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What is creativity?

October 31, 2016

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This video was made after working for a few hours with 6th graders in a school that for many, due to academic and behavioral challenges, was “a last chance” to stay in the system. Obviously these are very bright people whom the current school system is failing. At the root of the eloquence they exhibit in the video is a simple Children’s Media Workshop (CMW) secret weapon - turning the learning over to them. They own and are responsible for their own performance. This is a complete flip of what school unfortunately and probably mostly unconsciously promotes.

And what about art education?

With our art as education program, the standardized Sage test proficiency in Math for this class went from 13% to 67%. the principal credited this transformation entirely to our program using art experience to change learning patterns, with critical ZAP support.

Results like these demand action and the CMW team is working on a plan to make this transformation possible for classrooms across the country, stay tuned.

-John Schaefer

John Schaefer is the Director for the Children's Media Workshop, a ZAP Tier II organization.

The Inspiration and Origins of Creating an Arts Nonprofit

October 26, 2016

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mundi project concert

It isn’t every day that you get the chance to turn the tables and interview your own boss.  At Mundi Project, my time goes toward planning events, fulfilling Piano Bank applications, and coordinating Ambassadors, musicians, and Mundi Live events.  So with the opportunity to delve into our origin story, and a much needed coffee break, I snuck in an interview with Mundi’s Executive Director, Hana Janatova and discussed a bit of the how and why Mundi was founded and what she has learned looking back on the first 10 years.

MICHELLE:  So Mundi Project, you guys are the “piano people” right?  I hear that all the time when I tell people I work for MP.  What do you usually say to that question?

HANA:  Well, piano is the core and heart of our organization.  As a pianist and teacher, the idea to create an organization that would create access to pianos and music opportunities for youth and communities seemed a natural fit. 

MICHELLE:  So what was your inspiration to focus on piano or was it music in general?  And further, to create an organization?  

HANA:  As a first generation immigrant, our family came to this country with PhD’s and only $50 to their name, but they never made my brother and I feel like we did without. Music, art, and nature were all important aspects in our upbringing – it was important to know how to play an instrument, to attend live performances in all disciplines, to absorb visual art.  

One of the possessions that we moved to this country was the family piano.  Right before I founded the Mundi Project with 2 fellow adult students and a couple of friends, my mother asked me if I knew of somebody in need of a piano.  My neighbor’s daughter expressed the desire to learn, and so my mom gave her the piano and I taught her lessons until they moved. 

Starting Mundi Project stemmed from that idea, that there are individuals who do not have the financial means to own a piano or have access to art. Plenty of pianos sit as a piece of furniture-holding family pictures and the typical houseplant. As technological marvels, pianos should be used for the betterment of communities and the next generation. 

mundi project piano placements

MICHELLE:  What about the inspiration behind Mundi’s multi-disciplinary youth performances?

HANA:  Some of my fondest memories growing up were participating in Children’s Dance Theatre’s multidisciplinary summer camps and annual concerts.  You would not only dance, but create art projects and work with music. I liked that integrated approach.

We incorporated that approach at Mundi Project when we produced our first multi-disciplinary concert in 2007, “Harmonices Mundi”.  The theme explored Keppler’s solids, scales, and Ptolomey’s philosophy, and the inaugural concert included piano performance, original poetry, modern dance, and visual art created by local students.

mundi project air concert

Mundi has continued to create multidisciplinary projects that support arts-integration ever since.  One of my favorites, AIR (2012), explored air pollution, sustainable energy, soundwaves, and light refraction with partners Breathe Utah, Repertory Dance Theatre, and the U of U Arts Bridge and Physics Department. Youth created pinwheels and giant air-socks out of recycled materials, while learning about 2.5pm particles, soundwaves, and light refraction.  It was the first project where we utilized PNOScan, fiber optic technology that triggered multimedia events during performances held at Utah Cultural Celebration Center, Backman Elementary, and Glendale Middle School.   

MICHELLE: So a lot of these projects are done with other organizations, how did you form these relationships and go about creating these projects?

HANA:  Being a member of the arts community and having awareness of creative work being produced. Basically, Mundi develops thematic projects and explores collaborations that will bring greater arts access with limited resources.  This season we are working a lot with the Visual Art Institute on our new IMPULSE series, which began while brainstorming together on how to combine music and visual arts experiences.

mundi project top moments

MICHELLE:  So it’s the 10-year anniversary for Mundi.  Over the past 10 years what have been some of your favorite moments?


