Utah artist Jimmi Toro inspects his mural before resuming work outside of the industrial business office in Salt Lake City on Monday. His mural will be one of 10 in the county to show the Salt Lake County experience. (Carter Williams, KSL.com)
Estimated reading time: 5-6 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY – When Jimmi Toro was painting a deep blue paint on the back wall of a building in downtown Salt Lake City, a sparrow landed and pranced on a wire crossing through the mural the Utah artist put together.
Moments later, a freight train thundered on about 30 meters behind Toro.
In many ways, the scene has symbolized how the Salt Lake County’s tourism sector is trying to market the area. They see it as a connection between urban life and nature. That’s why Visit Salt Lake – the private, nonprofit that promotes Salt Lake County’s tourism – has enlisted the help of artists like Toro to paint murals across the county that tell the realities of Salt Lake County.
When completed, Toro’s mural will be one of 10 large paintings scattered around the region with a similar theme and palette. The project is the latest in promotion since Visit Salt Lake unveiled its “West of Conventional” rebranding in June, said Kaitlin Eskelson, president and CEO of the nonprofit.
The West of Conventional Mural Tour, which kicked off Monday, will feature 10 different local artists with murals in six towns in the county and four neighborhoods of Salt Lake City once completed. All 10 will merge the Visit Salt Lake Salt Crystal logo in some form, intended to symbolize the “many facets” of the people of Salt Lake County.
“This is the largest statewide mural initiative of all time,” said Derek Dyer, executive director of the Utah Arts Alliance. “We have murals from Brighton to Magna and everywhere in between.”
Eskelson stated that the idea was inspired by surveys conducted during the nonprofit’s rebranding research phase. A company they hired found that there was a discrepancy between how people perceived Salt Lake County and “reality”.
In essence, people didn’t consider Salt Lake County to be very inventive or inspired compared to other US communities.
“We are creative, we are inventive,” she said of the district. “There is a lot of liveliness here in our churches. This is just one way to activate it – to tell the story of the cultural asset, so to speak. “
That is why the organization enlisted the help of the Utah Arts Alliance. Dyer was immediately on board with the idea, and the Utah Arts Alliance reached out to a variety of local artists to create murals that convey the county’s history.
He is thrilled with how the project has turned out.
“We’re not trying to pretend we’re not something, we’re trying to show who we are,” he said. “The local artists are like the heart and soul of our community I really believe. And that’s why it’s very important if we want to show people who we are … we want our artists to be on the front lines. “
Places in the west of the conventional mural tour:
- Brighton Resort: 8302 S. Brighton Loop Road in Brighton (Artist: Matt Monsoon)
- ** Caputo’s Market & Deli: *** 1516 S. 1500 East in Salt Lake City (Artist: Gerry Swanson)
- Copper Mine Saloon: 9071 W. Main Street in Magna (Artist: Miriam Gutierrez)
- Hip & Modest: 1043 E. 900 South in Salt Lake City (Artist: Chris Peterson)
- INDUSTRY: 653 p. 600 West in Salt Lake City (Artist: Jimmi Toro)
- Mountain America Expo Center: 9575 S. State in Sandy (Artist: Traci O’very Covey)
- ** Murray Theater: *** 4961 S. State in Murray (Artist: Josh Scheuerman)
- ** Salt Palace Convention Center: *** 100 S. West Temple in Salt Lake City (Artist: Shae Peterson)
- SLC Center for Science Education: 1350 Goodwin Ave. in Salt Lake City (Artist: Jorge Arellano)
- Valley Fair Mall: 3601 p. 2700 West in West Valley City (Artist: Bill Louis)
* Mural expected in the near future
Although each mural is different in some way, they all share the same message.
“What I love is that it really matters that we are all Salt Lake,” added Dyer. “We may have different cities and towns around the valley, but we are all Salt Lake. This project really helps reinforce that message. … We are diverse and have many different ideas, but we are all somehow connected. “
Many embody the nature and human connection that exists within the county. Jorge Arellano’s mural in the Rose Park neighborhood of Salt Lake City celebrates Polynesian and Latin American cultures and traditions through the colors and patterns chosen by local students. It shows a woman holding a butterfly in each of her outstretched hands.
Miriam Gutierrez’s design in Magna shows the man-made building of Salt Lake City and the natural mountain skyline along with a cutthroat trout and bison.
“My creative approach to this mural is deeply inspired by the nature that surrounds us and simply taking the time to explore the area and understand why we call this place home,” she said in a statement.
Matt Monsoon’s “Raven Steals the Sun” at the Brighton Resort was born from a scene that took place in the mountains of Salt Lake County. He explained that the mural was inspired by ravens hovering over Mount Millicent at dusk.
Toros will be the seventh mural that will be finished when it is finished. He hopes this will happen this week if the weather permits. As he prepared to continue his work, he said he was “honored” to be approached by the Utah Arts Alliance about the project. Although he doesn’t do a lot of murals, he said this project was a “simple yes” for him because he knew it would help represent where he lives and works.
His concept will have an abstract floral design to represent both the urban nature of the district and the theme of “traditional views mix with progressive ideals”. It’s a design that quickly came to mind
“From an artistic point of view, Utah is more progressive with art. (Dyer) and Visit Salt Lake are also moving in that direction, and my style is already moving more in that direction, ”he said, noting that his design is inspired by nature but won’t have the traditional trees or animals that are that people would expect from natural works of art.
The Mural Tour comes as trip to Salt Lake County is slowly returning after the Utah tourism industry was hit hard by COVID-19. Utah’s most populous county accounts for nearly half of the state’s tourism industry revenue.
Eskelson said Salt Lake County’s tourism is still lagging behind pre-pandemic 2019 levels, but is approaching those sales levels as conventions return this year. She explained that the county still relies on leisure travelers as business travel is still well below 2019 prices.
Meanwhile, the mural tour plays for those who travel to Salt Lake County for fun. Visitors and residents can activate an account on the Visit Salt Lake website and then digitally check in to the various murals for free. Once proven that they have visited at least six times, they will qualify for a Salt Lake County Tourist-themed T-shirt, which they can pick up from the Visit Salt Lake office in the Salt Palace Convention Center.
Eskelson said, “It’s just a great way to redefine yourself with Salt Lake County.”