UMFA Opens New Mural Exhibition ‘2020: From Here on Out’
November 8, 2021
Community and Collective in Viewing UMFA’s ‘2020: From Here on Out’
In a radical re-envisioning of their Great Hall, the Utah Museum of Fine Arts explores topics of racial injustice, the global COVID-19 pandemic and community healing in the post-2020 world in their newest mural exhibition “2020: From Here On Out.”
Spawned out of the increase of mural projects appearing around Salt Lake City, the UMFA brought local artists and artist collectives into their galleries to explore the topics of racial injustice and the COVID-19 pandemic in four unique mural installations.
In collaboration with Roots Arts Kollective, the UMFA asked the local community and artists to “consider the year 2020, how we experienced it, and how it will affect our future?” Together RAK and the UMFA put out a call for local artists to respond to these questions and with the help of a selection committee of community partners, three additional artists and artist groups were selected.
From Minimal to Maximal
If you had the chance to visit the UMFA before the summer of 2021, then you might be shocked to see the complete transformation this space has undergone. Gone are the minimal Pantone squares of Spencer Finch’s “Great Salt Lake and Vicinity.” In their place sit four massive, brightly colored murals.
Bursting with color, each mural depicts scenes of family, unity and community healing. These power themes and messages come at such a poignant time, when many of us have experienced loss and a feeling of isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When entering the space one can tangibly feel this positive energy and the sense of community these murals create.
Centering Community Voices
At the core of this installation is the centering of local communities. Each mural reflects not only each artist’s distinctive style but also the diverse communities they represent and are a part of. This drive for community engagement goes even further than just the artist, though. Throughout this whole process, the UMFA had an open hotline, “Voices of 2020,” for the public to call and leave their thoughts about how 2020 impacted them and their outlook on the future. Some of these responses are uploaded on the UMFA’s website and I highly encourage you to listen to them as you explore this exhibition.
Another way the UMFA engages the local community is through the way these murals were installed. Throughout the whole of the installation, the museum was open to the public and you could watch as the gallery transformed in front of you. It was truly magical to see these artists in action. Artist group Ella Rises even brought some of the children they work with into the museum to help with some of the painting. The process of the installation not only emphasized the role the community played in this project’s development but also solidifies their part in the murals themselves.
“2020: From Here on Out” does not have a set end date, letting us enjoy their beauty for the years to come. Plan your visit to the UMFA on their website.
The Voices Behind the Murals in ‘2020: From Here on Out’
The exhibition features four murals painted by Utah-native artists centered around the theme of how the events of 2020 affected and continue to affect everyday life.
Muralists featured in the exhibition include Bill Louis, Vaimoana Niumeitolu, Zully Davila and Evelyn Haupt, who worked together in collaboration with Ella Rises and Roots Art Kollective, which is composed of Luis Novoa, Miguel Galaz and Alan Ochoa.
The UMFA collaborated with RAK during the curation process.
“I think it was really amazing seeing the process from start to finish,” Ochoa said. “It was amazing to see, not only, the beautiful murals in [the museum], but also to be a part of the selection committee, planning and trying to envision what this could look like.”
“2020: From Here on Out” also features the Voices of 2020 hotline, a hotline that allows Utahns to call and leave a recording of their reflection of the year 2020.
Each artist featured in “2020: From Here on Out” brought diverse experiences to the exhibition, such as Davila, who works within art education.
“I’ve always enjoyed art but I never saw myself as an artist,” Davila said. “I feel like, naturally, I’ve been pulled to art. I ended up going to school at BYU Hawaii, studying art education. During that time, I actually got hired to work with this organization in Hawaii [that teaches] kids to do murals based on Hawaiian culture.”
Davila’s experience in art education contributes to her work with Ella Rises, an organization that hosts workshops to educate Latina youth about Hispanic heritage.
“[Ella Rises] is set up to have different workshops based around mainly arts,” Davila said. “We have professionals or individuals who are also Hispanic come teach workshops so that these girls can be exposed to different types of individuals that look like them and can resonate with. Being a minority, you don’t get the experience of always seeing someone that looks like you. Ella Rises is there to be that mentorship [or] that role model to guide these girls.”
Another muralist featured in the exhibition found inspiration through learning about Mexican muralists.
“First and foremost, I just fell in love with Mexican muralists,” Niumeitolu said. “When I was in high school in Provo, I would always go to the BYU library and just devour myself in Mexican muralists books. I always drew and painted, but when I discovered muralists and muralism in these books I was just blown away.”
Niumeitolu described working with an artist they had read about growing up, Juana Alicia.
“Right after I graduated from NYU, I got invited to assist with one of Alicia’s community murals in Erie, Pennsylvania,” Niumeitolu said. “That was, actually, the first time that I got to assist painting with a muralist.”
Niumeitolu said her time working with Alicia inspired her to continue her work as a muralist.
“She’s a master muralist,” Niumeitolu said. “When I learned, and actually got to experience that, I was like, ‘Oh, I want to do this for the rest of my life.’”
“2020: From Here on Out” is currently on display in the UMFA’s G. W. Anderson Family Great Hall.
“The experience of painting in the UMFA was definitely different,” Davila said. “If anything I felt very blessed and fortunate. I feel very grateful for the opportunity.”