  • Piano Bank’s first piano placement and seeing the picture of recipient standing in front of her new piano.
  • Our first “Imagine a Piano…” Monster Concert, which involved every single piano program in Salt Lake.  10 Steinway and Fazioli pianos set the stage for a one-hour performance involving 80 young pianists, including special guest artist Jon Schmidt.
  • First public piano placement in 2009, a Baby Grand for the Sorenson Unity Center. Developing a partnership with a city facility was really important, as it allows our programming to be free to the participant. This supports our vision of creating open access, and partnerships with Sorenson Unity, Utah Cultural Celebration Center, and the Salt Lake City Public Library have been an extremely key component.
  • Witnessing the first group of Riley Elementary students walking to a Harmony Hub piano class located at the Sorenson Unity Center.

MICHELLE:  Last but not least, what is the biggest thing you have learned, as well as the biggest thing you think people are surprised to learn from Mundi?

HANA:  The amount of pianos we have placed is often surprising to people (we have now placed over 150 throughout Utah), also that even though piano is our core we embrace a variety of musical genres in our mission to support arts access.  As for learning experience, my biggest takeaway has been that it really takes a whole community to support children and to support the arts.

Michelle Ludema is the Program Coordinator for Mundi Project and oversees their Mundi Live, Piano Bank, Harmony Hub, and Ambassador programs.  Originally from Layton (pronounced Lay’un) Utah, Michelle holds a Bachelor’s degree in Humanities and Community Arts from the University of Oregon.  She believes in connecting communities through the arts, and plays a mean early-intermediate rendition of “Fur Elise”.

To learn more about Mundi’s programs and upcoming events, visit  


Ticket Tuesday Giveaway with SLFS

October 26, 2016

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Ticket Tuesday- SLFS

A winner has been chosen for this week's #ZAPTicketTuesday- 2 tickets and a large popcorn for any regular Salt Lake Film Society screening at the Broadway Centre Cinemas or the Tower Theatre.
Stay tuned for more giveaways from your favorite places around SLCO!

Fun for all seasons at the Foothill Cultural District

October 21, 2016

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The change of seasons is a wonder, and nowhere is it celebrated more than in the Foothill Cultural District.  Look to the east of the Salt Lake Valley – the leaves are turning red and gold, harvest-time pumpkins and late-blooming fall flowers dot the landscape.  It’s a great time to bring the family and make a day of it at the Foothill Cultural District’s nine attractions, all within 2.5 square miles.

Here's where you can play



hogle zoo


tracy aviary bird


Famous throughout the Intermountain West, Utah’s Hogle Zoo is located at the eastern edge of the Foothill Cultural District.  Prepare for a zoo ablaze with the colors of the season.  Boo at the Zoo gives kids of any age a real treat, while BooLights, the newest of the zoo’s dazzling presentations, opens just in time for Halloween – and following on the heels of BooLights is – what else? – ZooLights, a holiday extravaganza of decorations sure to “DeLight” kids and adults alike.  

Tracy Aviary lies just to the west of the foothills and houses some of nature’s most exotic birds, many of which are now extinct in the wild. Andy, the Andean Condor, often seen roaming the walks of the Aviary, is now 50 years old, but doesn’t look a day over 40.



umfa fort douglas military museum

Foothill Cultural District is home to three museums, the Natural History Museum of Utah, which is renowned for its dinosaur collection -- much of which was discovered here in Utah. 

The Utah Museum of Fine Arts features European works from the 14th to the 19th Century to today’s renowned contemporary artists.  Fort Douglas Military Museum,   soon to open its new exhibit space, protects and preserves Utah’s military history.


hogle zoo 

As Utah State’s official arboretum, Red Butte Garden cultivates and displays the plants indigenous to this area as well as a range of exotic, peculiar specimens including a garden full of medicinal plants. Don’t forget to stop at Red Butte Garden’s gift shop where you’ll find a stunning  array of  gardening books; super educational toys for the young scientist on your list and spectacular jewelry, china and art. 




this is the place heritage park 

Travel back in time at This Is The Place Heritage Park and explore authentic Utah pioneer cabin.  Dressed in western garb, volunteer re-enactors give visitors a look at the daily tasks of Utah’s pioneer settlers. A Native American village features performances and on-site craft demonstrations. 


u of u

The Foothill Cultural District is event Central,  no matter the occasion. Each attraction has its own unique meeting and wedding facilities. One such outstanding venue is the University of Utah’s Tower at Rice-Eccles Stadiuma site that rises to lofty heights, offering a panoramic view of the entire Salt Lake Valley, the Oquirrh Mountains  and the Great Salt Lake. 


u of u hospitality 

There’s no place like home,” some say.  Hold on a minute!  Not if you and your family are looking  to eke  out just one more fun-filled day at the Foothill Cultural District.  The University Guest House Hotel puts out the welcome mat every day of the year – and offers a special FCD room rate to boot.  The pillows are soft, the Wi-Fi and breakfast are free, and that’s hard to beat! 



