Artist of the Week: Downtown Artist Collective Building Bridges in the Community

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Artist of the Week: Downtown Artist Collective Building Bridges in the Community

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Artists of all media now have a new haven to display, collaborate and share in a cooperative artistic environment in Salt Lake City. U alumna Sarah May is a part of the program making it happen.

May is a board member of the Downtown Artist Collective. The group aims not only to showcase exceptional local artists, but the founders hope the space will also “create an environment for artists to share skills with each other and the community” through the multi-purpose studio and learning space.

From yoga to book-binding and sculpture to print-making, May hopes the space will become a place for artists to teach their skills and for the Salt Lake community to be exposed to fine art.

“Of course there are going to be limits on what we can do with our space,” she said, “but we’re definitely open to anything, really. If anyone has a proposal [for a workshop] we can see if we can make it work — we want to make relationships with the community and get artists involved.”

The gallery is entirely artist-run. Membership applications are accepted each year. Artists receive one featured show a month, 15 percent commission and discounts on other artists’ workshops.

“The gallery is solely member-operated,” said Desarae Lee, one of the founders and another member of the board. “When you come in to visit the gallery, you’re talking to one of the artists. All artists are involved in some way of running the gallery. It’s very personal. The only thing [membership] costs is your volunteer hours to help the gallery and other members.”

Lee, however, doesn’t want the space to be exclusive to members.

“We want a place for appreciation of art — you don’t have to be a member to use it as workshop space,” Lee said. “You can just come in, sit and work if nothing else is really going on. We totally welcome artists to come in and work.”

img_3856May hopes the gallery’s community-focused nature may help with recent concerns that art has been disappearing from education programs.

“A lot of arts programs have been cut in schools,” she said. “I thought maybe along the line, that’s something that we can offer to places in the community that have let the [arts] go. That’s what I’m passionate about and think we can make a huge difference with.”

The numbers are disputed, but according to The Salt Lake Tribune, in 2013 Utah’s funding for “arts and arts education programs was $6. One million of Utah’s $13.4 billion annual budget, or less than one-half of one percent. Programs to support the state’s museums decreased 64 percent from 2008 to 2013, and Heritage and Arts grants dropped 72 percent during that same time period.”

“The arts play into everything — it’s not just something you do for fun,” May said. “It helps relieve stress, it helps to relax and process through new ideas. You can even tie it in with math, science and literature — the sky is the limit.”

If you are fortunate enough to find art education and receive an art degree, according to May, it’s still hard to even find a place to start with your work.

“One thing about [the Collective] is accessibility, especially for people just at the beginning of their careers. When you get out of art school with that degree and think, ‘Okay, what do I do now?’ We want to be that platform for those who are ready for that next step. We want to be a place where people can grow and learn.”

The Downtown Artist Collective gallery and workshop is located on 100 S. 258 E. You can find out more about the program at

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