Skip to main content

The City Journals

Artists, assemble! Night on Commonwealth aims to build SSL creative industry

Jun 23, 2017 11:55AM ● By Travis Barton

Passersby could add their own artistic flourishes to various canvases at one booth during the Night on Commonwealth in May. (Travis Barton/City Journals)

By Travis Barton | [email protected]

Be it booths filled with jewelry or painting displays, live music or food trucks or some do-it-yourself drawing activities, there was something for every creative type at the second annual Night on Commonwealth. 

South Salt Lake Arts Council combined with the Utah Arts Alliance to host the Night on Commonwealth arts celebration on May 20 at the Utah Arts Alliance Art Factory, 193 W. 2100 South. The celebration was part of a three-day creative convergence event to gather input and stakeholders for assistance in building a creative industries zone in South Salt Lake. 

The celebration was part of a three-day creative convergence event to gather input and stakeholders for assistance in building a creative industries zone in South Salt Lake. 

“We’re trying to, as the city approaches new development, we’re trying to find ways to support [creative businesses] and keep them here and build upon the creative assets we already have,” Lesly Allen, arts council director said. 

Those assets aren’t limited to struggling artists; it also includes dance studios, distilleries, chefs, design firms, furniture, skateboard or jewelry makers to name a few. 

“All these kind of maker-types are really drawn to South Salt Lake ‘cause of the unique atmosphere and amenities that we have here,” said Derek Dyer, executive director of the Utah Arts Alliance. 

Though the current creative landscape of the city is considered lively with Poor Yorick Studios, BBoy Federation, Spectrum or Glass Studios, Dyer said it could use some connective tissue. 

“The current creative landscape in South Salt Lake is actually pretty vibrant but it’s very disjointed,” Dyer said. “I think the potential that we have is if we can organize that or somehow market it together. We don’t need to necessarily change a lot of things.”

Those creative makers, Allen said, are scattered all round town. 

“We’re trying to create a community among them to provide more networking, resources and support,” she said. 

It’s part of an arts district master plan to better utilize the downtown zone of South Salt Lake. Consultants from Creative Community Builders in Minneapolis were brought in to help plan a creative industries zone. 

Urban Designer Pete Musty is one of those consultants who contracts with CCB and its owner, Tom Borrup. Musty said their job is to “come up with ways to protect the creative industry and nurture it.” 

He added with the area centrally located in the valley and not requiring the types of premiums necessary to pay for space in Salt Lake, SSL is attractive to those “who want to make a little noise.”

Musty said SSL is at an advantage due to the neighborhood networking being done by city staff. 

“The militia has formed already. Folks come in and want to get involved,” Musty said. “A lot of communities don’t have ways of plugging them in. South Salt Lake is actually at the point, either an event or space or network or membership, they have more emerging ways to plug people in.”

While the future is being laid out, Night on Commonwealth was also an opportunity to commemorate the creative present. 

Whether it was the crowd blowing bubbles as they listened to the band SuperBubble or watched Millenium Dance Crew demonstrate its skills, the carnival celebrated art in its various forms. 

It even included self-portraits where interested passersby could use paint markers to create a portrait on one of 59 faces. 

“I’m seriously surprised by how many people are willing to do it,” said Liz Bunker, an art teacher at Utah International Charter School who ran the self-portrait activity. 

Bunker said it was interesting to see the various interpretations. 

“This self-portrait can mean so many different things, it doesn’t necessarily mean an eye, nose, mouth that looks like yours, so people really took kind of license with it, and I love that the most,” she said. 

Allen said she hopes Night on Commonwealth (loosely named for the district where the event took place) continues for years to come. She’s excited that this year the event tripled in terms of what was offered, compared to last year with one band, some beer and three food trucks. 

“It’s really fun to bring people into the neighborhood,” Allen said. “And help them see what we’re doing and what we’re trying to build.”