Your Guide to The SLC Arts Scene


Cyan Larson

(Graphic by Cyan Larson | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Whit Fuller and Frank Gardner


While the University of Utah has a myriad of opportunities for students interested in the arts, Salt Lake City itself presents a vibrant local arts scene for incoming students looking to call this place home. As the urban hub for the state, Salt Lake is a focal point for everything from ballet to new-age immersive art exhibits and boasts an exciting array of museums, theaters, concert venues and festivals. As the city has grown into a small but bustling metropolitan area, the chance to play host to and cultivate world-class artists has arrived.

Whatever your interests are, there is a place here to join the community and explore. Being a University of Utah student has its perks as well, making it cheap and convenient to participate in local arts and traveling exhibitions. Below, we have laid out some of the shining artistic institutions in the area and the must-sees that make our city complete.

Fine Arts

The number of galleries, museums, public art exhibitions and installations has grown exponentially in Salt Lake over recent years. The city was once a hard place for contemporary artists and musicians to put down roots, but that is quickly changing.

The Utah Arts Alliance, founded in 2003, is changing the landscape of the city by working to provide opportunities for local artists
to display their work and connect with other artists in the community. One of their most successful and exciting projects is “Dreamscapes,” a permanent but ever-changing art exhibit. Featuring over 100 local artists, it is a surreal, colorful labyrinth where attendees weave their way through larger-than-life found art installations. Since its conception in 2019, it has attracted tens of thousands of visitors and has become a place for contemporary artists to build a name for themselves.

The Utah Museum of Contemporary Art is another such place for artists that bolsters the creative community and provides a platform for artistic exploration and expression. One of the longest standing artistic institutions in Salt Lake City, UMOCA was established in 1931. In the many years since its opening, it has hosted numerous exhibitions and educational opportunities and has allowed a diverse range of people to have easier access to the arts. Over the years, they have explored a vast array of artistic mediums, including innovative digital methods like virtual reality. They also host artists-in-residence in order to help Utah artists build their careers by providing them with studio space and the chance to exhibit their art at the end of their residency.

The Utah Museum of Fine Arts, located at the south end of the U’s Campus, takes a more traditional approach to the arts. It is the fine arts museum for both the state and the university and is an incredible resource for students. The museum got its start as a gallery in 1914 and has blossomed since then into one of the finest art museums in the region. Featuring thousands of works of art from around the world and throughout the ages, it is an important artistic institution for art history, curation and preservation.

Salt Lake is also home to a diverse range of art galleries. Some of the most notable galleries include the Urban Arts Gallery, the Phillips Gallery and the A Gallery/Allen + Alan Fine Art. The Urban Arts Gallery operates in partnership with the Utah Arts Alliance and displays local, contemporary artworks and crafts year-round. The Phillips Gallery and A Gallery/Allen + Alan galleries focus on more established names, displaying mostly paintings and sculptures from well-renowned local and international artists.

The Performing Arts

There are several performing arts experiences available to students off campus, and most are conveniently located in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City.

The Capitol Theatre hosts local companies Ballet West and Utah Opera, as well as the JazzSLC series. This theatre is often regarded as the place where many Utahns have their first experience with performing arts — whether performer or spectator. Holiday performances of “The Nutcracker” are a tradition for many families, and Ballet West is acclaimed for its rendition of the classic performance. It is definitely a staple in the Salt Lake performing arts scene.

Originally constructed as a venue for The Utah Symphony, Abravenel Hall sits in the center of downtown Salt Lake City and has caught the eye with its gilded architecture and unique design since its construction in 1979. Known for its excellent acoustics and decadent interior, the venue itself is a concrete building housed inside of a brick exterior, allowing the acoustics to maintain their integrity and provide the best possible experience. It is a great venue for musical experiences and performances of all kinds.

The Salt Lake Film Society has operated both the historic Tower and Broadway Centre Cinemas since 2001. The theaters offer an opportunity for patrons to experience some of the most unique and enriching films in Indie cinema. SLFS often provides free events and programs for patrons and members of the community to enjoy throughout the year. It is a cornerstone of independent film in Salt Lake and provides a wonderful range of cinematic experiences that are sure to cater to a variety of students.

While Hale Centre Theater has been in operation for over 35 years, it reopened in 2017 as The Hale Centre Theatre at the Mountain America Performing Arts Stage. The Young Living Centre Stage is the most technological theatre space in the world — with a turntable stage and various mechanical elements that provide an immersive experience to patrons. The smaller Sorensen Legacy Jewel Box Stage is a proscenium-style stage that is also equipped with special effects and provides a more traditional theatrical experience. The theater offers several performances per season, with past seasons including performances of “To Kill A Mockingbird,” “The Music Man” and “Mary Poppins.” Tickets for individual shows and for entire seasons are made available every season.

The Concert Scene

A large duplex of performance spaces, The Complex is home to five separate venues: outdoor venue The Lot and indoor venues The Grand, Rockwell, Vertigo and Papa Wolf ’s Lounge. The Grand, Rockwell and Vertigo offer bars. The Grand is the second largest venue at The Complex and has a lobby where food, concessions and drinks are served. The Rockwell is the largest venue in The Complex, and typically hosts general admission, all-ages events with standing room and bar areas. Vertigo primarily hosts club nights and VIP events. Papa Wolf ’s is a bar and lounge, where concerts are streamed from Rockwell and The Grand.

Located in the Union Pacific Building at the gateway mall, the approximately-1200-person capacity of The Depot ensures memorable and up-close concert experiences for all in attendance, and its location in the heart of downtown SLC makes it especially accessible to college students who want to experience some of the music scene that Salt Lake City has to offer.

The Saltair is a large venue that offers all ages standing room and a mezzanine area featuring Saltair Sky, a full-service bar. In addition to the main venue, the Saltair offers an amphitheater located on the side of the building, where concertgoers can enjoy music while admiring the Great Salt Lake. A unique location and a large venue space make for a great concert experience. When combined with the large stage and open standing room, this is a venue that’s great for groups and perfect for those who want to engage directly at shows as well as those who prefer to hang back and enjoy the music.

As Salt Lake City’s longest-running all-ages venue, Kilby Court has earned a place in the local downtown music scene. An intimate DIY garage-style venue, Kilby Court encourages artist and crowd interactions — and creates a nostalgic backyard concert vibe. Their website lists the venue as a location where many concertgoers remember seeing artists debut or earlier shows before they went on to tour majorly. Previous concerts include Hayley Kiyoko, Beach Bunny, Death Cab for Cutie and many others.

The Red Butte Garden isn’t just a wonderful nature space for photography and events — it’s also home to the Summer Concert Series. The concerts are hosted in the outdoor amphitheater and provide the perfect atmosphere for a summer night of fun with a few friends. Previous years have hosted a showing of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” performances from The Utah Symphony and sets from artists like The Lumineers.

Time to Branch Out and Explore

The years spent in college are the perfect time to broaden your horizons and explore new interests and passions. With all the arts and entertainment opportunities that are available in the city, there’s no shortage of choices as to what your college town can offer you. As the pandemic winds down in the United States after more than a year of halted projects and delayed plans, this year will undoubtedly be one of celebration and public creation in Salt Lake City artistic spaces.


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