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Taking Your Kids to Spiral Jetty: Five Tips for Parents

Posted By Salt Lake County ZAP
June 22, 2016

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umfa spiral jetty backpack

One of our goals while the Utah Museum of Fine Arts ( UMFA) is temporarily closed is to direct art lovers to the incredible examples of Land art that can be found right here in Utah. The UMFA hosted a successful and fun community meet-up at Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels in April, and we’ll host a meet-up at Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty October 1. But don’t wait for us; go out and experience Land art with your family this summer. We’ve got some great tools to help make the most of your adventure—and they’re free!

We’ve partnered with Salt Lake City Public Library to make three Spiral Jetty Family Backpacks available for free checkout at the children's desk at the Main Library downtown. Enjoy a family outing to Spiral Jetty and learn about the history, art, and science around this world-renowned artwork. Fun tools include a microscope, binoculars, compass, thermometer, and maps to guide your interaction with the landscape and science of Great Salt Lake. A sketchbook and worksheets help generate insight to both the artwork and the artist. Basalt rocks (made of foam) let you try your hand at making a little jetty of your own.

umfa spiral jetty backpack for family trip

To get you ready, we asked local painter (and our former grants manager) Una Pett about her Jetty experience with her four-year-old, Luca, and two of his cousins. Here are her top five tips:

  1. Take advantage of the car ride.

    It’s a long drive—about two hours—out to Spiral Jetty, and although the journey is a big part of the experience, we all know long car rides and kids can be a tough combo. Take advantage of this captive time to get comfortable with the backpack’s contents and instructions, so that by the time you arrive, you’re all ready to learn and explore.

    If you’re going without the backpack, download a self guide and an experiential guide from our website. Together, these will help you fully acquaint yourself and your children with Spiral Jetty, so that by the time you arrive, everyone’s eager to explore.

  2. Slow down the experience. 
    “When we first arrived we were so compelled visually by the place that we had to remind ourselves to stop and take a look through the pack,” Una says. “The backpack gave us several points of departure to spark our curiosity and deepen our explorations.”

    Use the backpack or the experiential guide to ask questions, encourage conversation, and help your family make meaningful connections.

    family times at the jetty

  3. Enjoy the time together.
    “At first, the kids needed some help and guidance digging through the backpack and figuring out how to apply everything, so it was a perfect opportunity for us to learn and experience together as a family,” Una says.

    Between the time spent in the car and the time spent at the Jetty, this adventure will offer plenty of quality time with your loved ones, so make the most of it.

    family over looking the spiral jetty

  4. Bring kids of all ages.
    “The great thing is that there’s something for everyone—Millie (7) could sit and sketch on her own; Cleo (5) could pick up salt crystals and examine them more closely; Luca (4) could leaf through the images of the spirals,” Una says. “We found tools that helped each child engage in their own way at their own level.”

    Spiral Jetty can provide a valuable experience for children and adults of any age—whether your child is four or about to leave for college.

  5. Allow for organic experiences.

    The backpack activities are meant to enhance the experience, not to be the whole experience. Use the backpack or guide to understand what a spiral is and why this piece of Land art was named as such—but don’t stop there. “Walk along the spiral; walk on the salt and in the water as far as you can go,” Una says. “This was Luca’s favorite part, and something we all vividly remember to this day.”

    walking in the great salt lake

We want to hear about your family’s Spiral Jetty adventure this summer! Please share your experience on Instagramwith #spiraljettybackpack or tag us @utahmuseumoffinearts. Also, please share your own tips and advice for other parents below.

exploring the jetty

A big thank-you to Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts, and Parks (ZAP) program for helping to make the UMFA’s free family programs possible.

Emily Armacost is the PR & Marketing Assistant at the UMFA. Born and raised in Finksburg, Maryland, she joined the UMFA staff in 2014 after studying arts administration and fine art at Westminster College. When she’s not at the museum, Emily can be found painting, climbing, or hiking with her dog, Howl.