Travel | An Artful Summer in Utah

Season s End by Seth Winegar, Meyer Gallery, Park City,painting, southwest art.
Season’s End by Seth Winegar, Meyer Gallery, Park City

By Leslie Busler

Utah has long been known as an ideal winter destination, but for years now Salt Lake City and Park City have attracted visitorsyear-round. Throughout spring and summer, skiers and snowboarders are replaced by mountain bikers, hikers, and other leisure seekers. Also, the Utah art scene is flourishing in both the performing and visual arts, providing a relaxing complement to strenuous outdoor excursions. From Park City’s thriving Kimball Art Center and growing gallery scene to Salt Lake City’s museums, galleries, and summer events, Salt Lake Valley has a lot to offer outdoor and art enthusiasts alike.

Park City

Silver was the draw in the mid-1800s, but today white powder in winter and verdant scenes in summer attract thousands to Park City every year. The town of 6,900 in the Wasatch Mountains is home to the annual Sundance Film Festival, the U.S. Ski Team, and a surprising number of art events, such as changing exhibitions at the Kimball Art Center and the Park City Art Festival, which celebrates its 30th year in August. Galleries line the town’s historic Main Street, where a number of shops and restaurants can also be found. Music, theater, and dance performances are held throughout summer, as are showings of independent films. No wonder Park City was included in John Villani’s book The 100 Best Small Art Towns in America [John Muir Publications, 1996].

Main Street is full of typical mountain-resort kitsch, but that’s only half the attraction: Historic buildings snuggle up against each other, decked out in red brick and vibrantly painted wood panels in the gingerbread tradition characteristic of such restored mining towns. Nearly 20 galleries are tucked along the way, where you’re likely to find traditional western and landscape paintings alongside wildlife sculpture or Chinese drawings. Many galleries represent contemporary representational artists from the West and elsewhere. Several show work by emerging or well-known Utah artists: Seth Winegar at Meyer Gallery and Steven Lee Adams at Park City Gallery of the Repartee Group. Others, such as Coda Gallery, feature eclectic art glass and unconventional wood and steel furniture, as well as contemporary paintings and sculpture. Old Town Gallery, Tamina Gallery, Lido Gallery, and William Duncan Gallery are a few others worth stopping into.

The Kimball Art Center, with its two studios featuring changing exhibits of regional and national contemporary artists, is at the base of Main Street. This month be sure to see Reinventing the West [see page 176], which touts itself as the first exhibit to bring together such a diverse group of contemporary realists. If the historic aura of the town piques your interest, stop by the Park City Museum (also on Main), housed in what was once the town’s city hall and jail. It displays artifacts from the mining days of the 1860s to the present and organizes historic walking tours.

Main Street is a feast of activity throughout the summer. The cool mountain evenings might be best appreciated during the monthly gallery strolls, held from 6 to 9 p.m. the first Friday of the month, but there is plenty to do on other nights as well. Spend the day hiking or visiting the 2002 Winter Olympic Games sites, then plan to spend from twilight on in town. Dine on cuisine ranging from Cajun to Thai; opt for the traditional at a casual burger joint or a more ritzy Italian bistro. Then get a latté to go and enjoy live music at City Park on Wednesday evenings or jazz at Main Street Mall on Saturday nights. If the brisk mountain air is too chilly for your taste, step inside for a play at the Egyptian Theatre or an independent film—perhaps one from the Sundance Film Festival—at the Park City Education Center’s Santy Auditorium.

Outdoor events are the norm in this town of revelry. Early this month is the Fourth of July Parade with daylong festivities at City Park, topped off with fireworks at dusk. Taste of Park City is the following Saturday and Sunday and features food with flare from local restaurants. Nearby Deer Valley Resort is also popular, with chamber music concerts on Saturday nights at the open-air amphitheatre as well as dance and repertoire performances—and for the adventurous, the Nation-al Off Road Bicycle Association’s races are July 26-August 1.

Today and Yesterday by Brent Godfrey, A Gallery, Salt Lake City,painting, southwest art.
Today and Yesterday by Brent Godfrey, A Gallery, Salt Lake City

Park City winds down the warm months with its annual Park City Art Festival August 7-8, with more than 200 artists exhibiting their works along Main Street. If you can stretch your stay, the International Jazz Festival takes over the valley from August 26 to 29.

Salt Lake City

You can come to the Salt Lake Valley for the fishing, camping, boating, and rock climbing in the nearby Rocky Mountains, but take time to discover what Salt Lake City itself has to offer. From the more than 25 galleries in the downtown area to several museums and the historic architecture of Temple Square, Salt Lake’s art culture is centered on both performing and visual arts, anchored in its pioneer and Mormon history but branching out into the contemporary.

Start at Temple Square, the heart of downtown and the city’s Mormon beginnings. Within the 10-acre plot are the impressive Salt Lake Temple, Assembly Hall, and the Tabernacle where the famed Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs (hear them rehearse on Thursday evenings from 8 to 9:30 or during Sunday morning broadcasts at 9:30). If these structures pique your curiosity about the Mormon faith, visit the Museum of Church History and Art just off Temple Square.

Within walking distance are several historic sites and museums, including the Salt Lake Art Center, which puts on about six exhibits a year and is a major showplace for local and regional artists. You’ll get quite a taste of Utah art, for its collection is full of regional work from 1930 to the present.

The Utah Museum of Fine Arts on the University of Utah campus houses a fine collection of Italian Renaissance and early American, English, and French paintings, as well as furniture and decorative arts from the 17th and 18th centuries. Also on campus, the Red Butte Garden and Arboretum is worth a visit, with 90 acres covered in greens, reds, yellows, pinks, and blues and miles of mountain trails. For a better understanding of early prairie life, the Chase Home Museum of Utah Folk Art exhibits early folk art and objects used by Utah pioneers and Native Americans.

Salt Lake has a handful of galleries. Pick up a gallery stroll map at hotels, the visitors’ center, or a gallery and walk to a number of them in the downtown vicinity. Organized art walks are held from 6 to 9 p.m. the third Friday of each month, and many galleries hold openings and artists’ receptions at this time. The Phillips Gallery is one of the oldest in town, specializing in traditional and contemporary art. A Gallery, which is in the process of expanding, represents contem-porary artists such as Russell Chatham, Jason Wheatley, Brent Godfrey, and Tom Judd.

A growing warehouse district includes Artspace, a collaborative gallery of local artists working in everything from sculpture and fine craft to set design and performance art. Restaurants, shops, and clubs pepper the district. Another place to unwind is downtown’s  “out-door living room,” the Gallivan Utah Center Plaza, where you can catch an art exhibit, daily outdoor concert, or poetry reading. Various art projects, an amphitheater, large outdoor chess board, and open-air ice rink and pond make this a great area for congregating. Picture this plaza in winter 2002 overflowing with people: It’s the primary site for the Olympic medal ceremonies. While in Salt Lake City and the surrounding area, you can check out many of the venues for the 2002 games. Feeling adventurous? Test your Olympic potential on the bobsled run at Utah Winter Sports Park before world-ranked athletes compete for the gold.

Featured in July 1999