Gittins Gallery Reopens with ‘Return’


The Alvin Gittins Gallery on the University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City on March 14, 2022. (Photo by Edie Raines | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Edie Raines, Copy Editor


The Alvin Gittins Gallery has just celebrated the grand opening of its new location with the debut of its inaugural exhibition, “Return,” featuring artwork from University of Utah fine arts alumni.

Making Art Accessible

Now located on the south side of the Film & Media Arts Building’s top floor, the ADA-accessible Alvin Gittins Gallery contains multiple installation spaces but is still small enough to make a quick, impromptu visit whenever you like. The gallery, which was once in the ART building, is now just a few steps from the Marriott Library’s main entrance, making a trip to a beautiful art gallery between classes almost too enticing.

The gallery is named after Alvin Gittins, a painter who was once the chair of the U’s art department and their resident artist. The space will be used to showcase “more contemporary and experimental works.”

Unifying the Diverse

“Return” is an amalgamation of the works of artists from an array of backgrounds and disciplines, all of whom spent time honing their craft in the U’s art department. Each piece in the collection is unique: there are large prints, portraits, paintings of graphic car crashes, pieces of petrified wood and what looked to me like an enormous, decaying spine that matched the gallery’s walls, turning the space that displays the pieces into the exhibit’s rib cage and becoming part of the work itself.

One piece I couldn’t take my eyes off was a hanging sculpture of a large eye with a naked woman hanging from the lower eyelid. The woman’s eyes were such a bright shade of blue and so realistically designed they were frightening to look at. I happened to visit the gallery at the same time as a group of art students on a field trip; shamelessly eavesdropping on their sophisticated reactions to pieces, I heard one student say it was as if she was “begging you to look at her.”

Another piece that stayed with me was a collection of pictures printed on crystalized fabric, the folds of the cloth solidifying and bringing a new dimension to otherwise flat images. I couldn’t help but think of the people in the pictures as family members and the crystals as salt from the Great Salt Lake. Interestingly, I could not prove or disprove my theory as I could not find a single plaque stating either the title of each work or the name of the artist. Every piece had to simultaneously stand for itself and work with the others, folding clashing mediums into a unified body of work, just as the U once did for each of these very unique artists. 

Besides “Return,” visitors to the Alvin Gittins Gallery can also interact with “Road Work: Memories Under Construction,” an installation/research project started at Columbia University in 2014. The project consists of a white wall with the phrase “Please share with us” followed by a series of prompts: “What do you like best about Salt Lake City?”, “What would you change about Salt Lake City?”, “Do you think life in Salt Lake City will continue to change?” and more. Visitors are given sticky notes to write answers on and stick to the gallery wall, allowing space for everyone’s voice in a type of venue once associated with class separation and snobbism.

“Return” will remain on display through April 14.


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