Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty Could be Utah’s Official State Art


The Spiral Jetty. Courtesy of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts.

Utah landscapes provide a great medium for artwork, natural or man-made. There are many places where natural art can be seen, such as Arches, Angels Landing and the Tree of Utah. Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty combines man-made art with nature and has become a local favorite.

Spiral Jetty, classified as a man-made earthwork, is located on the northeastern shore of the Great Salt Lake at Rozel Point peninsula. Made from mud, rocks and salt crystals, the art piece covers around 1,500 feet of the lakeshore.

Robert Smithson constructed Spiral Jetty in the spring of 1970. Today, nearly 50 years later, his beloved sculpture could achieve ultimate recognition. This year, Spiral Jetty may be designated as the official state artwork for Utah.

Kelly Kivland is the associate curator at Dia Art Foundation in New York, the organization that currently owns Spiral Jetty and leases the land it’s built upon. Robert Smithson’s wife, Nancy Holt, donated the artwork to the Dia Foundation in 1999. According to Kivland, a group of high school students approached Rep. Rebecca Edwards (R-North Salt Lake) with the suggestion of recognizing Spiral Jetty as Utah’s official state artwork.

Edwards, who was unavailable for interview, enthusiastically accepted the idea and pushed it heavily, submitting a bill to the state Senate.

Since the announcement, many Utah organizations have been working to familiarize the public with Spiral Jetty and to encourage recognition of the work, as well as general education in the arts.

The Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA) and the Great Salt Lake Institute at Westminster College have paired with the Dia Foundation, and all have been highly involved in the promotion of Spiral Jetty.

Mindy Wilson, the director of marketing and public relations at the museum, is excited about the announcement and encourages Utah residents to visit and learn about the sculpture. UMFA has provided many opportunities for students and families to learn about local art through their family programs. Spiral Jetty is currently the theme of the program.

Though the UMFA is closed for its season this year, they have paired their program with the downtown Salt Lake City library. Families can now go to the library and rent a backpack full of educational information about Smithson and his work that the family can bring along on a trip to the earthwork, making the experience interactive as well as educational. The Salt Lake City library downtown currently has three backpacks for rent that can be acquired at the library’s children’s desk.

Take the time to visit Spiral Jetty and decide for yourself whether it deserves to be recognized as Utah’s official state artwork.

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