As the Holiday Season gets closer, remember Foothill Cultural District attractions have their own Gift Shops.  Whether it’s a gift of art, nature, toys, sterling silver jewelry, ceramic pottery or gardening books, you’ll find cherished gifts at the District’s attractions.  Parking is free and each venue is open weekends and at least one evening a week.

  -Compiled by Linda Hunt, Foothill Cultural District



Trevor Paglen: Making the Invisible Visible

October 20, 2016

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Thursday, October 27 | 7 pm | FREE 
Katherine W. and Ezekiel R. Dumke Jr. Auditorium, Utah Museum of Fine Arts

So much of what we know about the world, we learn through images: documentary photographs, maps, selfies, diagrams, satellite images, and so on. We are inundated with images that structure our world, drive our interests, and shape our thoughts. But, in actuality, so much exists outside the frame of the common image. Enter Trevor Paglen, the artist, cinematographer, geographer, researcher, and writer who makes the invisible visible.  

Paglen’s presentation at the UMFA on Thursday, October 27, will open your eyes. Since Paglen last visited Salt Lake City in 2009, he has contributed research and cinematography to Citizenfour, the Academy Award–winning film about Edward Snowden; made deep dives to locate the Internet under our oceans; and launched into Earth’s orbit a visual artifact containing 100 micro-etched contemporary images. 

Using the newest technologies, Paglen’s photographs, videos, sculptures, books, and interdisciplinary projects uncover some of the top-secret infrastructures that define our present: drone surveillance, information super-highways, satellite communications, and remote government operations for weapons testing, torture camps, and data storage. His urgent work, often described as experimental geography, underscores the power of the image in democracy, bringing classified programs and secret initiatives to the public’s attention. Among his chief concerns are learning how to see the historical moment we live in and developing the means to imagine alternative futures. 

Here in Utah, our remote lands hold many secrets. We have enough “empty” space to do private things like test and store chemical weapons, train drone-pilots, build and test rocket boosters, and simulate lunar and Martian landscapes for scientists and moviemakers. In our backyard, the Department of Defense operates the Hill Air Force Base, the Utah Test and Training Range, the Dugway Proving Ground, the Tooele Chemical Agent Disposal Facility, and most recently the NSA Utah Data Center, where all domestic surveillance data from “all available sources all the time, every time, always” is collected, processed, and stored. 

With the goal of examining our present time and making similar sites and their covert operations more visible to the public, the UMFA acquired four photographs by artist Trevor Paglen in 2008, which are featured below. Part of his Limit Telephotography series, each photograph reveals classified military industrial complex sites in the deserts of the western United States that are regularly hidden from civilian eyes. Because vast expanses of restricted land border the sites, the artist had to use a high-powered astrophotography telescope from miles away to capture their images, which are often blurry as a result of distance, dust, and heat waves.  

detail 1

The heavily guarded Gold Coast Terminal operates a Department of Defense airline out of the Las Vegas McCarran International Airport. The airline ferries hundreds of DoD workers daily to and from restricted sites in the Nevada Ranges. Morning Commute (Gold Coast Terminal) Las Vegas, NV/Distance - 1 mile 6:26 a.m., 2006, C-print, 30 x 36 inches, purchased with funds from the Paul L. and Phyllis C. Wattis Endowment for Works on paper, UMFA2008.34.1. 

detail 2

Cactus Flat, Nevada, is the home of the Nellis Air Force Range and the Tonopah Test Range, a restricted military installation currently used for nuclear weapons stockpile reliability testing, research and development of fusing and firing systems, and testing nuclear weapon delivery systems. Control Tower/Cactus Flat, NV/11:15 a.m./Distance - 20 miles, 2006, C-print, 31 x 36 inches, purchased with funds from the Paul L. and Phyllis C. Wattis Endowment for Works on paper, UMFA2008.34.2. 

