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Local Arts Agencies Are Alive and Thriving in Salt Lake County

Posted By Salt Lake County ZAP
May 11, 2016

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Did you know Salt Lake County is home to sixteen local arts agencies (LAA), also called local arts councils? Did you know the distinguishing characteristic that sets LAAs apart from other arts organizations is a primary focus on serving and celebrating the community?

From the capital of Salt Lake City to the town of Alta, with a population of 383 at an altitude of 8,530 feet, Salt Lake County cities and townships have LAAs as diverse as the communities they serve. All of the LAAs are engaged in arts education, through their own programming and in partnerships with schools and school districts. 

south salt lake mural project

South Salt Lake Arts Council hosted a mosaic mural workshop for children with artist Roger Whiting, and is embarking on a cultural district planning process for the heart of South Salt Lake.

Live theatre is thriving at the LAAs and theatre productions are often the first program to be undertaken by an LAA. You will find arts festivals, visual art exhibits, literary readings and poetry slams, film series, all types of music and dance, and more. LAAs give grants, train artists, advocate for the arts, build economic vitality, manage cultural facilities, and, most importantly, enhance community identity.

holladay arts is working with the refugee community

Holladay Arts has been working with refugees to tell their stories through art.

The programs and services provided by each LAA are distinctive and community-based. In this blogpost, it’s not possible to highlight what each of the 17 LAAs is known for, so to discover on your own, here is the complete list: 

magna arts council offers a full range of programming - including the arts festival on main

Magna Arts Council offers a year-round menu of arts activities and celebrates Magna’s historic Main Street with an annual arts festival.

uccc statsBoth Salt Lake City and West Valley City, the two most culturally diverse communities in the valley, embrace this demography with  events like the Living Traditions Festival in Salt Lake and year-round programming at WVC's Utah Cultural Celebration Center. Both the Holladay Arts Council and the Millcreek Township Arts Council have worked with refugee communities.The West Jordan Arts Council produces an annual literary event that attracts 1,200 people, who attend readings, workshops and book-signings with best-selling authors. ACE (Alta Community Enrichment) booked a bagpipe player to greet skiers as they come off the mountain at Alta Ski Area.

Salt Lake County LAAs may have a home of their own or partner with schools, libraries, and civic spaces to present their programs. Finding an appropriate cultural facility is a significant challenge for our LAAs. Theatre productions offer a great opportunity for crossing borders, sharing actors, directors, musicians and choreographers from across the valley as well as costumes and sets.

The ZAP Program established the LAA Advancement Initiative in 2013  to support the community-based nature and intrinsic value of the work of the people who are managers and leaders at Salt Lake County’s LAAs. With approval from the Salt Lake County Council and Mayor McAdams, this initiative is building an LAA network for communication and support among our LAAs, offers a specific grant category for LAAs who wish to hire their first executive staff person, and provides professional consulting services and training for the LAAs on a wide range of topics.

I recently received the gift of a signed copy of An Innocence of Prairie by Robert E. Gard, with wood engraving illustrations by Curt L. Carpenter, from an edition of only 1,000. This gift is doubly treasured by me. Robert E. Gard’s daughter, Maryo Gard Ewell, gave me the book and she is, in her own right, one of the country’s community arts ninjas. Robert E. Gard is recognized as an early leader in the community arts movement.  His work is based on these principles -- still meaningful, valuable and put into practice by our LAAs today:

  1. The arts spring from the commonplace and celebrate our essential humanity.
  2. Everyone should have the opportunity to participate in arts and cultural experiences.
  3. Each of us has the capacity to "alter the face and the heart of America."
  4. The Arts have the power to ignite change.
  5. The arts are an essential part of building healthy communities and meaningful lives.
  6. The arts play a vital role in placemaking.

-Nancy Boskoff, Consultant for the Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts and Parks' LAA Advancement Initiative