ArtLandish: Erasing Landscapes of the Past


Art is not always seen as the valuable resource it is. In schools, art programs are often the first to go. In society, art funding is often tenuously assured. And in sites of significant cultural heritage, filled with art produced by cultures often long gone, vandalism and destruction is common.

But this has to stop, argue the panelists of the ArtLandish series’ upcoming event, “Erasing Landscapes: Looting and Destruction from Syria to Utah.” ArtLandish is a monthly series of events put on by the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, which, while currently closed to visitors, is still intent on having artists’ voices and work be heard and seen.

Three experts — Nate Thomas, Bradley Parker and Luke Kelly — will be contributing their thoughts on the looting and destruction so common at locations of cultural heritage.

Nate Thomas, Utah’s State Archaeologist with the federal Bureau of Land Management, is currently working on a program to save Utah’s cultural heritage sites; Bradley Parker is a history professor at the U with personal experience working at cultural heritage sites in Turkey and Peru; and Luke Kelly is UMFA’s curator of antiquities and has devoted his time to researching Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Islamic antiquities.

Kelly, who will be moderating “Erasing Landscapes,” discussed the event’s emphasis on sites from Syria all the way to Utah, explaining that nowhere is safe from destruction. “Many people have heard about ISIS destroying sites in Syria, such as the Temple of Baal Shamin at Palmyra,” he said, “but sites throughout the world are under threat from vandalism and looting. It’s even happening in our own backyard: in southern Utah, vandals have defaced petroglyphs with knives and charcoal.”

Whether you have experienced such sites yourself or have only heard about them, this event is one its panelists would firmly argue you should be interested in.

Touching on a bit of what will be presented at the discussion, Mindy Wilson, UMFA’s director of public relations and marketing,said, “…These sites are irreplaceable repositories of our shared human history — they tell the stories of human life on this planet from our earliest days here.”

Kelly agreed. “These sites can tell us so much about the previous cultures that inhabited the areas. We all should act as guardians of the sites so that we can pass them on to future generations.”

Admission is free at the event, which will take place Thursday, Aug. 25 at 7 p.m. in the Main Auditorium of Salt Lake City’s Main Public Library.

ArtLandish will continue next month with a visit from a Texas Tech University professor currently leading a class across the West in a semester-long land art exploration, and in October with a meet up at the Spiral Jetty and presentations by contemporary artists Guillermo Galindo and Trevor Paglen.