Strolling the city streets in downtown Salt Lake has changed since I began writing this column 16 years ago. In 2000, the economy was on an upswing and the Gateway District had begun to gentrify west of the old 400 West railroad tracks. A slew of galleries lined West Pierpont, creating a street-fair feeling every third Friday of the month for Gallery Stroll. The pinnacle of this art euphoria was one hot July night when the suspended sidewalk buckled under the pressure of too many art patrons. Today, galleries are still thriving, but we don’t have that same centralization of Gallery Stroll participants. Galleries are spread out, and those west of 400 West particularly struggle with foot traffic. One thing that the art community as a whole can pride themselves on is fortitude. Galleries and artists don’t just move when the neighborhood struggles—they just dig in their heels. Art has a way of sprouting up where it’s needed most: a mural under the overpass, the walls of a homeless shelter, a community in need of reconciliation.
This month, I’ve chosen three galleries to highlight that continue to bring light, beauty, inspiration and acceptance into our beloved Downtown area. Each gallery is equipped with ample parking, should you choose to drive between your stroll destinations.
Everyone has a story, and while we know that our own story twists and turns, it’s easy to compartmentalize and make assumptions when it comes to others. Art Access recently launched an expansive multimedia program, The Dreamers Project, to engage Salt Lake’s migrant community to tell their stories in the hopes of “expanding cultural knowledge, sensitivity and humility in the Salt Lake community,” says Sheryl Gillilan, Executive Director of Art Access. October’s show will feature the work done during the Dream in Pictures Family Art Studio at Escalante Elementary, led by Megan Hallett. Students worked within their family to tell their stories and strengthen the generational bonds through visual storytelling. In the Art Access II Gallery, also located at 250 S. 500 W., you’ll be treated to the Third Annual Veterans Exhibit. Veterans were invited to submit work either done during Art Access’ Veteran Art Workshops or work done independently. For more information and for a complete list of Art Access services, please visit accessart.org.
Rio Gallery, located at 300 S. Rio Grande St., is housed in the beautiful and historic Rio Grande Depot, and is a place where tradition and new ideas converge. October’s show features the best and the brightest designers Utah has to offer. The DesignArts 16 show, juried by designer Jim Childress, features creations by 18 designers, whose work ranges from lighting concept and housewares to athletic equipment. For more information, visit heritage.utah.gov.
The Urban Arts Gallery, located in the Gateway shopping district at 137 Rio Grande St., thrives on the energy of the city. This contemporary space is fun and flexible, hosting playful exhibits with plenty of audience participation. In October, celebrate artificial intelligence and random freakiness with Monsters and Robots. The show will run Oct. 3–30, with a special Gallery Stroll costume contest party on Oct. 21. For more information, visit
This month, I encourage you to look around and see the beauty, the possibilities and the commonalities, and to celebrate and respect our differences. Art is a great equalizer. Stand tall with an open heart and mind and go for a stroll.