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Will New Public Art Projects Bring More People Downtown? Officials Hope So

Nicole Nixon
People pose in front of a mural on the back of the Eccles Theater in Salt Lake City.

Downtown Salt Lake City will soon have more public art, thanks to a long-term project that kicked off on Monday.

Officials say downtown Salt Lake is already home to numerous world-class art venues, like the new Eccles Theater and the recently-renovated Capitol Theatre.

County Mayor Ben McAdams says many times, people come downtown for arts and entertainment, but don’t spend much time outside the theater or concert hall.

He wants that to change. 

“What we’re hoping to do is increase visibility,” McAdams says. “Also increase quality and quantity of public art, to activate underutilized spaces, and to encourage the community to be engaged in programming for families, children and youth.”

The Cultural Core plan, headed by the group Downtown SLC Presents, will create new art projects around the city, such as murals, pop-up galleries, and street performances, which they hope will be engaging enough to bring more people downtown—and keep them there after their show ends. 

It’s a plan years in the making. Salt Lake City and County formed a partnership to promote arts downtown in 2010, at the same time establishing a taxing district, which raises $500,000 each year.

That money will be reinvested in the Cultural Core project for the next two decades, says Jason Mathis, executive director of the Downtown Alliance.

“The value of this is that it’s longitudinal, it’s over 20 years,” Mathis says. “So, if you know that every year, you’re going to have half a million dollars to devote to a cultural core, you have to plan ahead. But 20 years from now, if that money is wisely invested, it can be very substantial.”

Mathis says it’s a good time to get the project going. New research from the Downtown Alliance shows that increasingly, it’s entertainment and events that motivate people to visit downtown, rather than shopping.

Nicole Nixon holds a Communication degree from the University of Utah. She has worked on and off in the KUER Newsroom since 2013, when she first joined KUER as an intern. Nicole is a Utah native. Besides public radio, she is also passionate about beautiful landscapes and breakfast burritos.
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