God Hates Robots has been a mission in the making for 10 years. Officially open since mid-May, this local experimental art gallery is one of the newest additions to the Broadway District. Founded by business partners Shon Taylor and Ray Childs, the art space sets itself apart with three core principles: All of the artists must be local, no pieces can be over $400, and 80 percent of sales go directly to the artists.
The gallery is the third of Taylor and Childs’ impressive endeavors—they also run Bottlerocket Manufacturing, a software development and technical-consulting company, and 24tix, an online ticketing platform for Utah events. God Hates Robots then presented an avenue for the pair to act on their appreciation for art—Childs references his “all geek background,” and Taylor is a self-described “art school dropout and armchair collector of art”—as well as a chance to interact directly with the community. “It’s a hearkening back to the community we were always part of growing up—going to shows, having friends with local businesses that they’ve started, the gamut,” says Childs. “We’re trying to come up with ideas to foster a similar community, and this is what it looks like.”
The original concept for God Hates Robots, formulated a decade ago, was an online analog of the gallery space. Taylor and Childs made stickers, created a website and acquired a business license. There were a few obstacles, though: “We realized that art involves a much more personal interaction than what an online experience could offer,” says Taylor. When a feasible space opened up last December, however, the rest of the gallery fell into place, and Taylor and Childs were able to set God Hates Robots’ direction for the following few months.
The gallery is intimate. Bottlerocket and 24tix stickers lead visitors upstairs from the street-side entrance to God Hates Robots. A large chalkboard, along with several T-shirts and pint glasses that chorus, “BUY ART,” greet incomers. On one end of the room are wide windows; at the other are prints and zines, the gallery desk and a turntable. In between are the works on the walls and, within a nook, a Karate Champ arcade machine.
Upon entering, the space immediately feels less esoteric and more approachable than other galleries or museums might, but Taylor and Childs aren’t looking to respond to the current Salt Lake gallery landscape. Rather, they’re seeking to become a contributing player by exposing emerging artists, facilitating bodies of work, boosting artist profitability and encouraging first-time art purchases. Taylor and Childs’ two other enterprises lend God Hates Robots a different fiscal dynamic compared to traditional gallery business models. “A show doesn’t have to be so much financially sound as it is compelling to our mission,” says Childs. “We leveraged what we already had to build this space, maintain a lower price point and cater to starting artists.”
The gallery name, God Hates Robots, is catchy, but it’s meant to be ambiguous and a bit tongue-in-cheek. Their forthright slogan, however, is the opposite: “Buy art.” As Taylor says, “That’s what we want to have happen. It’s our goal to get people to buy art. It’s a call to action.” It’s a praiseworthy ambition, and the gallery does well in presenting a welcoming space and a digestible setup, all means by which to push the local arts scene to become more affordable, inclusive and self-facilitating. “There’s a point where you want to start supporting your peers, to foster that community and to foster the next generation of that community,” says Taylor.
Looking forward, Taylor and Childs are furthering their gallery’s emphasis on community-centric accessibility with monthly exhibition openings that line up with Salt Lake Gallery Stroll. “We aren’t qualified to choose works for an exhibition,” says Childs, as their good friend, local artist Trent Call, curated The Inaugural Show. “So, we’re working on defining a public-submissions and panel-review process that will provide a fair channel to offering exposure and tools to less-established artists.”
God Hates Robots’ efforts to uplift emerging artists go hand-in-hand with its goal of catalyzing first-time art purchases. Both Taylor and Childs maintain that a background or education in art isn’t necessary when buying art— it’s all about what resonates with the viewer. “I saw this screenprint on wood, and I loved it,” says Taylor of one of his most memorable purchases. “I wanted to look at it over and over again—in different light, in different moods. I love the beautiful things that people create: how it comes together, what’s being expressed, the confidence of the strokes, these variant avenues for expression. It’s magical.”
Taylor and Childs’ personal commitments to local art and culture help to cultivate a sense of kinship and creativity at God Hates Robots. “This connection to the community—and being able to facilitate a part of that community, not just as a passive participant—is fulfilling,” says Childs. That exposure and connection extend well to the artists and gallery visitors, too: to appreciate and encourage local art, to enjoy the physicality of the space, to be a part of Salt Lake City. “God Hates Robots brings us such a tangible level of excitement,” says Taylor. “We want this space, the shows, to feel good to the people who come here, too. Buy art!”
To learn more about the gallery, exhibitions and art purchases, sign up for the God Hates Robots’ mailing list at godhatesrobots.com.