For some, the word Utah conjures only images of Mormon temples and the Great Salt Lake. But there’s far more to see in our neighboring state to the north, as it's also home to a cool assortment of arts and culture offerings. We’ve found seven worth checking out if you’re in the mood for some summertime travel not too far from home.
Utah Museum of Contemporary Art
This contemporary art museum, located in Salt Lake City, is opening several new exhibitions in August. Starting Friday, August 14, you can see “Mall no. 2,” an exhibition exploring “innovative models of consumerism in the digital age.” It’s an especially relevant topic for art aficionados keen on pondering ways society’s shift from occupying physical to online spaces is impacting the creation, exhibition, and acquisition of art. It’s also opening day for the multisensory exhibition “Stock Images of War” featuring works by Amalia Ulman meant to “deconstruct connotations of war in western pop culture.” Exhibitions opening in late August include “Grandma’s Cupboard,” which “traces the social, political, and aesthetic threads” in the practice of renowned conceptual artists Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler. Find more information on the UMOCA website.
Utah Shakespeare Festival
Even as most Arizona theater companies lay low between seasons, Utah Shakespeare Festival is kicking it into high gear – presenting six diverse theater works in a lovely little town called Cedar City. Shakespeare offerings include King Lear, The Taming of the Shrew, and Henry IV Part Two. Others include the musical South Pacific, and the plays Amadeus and Charley’s Aunt. Hit King Lear to get your tragedy fix and The Taming of the Shrew for a good dose of comedy delivered by actors wed in real life. If you’ve got time for just one more, make it South Pacific. The vocal performances are spectacular. While you’re there, check out the Southern Utah Art Invitational, and do the sculpture walk, at Southern Utah University. There’s more sculpture in the neighboring town of St. George, which brings in new pieces each year. Find more information on the Utah Shakespeare Festival website.
The City Library
Architecture buffs will delight in seeing the main library in Salt Lake City, which was designed by Moshe Safdie, an Israeli-Canadian architect whose projects have included the Habitat 67 apartment complex created for the 1967 Montreal Expo — which looks like a maze of today’s trendy stacked shipping container units. Safdie went on to design the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa and the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem. The library has an art gallery and several distinct features from rooftop garden to spiraling fireplaces. It’s also home to impressive public art offerings — including Psyche, a suspended head comprising more than 1,500 small book and butterfly sculptures created by Boston artists Ralph Helmick and Stu Schecter. Find more information on the Salt Lake City Public Library website.
The Utah Museum of Fine Arts located on the campus of The University of Utah in Salt Lake City advocates for some pretty spectacular works of land art — including Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty and Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels. Smithson’s piece is a coil measuring 1,500 feet long and about 15 feet wide, which he created with black basalt rock, salt crystals, earth, and water at the Great Salt Lake’s Rozel Point. Holt’s Sun Tunnels located at the Great Basin Desert in northwestern Utah is a large-scale installation comprising four concrete cylinders arranged in a cruciform pattern. Museum materials offer tips for visiting these sites, but those who prefer the comfort of a museum environment can simply head to the museum — which opens “Brian Bess: Make Your Own Friends,” featuring video, sculpture, and works on paper created by the Los Angeles artist during the last decade, on Friday, September 18, just as summer is drawing to a close. While you're there, look for New York artist Tony Feher's installation created entirely with fluorescent pink flagging tape and blue painter's tape. Find more information on the Utah Museum of Fine Arts website.
Maynard Dixon Country
Famed artist Maynard Dixon, whose work you know well if you’ve visited Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, moved from San Francisco to a small Utah town called Mt. Carmel in 1939. Folks can tour his restored, log-cabin style home — and those who head to Mt. Carmel from August 21 to 23 can attend an art invitational called Maynard Dixon Country, which features Western art by nearly three dozen artists. The invitational raises money for The Thunderbird Foundation of the Arts and the Maynard Dixon Living History Museum. Located in Southern Utah, it’s close to both Zion National Park and Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park – so you can spend some time enjoying the great outdoors while you’re there. Find more information on the Thunderbird Foundation for the Arts website.
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Craft Lake City DIY Festival
This year's festival, taking place Friday, August 7, and Saturday, August 8, at the Gallivan Center in Salt Lake City, features all sorts of arts and crafts with a localist vibe. Festival offerings include works by more than 200 local artists, dance and music performance, a kid's area complete with collaborative mosaic mural project, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) displays and demonstrations, food trucks, and more. Find more information on the Craft Lake City website.
Park City Gallery Stroll
The Park City Gallery Association holds a Gallery Stroll the last Friday of every month – making August 28 your next chance to give it a try. It looks like several of their galleries are presenting cool exhibitions in August — showing Works Progress Administration (WPA)-era serigraphs used to advertise the country’s national parks, felted wool objects serving as artifacts from a former frontier, a multidisciplinary collaboration by an Icelandic artist and Utah-based composers, and more. Find more information on the Park City Gallery Association website.
If you’re doing the arts and culture thing in Salt Lake City, make sure you spend some time enjoying public art along the light rail – which includes some impressive fare.