Salt Lake’s Flourishing Culture


Salt Lake City. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

By Weston Wood, Arts Writer


Salt Lake City is a bustling town nestled at the feet of the Wasatch Mountains, one that is influenced by migrant cultures. It’s not the small town it used to be. Boasting around 200,000 people, this city is internationally connected by its people & culture. The city has been globally recognized for its 2002 Winter Olympics, Sundance Film Festival, music scene, growing community and unparalleled landscape. Still, SLC is a hidden gem to most of the world, a flourishing center inside one of the fastest-growing states in the nation.


Salt Lake’s Culture in the National Spotlight

The residents here seem unconcerned to the outdated misconceptions of Utah. The people of Salt Lake City aren’t bothered when they’re called “Mormons” — even though over half the capital city’s population doesn’t identify with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The people of SLC aren’t phased when they’re considered a boring city — in fact, many residents want to keep it local, small and reliable.  

Even in its early foundings, when it was a small, religious town, there was a growing love for adventure, music and art. Over time, Salt Lake has slowly grown a connection with more progressive ideals. This connection would plant the seeds for the liberal, art-loving city we see today. The artistic, adventurous nature of Utah was first recognized nationally when The Beach Boys put out their song titled “Salt Lake City” in 1965. The band sang of a young, hip culture that most people didn’t associate with the LDS-influenced state. This was the first time a different perspective on the city’s culture was in the national spotlight, and it would not be the last. Around the same time, Utah was showcased by residents who had heavy involvement in nationwide movements — starting with the hippie counterculture. 

The same counterculture would become the mainstream culture of SLC today. This new movement inspired the city to participate in the 1980s punk revolution, make SLUG Magazine and helped get the city’s slot for the 2002 Winter Olympics. This showcased SLC and its unwavering passion for art and politics. Salt Lake has a large, open LGBTQ+ population. Even with a highly religious presence, SLC participated in some of the earliest LGBTQ+ events in the United States. According to the Utah Pride Center, the first-ever Utah pride parade was “in 1974 as an informal gathering in the park.” 

Being both a tolerant, expressive and communal city, it became a sanctuary for all types of people and their ideas. SLC became a diverse place quickly, coming out with new ideas and cultural facets that have made it the place it is today.


A Beauty in Diversity

Salt Lake City has been slowly transforming from being the Mecca for the Latter-Day Saints to the diverse, urban community we see today. Neighborhoods are now filled with people from all walks of life. The dense trees filled neighborhoods are home to local food and coffee shops. Downtown is inhabited by malls, hotels, towering skyscrapers and is split by wide streets. If you spend more than a day here, you will come to find that the city doesn’t feel like a religious epicenter at all. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Salt Lake County is only 50% LDS. The culture of this city comes from this growing diversity at its heart. For a place to go from being a religious rest-stop town to a globalized diverse city is a surprising leap. 

Growing diversity changed Salt Lake City, the population blending various cultures together over the years. This mixture of many unique cultures comes from a high migrant population. Immigrants from all around the world have chosen Salt Lake City as their home for a century and a half. These are the people who have made modern SLC. The current culture is created by the local community and the diversity of its people. Interestingly enough, the people have come together to form a city that has some of the most artists per capita, many local breweries, use of the outdoors for recreation, start local farmers’ markets, start migrant-ran businesses and pack local bars and restaurants. The atmosphere of this city is born in its love for adventure, art, food and nature.


A Growing Salt Lake City

The Downtown Alliance is a nonprofit organization in Salt Lake City that supports many of the businesses, organizations and events that occur downtown. The DA marketing director, Ryan Mack, and program director (for cultural core and the blocks) Lucas Goodrich both live in Salt Lake City, working to promote the community here. Talking to the people who work firsthand with the culture of SLC shows how easily it rubs off. The enthusiasm to talk about the city was authentic. 

“Utah ranks easily in at least the top 10 for patronage for the arts,” Goodrich said. “From the last stat I heard, we’re just right at number one for attending live performances, here, in the state of Utah.”

Salt Lake is an artistic place. The city values the consumption of art, thus it produces some of the most artists per capita. A lot of the community is built here in the creative appreciation the city seems to possess. Mack pointed out that Salt Lake City was growing in more than just an artistic way. Aside from population increasing, there’s huge economic success in Utah currently. 

“Population, development — especially downtown — we’re gonna see it. I’m looking out my window right now at two cranes and I know that within the next year there’s gonna be six more that are raising up some serious development in real estate — that’s living, that’s office space. People are going to keep moving here,” Mack said.

Undeniably, Salt Lake is an attractive place to live right now. Whether you come for the arts, nature, education or economics, there’s room for everyone in this modern city. Often overlooked, Salt Lake is well on its way to becoming a contender in the best cities in America. 

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