illuminated hangars

Illuminated Hangars, Tonopah Test Range, NV/Distance - 18 miles/9:08 p.m., 2006, C-print, 30 x 36 inches, purchased with funds from the Paul L. and Phyllis C. Wattis Endowment for Works on paper  

dugway proving ground

Dugway Proving Ground, located about 85 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, is a U.S. Army facility that tests biological and chemical weapon defense systems and trains the U.S. Army Reserve, National Guard, and Air Force. Chemical and Biological Weapons Proving Ground/Dugway, UT/Distance - 22 miles/11:17 am, 2005, C-print, h: 40 in x w: 40 1/16 inches, purchased with funds from the Paul L. and Phyllis C. Wattis Endowment for Works on paper, UMFA2008.34.4. 

Paglen is the author of five books and numerous articles on subjects including experimental geography, state secrecy, military symbology, photography, and visuality. He lives and works in New York and Berlin and holds a BA from the University of California, Berkeley, an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a PhD in geography from U.C. Berkeley. In addition to the UMFA, his work is in the collections of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Israel Museum, Jerusalem; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Smithsonian American Art Museum; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Whitney Museum of American Art; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; and National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, among others. 

The presentation will begin at 7 pm in the UMFA's Katherine W. and Ezekiel R. Dumke Jr. Auditorium and will be followed by Q&A with the audience. UMFA galleries remain closed for remodeling until August 2017. 

Paglen’s lecture is part of the UMFA’s ARTLandish: Land Art, Landscape, and the Environment series and the Utah Humanities Book Festival. This event is supported by XMission, Utah Humanities, and the University of Utah's Tanner Humanities Center, Communications Institute, Department of Communications, Department of English, and Department of Art and Art History. Special thanks to event partner Matt Potolsky, University of Utah professor of English. 

 The ARTLandish series is sponsored by the S. J. and Jessie E. Quinney Foundation. Community partners are the University of Utah J. Willard Marriot Library, the College of Fine Arts, and the Salt Lake City Public Library. 

-Whitney Tassie

Whitney Tassie, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, oversees the Museum’s collection of twentieth and twenty-first century art, organizes the salt series of projects highlighting emerging international artists, and curates larger temporary exhibitions. She has brought work by Sol LeWitt, Nancy Holt, Paul McCarthy, Tacita Dean, Tony Feher, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Kate Gilmore, and William Lamson into the collection and has organized exhibitions with artists including Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Shigeyuki Kihara, Jillian Mayer, Conrad Bakker, Duane Linklater, Tacita Dean, the Center for Land Use Interpretation, and Tony Feher, among others. Recently, Tassie co-curated Brian Bress: Make Your Own Friends, a ten-year survey of Bress’s work, with MCA Denver curator Nora Abrams. Tassie holds a master's degree in modern art history, theory, and criticism from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a bachelor's degree in art history and archaeology from Cornell University. 

Ticket Tuesday Giveaway from Hale Centre Theatre

October 18, 2016

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Ticket Tuesday- Hale Centre Theatre

2 winners have been chosen to see the theatrical production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL at Hale Centre Theatre (December 9-24). Stay tuned for future giveaways!

A Killer Ticket Tuesday Giveaway from NHMU

October 11, 2016

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NHMU Ticket Tuesday 2

Winners have been chosen for this ZAP Ticket Tuesday giveaway to see the POWER OF POISON exhibit at the Natural History Museum of Utah (October 15 - April 16).

Stay tuned for future giveaways!

How Red Butte Garden keeps a tradition fresh

October 05, 2016

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Missing Tradition in this Modern World 

How many times have you said, “we used to…”? It might be “we used to bike to school,” “go on picnics,” or “collect leaves in the fall.” Halloween is especially ripe for tradition with rich stories of how we used to be outside and how the holiday used to be about costumes and evening fun and less about shopping mall candy grabs or terrifying thrill experiences. Red Butte Garden has hosted a Halloween tradition since 1998 called Garden After Dark.  Every year a new theme related to the Garden and the Halloween season is selected, resulting in craft and activity stations that sneak a little education into the event and provide a fresh experience for returning guests. The event takes place throughout the Garden, with themed craft and entertainment stations both indoors and outdoors.  

