‘Sonder’ Showcases Local Art in An Accessible Way


“Sonder I” by Emma Goldgar. (Courtesy Urban Arts Gallery)

By Tervela Georgieva, Arts Writer


It was a cold night when I walked past bright multicolor lights and empty tables with open flame fireplaces. Somewhere amid all of this, tucked away in Salt Lake City’s Gateway, is the Urban Arts Gallery. Unsuspecting on the outside, it looks like a tiny place. A walk through the doors proved me wrong. I was going there to see “Sonder,” an exhibition guest-curated by Salt Lake City artist and photographer Essie Shaw. I left with an understanding of how to better support local art and artists.

Diverse and Vulnerable

“Sonder, noun.” — the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own. The pieces in the exhibition highlighted each artist’s unique individuality, but also forced the viewer to consider the lives of others that are always occurring alongside our own individual, subjective experience. 

Each artist’s depiction of the word sonder was different, which manifested itself in the use of vastly different materials and subject matters in each artwork. Emma Goldgar’s “Sonder I” and “Sonder II” paintings portrayed an in-focus, single observer watching numerous ghastly figures. These figures, a stand-in for the collective, had blurred edges and undefined features. Goldgar’s approach revealed how we are often the center of our own universe, while others appear to be less definite than ourselves.

Cat Palmer’s pieces took a mixed media approach, blending words and vintage photographs on small canvases. The vintage photos connected the contemporary work of art to the pasts of other people, making them a kind of collective experience.

Melissa “Rino” Alvarez’s series of realistic black-and-white portraits focused on the detail and unique expression contained in a single person’s face. The spotlight they placed on the individual reflected a commitment and care toward seeing individuals as they are.

Individual and Collective Experience

The experience of sonder is one we should all have more often. It’s a reminder of how diverse every single one of us are, but also of how we are joined together by our shared complexity. Each one of us have full lives — influenced by sociocultural circumstance and personal struggle — and that experience connects us. 

Art spaces are one way to effect this sonder, to break the belief in a singular, all-knowing point of view from which to understand the world and make art. Urban Arts Gallery is doing its part in keeping sonder alive by showcasing the work of these diverse and incredibly talented local artists in a way that’s accessible to the public. That’s why art spaces like these must be supported, cultivated and protected, in whatever way they can. 

Local artists have the opportunity to showcase their art at Urban Arts Gallery through “Connect,” a free and regular pop-up art exhibit for visual artists. If you’re interested — you know who you are — take the leap and visit the Urban Arts Gallery website for more information on artist opportunities.


“Sonder” is on exhibit at the Urban Arts Gallery through Jan. 30. Admission is free of charge and open to the public. The Gallery’s upcoming exhibition, “The Beat of Our Blood,” will display in February 2022.


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