The Utah Art Scene
Updated: Feb 24, 2019
Utah. It’s not just for skiing; there’s a vibrant Utah arts scene too. I have a friend from Chicago that visits Utah every year to go Skiing in Park City. He loves skiing and outdoor activity but, other than local restaurants, does little more than ski. Utah is world famous for outdoor activity. Hiking, mountain biking, camping, skiing. Most of the Utah’s license plates extol the abundant outdoor life available to residents and visitors.
But there is so much more to do. Utah is also home to a vibrant arts community. Visual arts, music, and dance make for a rich tapestry of indulgent experience. Utah boasts hundreds of local artists, over 200 museums with nearly 100 art galleries.
Salt Lake City and the surrounding metropolitan area home to many of the museums and galleries. Nestled within along the Wasatch mountain range there is plenty of inspiration for artists.
Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (UMOCA)
Located in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City you will find art exhibits from local, national, and international artists.Established in 1931, UMOCA provides artistic experimentation, community enrichment and connection to the world through our diverse, shared experiences. UMOCA offers Family Art Saturdays free of charge to help children and their families discover art and participate in hands-on art projects.
Utah Artist Hands
Also located in downtown Salt Lake City is a venue devoted exclusively to local artists. If you enjoyed the artwork in the Salt Lake Airport you got a taste for the kinds of art you will find here. Along with painting and photography you will find jewelry, textile, wood, glass, metal and ceramics. Throughout the years many pieces of art have been shipped to Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
A little further south you will find this award winning, 10,000 square foot gallery and courtyard gardens that house a distinctive collection of contemporary paintings, sculpture, photography, glass and ceramics by established and select emerging artists.
Springville Museum of Art (SMOFA)
50 miles south of downtown Salt Lake in the small town of Springville you will find a hidden gem of serious art. SMOFA began in 1903 and has grown to 45,000 feet of exhibitions in 29 galleries with an outdoor sculpture garden. The 2,500 piece permanent collection includes Soviet Realist art as well as Utah and American art. Plan a visit for one their 15 annual exhibitions.
The oldest commercial gallery in the intermountain west represents primarily Utah-based artists working in painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, ceramics, printmaking, jewelry, and mixed media. They host rotating exhibits monthly across three floors of gallery space as well as a sculpture garden. There’s always something new to see at this gallery.
Utah also has a wonderful and varied music scene.
Utah Symphony and Opera
Founded in 1940, the Utah Symphony is one of America’s major symphony orchestras, known internationally for its distinctive performances and recording legacy. The orchestra performs 175 concerts yearly, mostly at Abravanel Hall including concerts held at ski venues and at local and national parks across the state. Utah Opera was founded in 1978, and since its debut, the Utah Symphony has performed for its productions at Salt Lake’s Capitol Theatre.
The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square
Of course no story of the arts in Utah would be complete with reference to The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, formerly the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and colloquially referred to as Tab Choir or MoTab. Founded in 1847 the Grammy Award winning choir has been broadcasting weekly since 1929, one of the longest-running continuous radio network broadcasts in the world. Visitors may attend a free, live broadcast of Music and the Spoken Word featuring any Sunday morning.
Park City Music Festival
If you are in the mood for something a little more intimate, the Park City Music Festival might suit you. With various venues through Park City ranging from churches and private homes they offer reasonable prices, which sometimes includes a buffet.
Provo Rooftop Concert Series
If your tastes run more to the au courant you might take in a Rooftop Concert in Downtown Provo. For a small western state, Utah has an outsized influence in popular music that has seen the birth of numerous successful bands including Imagine Dragons, Lindsey Stirling, Neon Trees, Mindy Gledhill, and David Archuleta. The first Friday of each month at 7:30 on Center Street you can enjoy listening to a local Utah band that is getting attention and making good, original music.
Concurrent with the Rooftop Concert local galleries stay open late for the Downtown Provo Art Stroll. You can see anything from quirky to fantastic in a wide array of media. There is plenty to see, hear and eat on these Fridays.
Repertory Dance Theatre (RDT)
If you like modern dance you should attend a performance of the RDT. Founded in 1966, RDT is the oldest and most successful repertory dance company in the nation. They present a diverse range of modern dance styles and choreographies paired together in dynamic and unexpected performances. Attend one of their performances at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center and you can expect to see grace and athleticism, beauty and power.
Founded in 1963 by Willam Christensen, Ballet West is ranked among the top professional ballet companies in America. For 50 years, Willam Christensen and Ballet West have developed and influenced innumerable great artists in the ballet world. With this eclectic and ever expanding outlook, Ballet West is truly an American pioneer in the world of dance.
Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company
Since 1964 Ririe-Woodbury (named after its founders, two dance teachers from the University of Utah) has been training artists as performers, educators, choreographers and developing dance audiences. They have performed in every state in the United states as well as throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia. The company produces three unique productions annually, presenting new works created by the Company artistic director, along with new commissions from both emerging and established choreographers from all over the world.
Salt Lake Acting Company (SLAC)
For 48 years SLAC has produced an expansive body of work for its most adventurous audience. Since 1970, SLAC has produced and presented Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwrights, and has commissioned, developed and produced an impressive body of world premiere plays, many of which have gone on to further productions throughout the world. If you enjoy avant-garde theater plan to attend a performance.
Utah Pioneer Theater Company
For something a little more traditional check out the Pioneer Theater Company. With a reputation for Broadway-quality plays this company produces a mixture of classics, large-scale musicals and contemporary dramas and comedies. They were the first regional theater in the country to earn the rights to produce Les Misérables, which ran for a record 82 sold-out performances.
Utah Shakespeare Festival
A true hidden gem of truly classical theater lies close to National Parks in southern Utah. Three and a half hours south of Salt Lake is the small town of Cedar City, home to Southern Utah University. Here, in 1961, began an unlikely venture to entertain tourists that has grown to an Emmy and Tony Award winning Outstanding Regional Theater. With 120,000 visitors annually and 40% of them from outside Utah, this is truly and experience to put on your bucket list.
Tuacahn Center for the Arts
A more recent addition to the Southern Utah theater scene is the Tuacahn Amphitheatre. Seating 2,000 in a spectacular, red-rock canyon you can experience Broadway in a truly unique way. If you’re visiting Zion’s Park or passing through to Las Vegas, this is a great way to round out an evening in Utah’s Dixie.
Hale Centre Theatre
Another excellent choice for family-friendly theater is the Hale Centre Theatre, just 20 minutes south of downtown Salt Lake. Begun as a family enterprise supported by the founders of the Glendale Centre Theatre in California, the Hale’s have delivered broadway-quality, family-friendly entertainment for 36 years in Utah. Their influence has expanded to three additional family theaters in Orem, Utah; Grover, Utah; and Gilbert, Arizona all run by members of the extended Hale family.
Sundance Film Festival
No mention of Utah arts scene would be complete without reference to the largest independent film festival in the United States. What started as an effort to showcase American-made films, highlight the potential of independent film, and to increase visibility for filmmaking in Utah has grown to be a media extravaganza for Hollywood celebrity actors and paparazzi. The festival is an excellent venue to view films that are able to transcend the confines of an independent budget.