Each night 60 staff and volunteers in costumes help guests have an amazing experience over the weekends leading up to Halloween.  Perhaps you’ll find family traditions among the fire barrels, craft stations, performers, or Garden light and décor displays.  We’ve found the things people enjoy the most are traditional and include: having a place to celebrate Halloween where their children are safe, all ages wearing costumers, no candy, nothing scary and experiences that are sneakily educational.

Who organizes the event each year? 

Since 2010 it’s been LaraLee Smith. Smith is the Family & Community Programs Manager at Red Butte Garden in Salt Lake City, Utah. She has worked with various nonprofits coordinating summer camps, children’s classes, a middle school science outreach program, and classroom based environmental education programming. Smith holds an M.P.A. with a concentration in nonprofit management as well as a B.A. in Environmental Studies, both from The University of Utah.  

Her ideas have improved the event while highlighting plant and environmental themes in traditional Halloween motifs. Past themes include Light Up The Night, which highlighted plants and animals that are active or glow in the evening.  Guests had the opportunity to create their own owl masks while discussing how owls see at night and learn about bioluminescent mushroom while creating their own glowing mushroom to take home. The theme of Once Upon a Fairytale focused on the plants in fairytales, and guests left with a set of magic beans after visiting Jack and the Beanstalk as well as a glowing magic wand after visiting Cinderella’s fairy godmother. Plants often play a role in our traditions.  Pumpkins are an obvious one for Halloween.  Many traditions revolve around the season and seasonal foods, such as watermelon and fresh herbs in summer and squash at Thanksgiving. How about cranberries, bay leaves, and pine boughs as plants used in winter? But, we are talking about Halloween.

The Garden After Dark is celebrating Haunted Holidays Around The World. 

Visit the Garden to travel the globe! In the United States we celebrate ghosts and spirits at Halloween, but similar traditions exist in other cultures throughout the year. Discover nature’s ties to holidays and celebrations such as Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos and the Hungry Ghost Festival of China and visit the Garden’s pond aglow with lanterns in celebration of Japan’s Obon Festival.  2016 Garden After Dark dates for 2016 are October 20, 21, 22, 27, 28 and 29.

-Bryn Ramjoue

Bryn is the Communications Director for Red Butte Garden and has a long history of nonprofit advertising, PR, marketing and planning facilitation. Much of her career was with AT&T Wireless managing regional advertising and national brand and sports marketing. She has been with Red Butte Garden for seven years where good weather has been responsible for exceptional camp, class, and concert attendance

Experimental composer performs border project at UMFA

September 28, 2016

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angel exterminador

[My] music is an imaginary story that each object carries within itself.

—Guillermo Galindo

One of the best parts of my job at UMFA is helping to identify which artists, lecturers, and art world figures we bring to Salt Lake City. Next month, through our new ARTLandish: Land Art, Landscape, and the Environment series, we're hosting two exciting contemporary artists— Guillermo Galindo and Trevor Paglen—whose work embodies the ARTLandish mission to "investigate our complex relationship with the world around us."

I’m especially excited about bringing Galindo, a Mexican-born, Berkeley, California-based experimental composer to our community. Galindo’s Thursday, October 6, presentation at the UMFA, Sonic Border, is based on his collaboration and traveling exhibition with photographer Richard Misrach, Border Cantos, which involves fabricating musical instruments and graphic musical scores from items recovered at the Mexico-U.S. border. Misrach has been photographing the border between the U.S. and Mexico since 2004, capturing the often-invisible landscapes and wall that separates the U.S. from our neighbors to the south. Misrach and Galindo have worked together to create pieces that both document and transform the artifacts of migration: water bottles, clothing, spent shotgun shells, and even sections of the border wall itself, which Galindo then turns into instruments to be performed as unique sound-generating devices. In his Sonic Border presentation, Galindo will perform an original composition on one of the instruments he's created and then discuss his work with the audience.

I experienced Border Cantos earlier this year at the San Jose Museum of Art in California. Walking through the exhibition, I encountered Galindo’s wonderfully imaginative and brilliantly constructed sculptural instruments. One such creation, Zapatello, is based on Martello a Camme, Leonardo da Vinci’s mechanized hammering machine—which utilizes an old boot, glove, and border patrol drag tire, all found near the border wall. Shooting-target-shaped cranks, a donkey jaw, and a ram’s horn are used as stops. A rawhide is strung across the tire. The whole piece is activated to create a drum. 

galindo zapatello

Other works included Galindo’s musical scores printed on flags used by humanitarian groups as beacons for stranded migrants. One of the most moving pieces in the show was Fuente de lagrimas (Fountain of tears), in which Galindo transformed a water barrel once used as a migrant watering station into a “fountain of tears.” This work is based on vandalized stations shot up with bullets—it drips water from small holes onto a metal plate, creating a sound that resembles light rain falling onto a metal roof. 

