Photo courtesy of Cat Palmer.

Under the Smog lit Stars


The Salt Lake Valley area sits in a dome of smog that residents can visibly see as they drive in and out of it. It’s been covered nationally by (Popular Science and Forbes), and referenced as Smog Lake City on social media. Locals are warned casually on morning news programs each winter, to keep pets indoors and to drive with their windows up. The smog isn’t going away and the need to keep this in the public eye is important. This Saturday at the Urban Arts Gallery the SLC Air Protectors are having a fundraiser to raise awareness on this issue and have a little fun.

Veteran activist and award-winning artist Cat Palmer advocates for this issue. Palmer has spent  the last 16 years in art activism, and her gas-mask photography has become equal parts iconic and foreboding. When speaking with her, I sense an enthusiasm that’s not always present in her art. Palmer’s candor while we speak shifts between a sense of urgency and the sharp laugh that I imagine came from the first time she was told she couldn’t do something. She says, “It’s so simple to get involved now … [with] email [and] social media. It takes a handful of minutes—reach out to your representatives.” Palmer says and explains the lobbying she has been involved with and the recent success of the hundred-million-dollar allocation from the state government toward clean air. “This is start,” says Palmer. It’s an encouraging start, as she went on to mention that the support is “more than it has ever been.”

Palmer, who has lost two friends to smog-related asthma, also knows that much of the damage has been done. Congestive heart failure and asthma-related smog deaths in the Salt Lake Valley are now traceable by a simple Google search. The hay fever–like symptoms (runny nose, slight headache, sneezing) and consistent allergy concerns are experienced to some degree by everyone. In this we also see its weakness. If everyone has experienced this, then everyone has something to say. The Salt Lake Community has an effective voice because it’s the affected voice. Any step in the direction of clean air gets you involved. If you need help finding out who your local representative is, try

Palmer explains that this year, Utah has a lot of new representatives on the hill which means creating awareness is critical. Do you know who your local rep is? So far, this year we have seen events like the Clean Air Solutions Fair at the Gateway and a legislation overview at the Downtown library creating conversations. This Saturday, that dialogue will continue 6 p.m.–9 pm. at the Urban Arts Center. The SLC Air Protectors fundraiser will feature Native music being that The SLC Air Protectors’ organization itself is Native led. An auction featuring unique local art and Palmer herself is bringing her elaborate collection of gas masks to take pictures with. “I want people to see how easily you can get involved,” says Palmer, “and to have fun … This will be fun.”