artists will relocate to Midvale for a decade or so (or have all those brick buildings already been taken?). Daybreak is doing its part to develop a local art scene. Just imagine the docent at UMOCA explaining to the curious tourist that all they have to do is jump on the Red Line and they’ll be there in no time.


Post script: More than likely, we don’t know about everything going on in the art community. Maybe you know of a promising new initiative? Or an additional piece of depressing news? Please share with us in the comments, or email us at

Post-post script: Another idea we’re mulling: Did our arts community survive the pandemic only to be threatened by inflation and the Great Resignation? Send thoughts and experiences to

7 replies »

  1. I remember, less than twenty years ago, walking along Broadway when Art Stroll actually meant strolling, there being hundreds of viewers (and dancers) out for a lively evening. And I recall Shawn Rossiter pointing out to us that the new buildings all had businesses on the ground floor that kept bankers’ hours, so their blocks were dark, forbidding nodes in the life of those streets. Is the present situation the result bad faith on behalf of the city’s planners, or just Capitalism in action?

    This review deserves a careful read, and let’s not make the mistake of thinking it’s not really about art. Where else do new artists come from but the appeal of an alternative lifestyle? Galleries can and must do more than merely enable the urban renewal of unpopular neighborhoods.

  2. And 20 years ago, Geoff, galleries served wine on Stroll nights, which contributed greatly to the dancing along the sidewalks.

    • It did need to be said, and it was said beautifully and thoughtfully. I should not have been flippant.

  3. Hi Shawn – Long time since we last spoke together. Since 2019 I have moved from SLC to Oregon. I went back for a visit this last June and was so amazed how SLC has changed since I had my studio space at Rockwood. Sad to hear about gallery changes and closures. Have had several conversations with Karen Horne, and was sad to see the empty spaces where Rockwood and Local Colors used to be and all the little restaurants around that area that have closed. Encouraged to go by Tanner Frames and am happy that Bullock Frame is going there. But….are you ready for my more pertinent comment, you forgot to give any mention to Art at the Main which has hung on and survived and is in its 17th year. AATM is still located in the Main Library. They have gone through a long journey to get to this year and I think as they approach their 20th it might make for an interesting article or nod. Wishing you well and it is nice to be keeping up with 15Bytes again. Joy Nunn

    • Joy, you’re absolutely right about Art at the Main still going strong after all these years. And, combined with the fine exhibits that go on at the library, provides a gallery experience in the downtown area — a designation which one could debate. I was going with what I have traditionally understood: 400 West to 400 East and South Temple to 400 South. And in that respect Art at the Main definitely should have been included in my comments about galleries just on the outskirts.

      We are currently in the process of compiling a list of exhibition venues that have opened and ones that have closed since we began publishing in 2001. This hopefully will give us all a better idea of where we are at. To remember the ones we miss and celebrate the ones still going strong.

  4. Thank you for this article, I think back to the gallery stroll in SLC with great fondness.
    What part has the advent of social media, and online art sales had on the decline of physical art galleries? I ask this because it is not only true that SLC has been loosing galleries, but other towns and cities feel this loss too. After 32 years showing art in SLC I live in Springdale now and have been witness to the closing of art galleries and other unique artifact boutiques. Rent too high and everything turning into overnight rentals is part of the problem, but what role has e-sales had in the breakdown of the artist-gallery relationship? Food for thought for your next article.

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