An impressive multi-channel installation of sounds composed, performed, and recorded by Galindo filled one of the galleries. The installation was set up so that the sound of each instrument emanated from a concealed speaker. As I approached each instrument, the pre-recorded sound from that particular instrument dominated.

galindo efigie

At one point Galindo gave an impromptu performance on Efigie (Effigy),  a plucked string instrument based on mysterious scarecrow-like figures that Misrach discovered near the California-Mexico border.


Susan Krane, executive director at San Jose Museum of Art, eloquently points out the timeliness of this project in the Border Cantos exhibition brochure:

“Richard Misrach and Guillermo Galindo bring a humanitarian perspective to the heated political debates that surround the subject of immigration today. . . . This exhibition underscores the necessity—indeed the human urgency—of civil dialogue about the tough issues that can divide us most drastically as a community and as a nation, particularly this election year.” 

Galindo’s performance will begin at 7 pm in the UMFA's Katherine W. and Ezekiel R. Dumke Jr. Auditorium, followed by a presentation and Q&A with the audience. The artist will be available to sign copies of Border Cantos immediately following his presentation—copies of the book will be available for purchase. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to hear Guillermo Galindo perform and discuss his work!

The ARTLandish series is sponsored by the S. J. and Jessie E. Quinney Foundation. Community partners are the University of Utah J. Willard Marriot Library, the College of Fine Arts, and the Salt Lake City Public Library.

-Jorge Rojas

Jorge Rojas oversees education, community engagement, and adult programming for the UMFA. Respected as a dynamic and innovative artist and community leader, Rojas joined the UMFA in January 2015. Before that, he was site director for the Venture Humanities Course at Westminster College, where he promoted continuing education among immigrant, refugee, and under-represented populations. Additionally, he taught art history to low-income minority students at East High through the Clemente Humanities Course and was Teaching Artist-in-Residence at the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah.

The history and heritage of our buildings

September 14, 2016

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When you drive through your city, you will likely see a mix of buildings that are old and buildings that are new. Which buildings stand out to you? Do you have favorites? No matter what buildings you like the most, you’ve probably sensed that there is a formula to mixing old and new architecture that makes our communities attractive and vibrant.

For fifty years, Utah Heritage Foundation has been working closely with municipalities, business owners, developers, and property owners to preserve and reuse historic structures in our communities. Labeling people as “preservationists” is not for people who are only interested in saving old buildings, but refers to the effort of people and organizations like Utah Heritage Foundation that strive to make communities better places through sustainable community initiatives, building local economy, and teaching craftsmanship through preserving their inventory of old buildings.

downtown salt lake city with the historic salt lake tribune building in the foreground

 Downtown Salt Lake City with the historic Salt Lake Tribune Building in the foreground.

The preservation efforts in many of Utah’s commercial business districts suggest that people like old buildings. Whether the feeling is nostalgic or reassuring, older architecture tends to reflect where people want to spend their time. Historic structures are often the centerpieces of our communities and create a lasting cultural value. By preserving them we are not just preserving our community’s culture, but we are also creating sustainability for our local economies.

volunteers help to rehabilitate a home for new residents

Volunteers help to rehabilitate a home for new residents.

Older buildings are visually distinctive which gives them intrinsic value. They often display fine craftsmanship of a bygone era and tend to be built with higher-quality materials. With preservation of historic architecture, we continue to tell the story or our cultures while creating an ever-evolving inventory of architecture.  

Over the past fifty years, Utah Heritage Foundation has had great successes as well as losses in its mission to preserve historic architecture. The wins and losses also help to tell the story of our ever- evolving built landscape and why we all should be involved in the discussion about how our communities change in order to save the places that matter.

historic jc penney store in salt lake city

Historic JC Penney Store in Salt Lake City. Photo courtesy of the Utah Historical Society.

One of the many successful preservation stories is South High School in Salt Lake City. The Art Deco style building opened its doors in 1931.  After having over 30,000 students graduate, the school closed due to dwindling enrollment.  After a renovation and new addition, the school reopened as Salt Lake Community College in 1992. The historic school continues to be a thriving part of Salt Lake County, serving the community as a gathering place and the flagship campus for SLCC. 

south high now salt lake community college

Current and historic photos of South High School, now Salt Lake Community College.

