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Posted By Salt Lake County ZAP
May 23, 2017

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For the last 86 years, the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art has been showcasing complex and highly impactful contemporary art in Utah. But UMOCA is so much more than the contemporary artwork displayed within our walls. We are educators, artists, and innovators. 

Our goal is to inspire artistic experimentation, community enrichment and a connection to the world through engaging experiences. Our team is comprised of dedicated, passionate—and, albeit, entertaining—individuals who are mighty in our small number. Together, we help create the magic of the Museum, including designing and providing our free community art education programs that are necessary for the growth and longevity of Utah’s beautifully diverse arts culture. 

ririe woodbury dance company

Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company performs in UMOCA's Main Gallery (2015).

Why Contemporary Art?

Contemporary art is a mirror of right now: our ever-changing ideas, cultures, and societies. It allows viewers to connect with others through art by providing a platform to share their stories. We can learn from one another through the narratives and ideas presented in contemporary art. And as people, places, and technology evolve, so too will contemporary art be redefined in the future. Put simply: contemporary art is each of us—our languages, our relationships, our politics, our hopes.


The opening reception of Idealogue (2016).

UMOCA aims to provide galleries and programs that create open and inclusive dialogues that help people learn how to share their ideas and express their opinions in constructive, challenging, and creative ways. The beauty of contemporary art is that it allows us to examine and relate to aspect’s of today’s world that are greater than and outside of ourselves. And UMOCA believes this is necessary for creating global citizens who are engaged in worldwide issues. It is this belief, and our passion for contemporary art, that have guided us in creating award-winning educational programs that offer opportunities for community members to explore the role of art in their lives and the life of their community. 

A Passion for Community Outreach

There is no “right” age at which you should begin or complete your art education. UMOCA’s educational programs range from family art-making projects to LGBTQ+ youth workshops to Art Fitness training for adults. Art education exists in many different forms, but the benefits of all of our community art programs are similar: they inspire the imagination, stimulate thought and transform society. 

museum goers

Museum-goers at UMOCA.

In particular, one of UMOCA’s outreach programs is the Art Truck. The Art Truck carries contemporary art from leading local and national artists all across the state, visiting individuals at schools and public venues who would otherwise have missed the opportunity to access UMOCA’s exhibitions or art education programs. 

art truck

UMOCA’s Education Facilitator Madeline Savarese leads the Art Truck discussion and workshop.

The students we visit are bright and eager to explore art. The current Art Truck exhibition is whereABOUTS by Jaime Salvador Castillo and Michael Anthony García. whereABOUTS is an immersive and interactive installation that investigates location, identity, and community. Students received a guided tour of the Art Truck with a discussion led by a trained art educator, before diving into their own art creations. Connecting students from different communities, this exhibit allows them to learn about experiences that are different from their own, while also encouraging them to think critically about their identity and place in the world. Students explore their own communities through creative map-making of their neighborhoods and share them with the rest of the class. On August 12, a second, cumulative whereABOUTS exhibition will open at the Museum, featuring an installation of collected student artwork assembled by the acclaimed artists.

outreach in art truck

A student drawing during an Art Truck visit.

UMOCA’s programs create connections: connections to art, to other people, to other places. They also build connections through to new concepts and ideas. We hope that through our community programs, we create spaces that allow individuals to build positive social connections and share their experiences with others. 

Supporting Local Artists

Our gallery spaces have held artworks by hundreds of acclaimed national and international artists, but what UMOCA focuses on is strengthening and supporting local artists. We offer residencies, exhibition opportunities, and workshops to meet the needs of artists living and working in Utah. 

family art saturday

A photo from Family Art Saturday: Glorious Goo (2016). 

Utah has a rich contemporary arts culture, with new and experimental artists emerging from nearby and local art programs, as well as established artists who have been working in Utah for many years. Creative Utahns distribute zines, post images of their work to social media, and run brick-and-mortar artist studios, organize creative activist interventions, and more. These artists create important dialogues across the state by sharing their visions through contemporary media. UMOCA offers opportunities for local artists to not only display their work in our gallery spaces but also build their local and national network of art lovers and art professionals by hosting panel discussions, receptions, and workshops.

UMOCA supports artists whose roots are grounded in Utah, so that we can continue to build the creative vibrancy of our state. 

Supporting Utah Communities

UMOCA is proud to support local artists and communities, but we couldn’t do it without the support of our sponsors and donors, especially Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts & Parks. Strengthening the arts in our society is key to supporting the healthy growth of our communities.

out loud group photo

Group photo from UMOCA’s 2017 Out Loud Opening Reception of Identities, Symbolism, and the Self. 

Contemporary art will always exist, and will continue to flourish and grow with time. New artists will write and rewrite its definition endlessly, passing their notes, thoughts and mediums onto generations to come. Nothing could be more exciting to UMOCA than the opportunity to be a part of creative community building through contemporary art-making long into the future. UMOCA represents the spirit of innovation, experimentation, and dialogue surrounding the issues of our time.  

-Alex Vermillion

Alex Vermillion is the Communications Coordinator at UMOCA, soon to attend the Yale School of Drama in the fall. In zir free time, Alex writes theatre reviews and interviews awesome locals for SLUG Magazine. On weekends, you can catch Alex performing with zir group of queer artists, or hiking around Utah’s beautiful landscape.