Historic photo courtesy of Utah Historical society.

Another success of preservation is Downtown Murray where several historic buildings create a vibrant presence on State Street.  At its heart is the Desert Star Theatre, which was originally built as the Iris Theater.  The theater, along with its attached apartments and commercial building, is significant for its role in the original development and later revitalization of Murray City. With its combination of entertainment, retail, and residential space, the building represents a multi-use commercial block that was common during the early twentieth-century and is popular again as a key part of urban revitalization.

murray desert star

State Street in Murray.

A community’s Main Street is usually the commercial core, although over time some of the commercial nodes have moved to different parts of the city.  Salt Lake City’s Main Street is still the commercial hub of the city, but in other communities like Magna and Midvale, their historic Main Streets are no longer the commercial core, but are in a state of adaptive use and revitalization. Getting kids of all ages interested in preserving architecture can help teach them about the history of their community and the importance of art and culture.  Utah Heritage Foundation produced an illustrated book titled, “It Happened on Main Street,” that walks school-aged children through the importance of having a thriving commercial and entertainment district in our communities.

main streets

Midvale, Magna, and Salt Lake City Main Streets all feature great historic buildings with new uses.

Some preservation successes are tied to the public’s support, while others are done by individuals fighting for a specific cause. One of Utah Heritage Foundation’s successes where the public was integral in the outcome was for what some people considered the most important building in Salt Lake County, the Salt Lake City and County Building.  The building was originally constructed by free masons between 1891 and 1894 to house offices for the city and county of Salt Lake. It also served as Utah's Capitol from when statehood was granted in 1896 until the present Utah State Capitol was completed in 1916.

city and county building horse auction

Photo of livestock to be sold at auction. Photo courtesy of Utah Historical Society.

In the mid-1980’s there was talk of demolishing the Salt Lake City and County Building to build a new structure.  Utah Heritage Foundation was very involved, along with political leaders and community members, to advocate for rehabilitation of this prominent building.  With the community now invested in preserving this building there have been several preservation projects, including a recent seismic retrofit and stone restoration, which will help preserve this building for future generations.

salt lake city and county building

Salt Lake City and County Building.

Recently, Salt Lake County and Utah Heritage Foundation have supported the nomination of mid-century modern homes to the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). The NRHP is a list of architecturally significant structures across the United States and provides honorary designation. The homes were all built by renowned architect Cliff May, who was a prominent mid-century designer from Southern California that is credited with the popularity of the Ranch house style. While it may not be commonly considered that Ranch houses are historically significant, they reflect a culturally significant transition in Utah from a more urban culture to a suburban lifestyle. Architecture is after all, a form of visual art, and art is subject to personal taste.

cliff may homes

Three homes designed by Cliff May with a floor plan.

While the successes are to be celebrated, the losses are important as tools for learning toward the next preservation issue. One of the recent unsuccessful efforts occurred when the West Jordan Sugar Factory was demolished in 2010. The West Jordan Sugar Factory Committee met for several years to discuss what reuse options might exist for the complex. The project had the support of the elected leaders of the community and several volunteer organizations. The conclusion of a feasibility study determined that there was a high demand for arts and cultural space in West Jordan and on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley for small organizations, and that the Sugar Factory was a unique location for these uses.  A change in elected leadership at the city changed direction for the project and lead to the buildings being demolished within a year of the transition.

west jordan sugar factory

West Jordan Sugar Factory (demolished).  Historic photo courtesy of Utah Historical Society.

As the Salt Lake Valley continues to grow and become more densely populated, the idea of reusing our existing built landscape will become ever more important in order to conserve ever-scarcer resources and save money. It will also become increasingly important to recognize the differences in styles and what they represented culturally in the development of the county. Creating the new cityscape, blending historic architecture with great new design, is one of the most visible forms of expression of community values, and all over Salt Lake County there are opportunities to preserve those structures that will continue to represent our evolving cultures and those values.


Utah Heritage Foundation creating awareness for Modern architecture.

-Alison Flanders

Alison Flanders is the Public Outreach Director for Utah Heritage Foundation.  This year, Utah Heritage Foundation celebrates its 50th Anniversary continuing our mission to keep the past alive, not only for preservation, but to inspire and provoke a more creative present and sustainable future.