Pierpont area of Downtown used to be one of the biggest areas for the
underground (and in some cases popular) art scene in Utah.
However, in recent times the area has started to slow down as those
who once dominated the area moved onto better prospects, and the
remaining space has become vacant or mismanaged.
--- But that hasn’t stopped the Women’s Art Center from carrying on the tradition that so many others have forgotten, still showcasing art from the most brilliant female artists and still bringing in large crowds for every showing. I got a chance to step in to their February 15th gallery, snap some photos, and talk to the Center’s curator about what they’ve been doing and where they’re headed.
Women's Art Center Directors & Managers (L-R. Cat Palmer - Gallery Curator, Alice Bain - Financial Manager, Amber Watlains - Events Planner, Erin Menut - Yoga Instructor/Operations Manager, and Amie Tullius - Center Director.)
Gavin: So Cat, tell is about yourself.
Cat: I am photographer and artist Cat Palmer, as well as the curator for the Women’s Art Center.
Gavin: Tell us a little about the Women’s Art Center.
Cat: We’re going into our third year and we support three kinds of women. Emerging women artists, established women artists, and women who are in need. We have outreach programs and work with rape crisis and homeless women, things of that nature. That’s pretty much our three fold mission. We do support more than just women in our community, we offer classes to men and women, and of course tonight’s display we have both men and women’s artwork. It is a place for art but we do focus on the outreach stuff specifically for women. We teach classes here too. I teach a class about once a year on photo shoot. We teach a variety of classes and every season it changes. We also teach Yoga classes here everyday of the week but Sundays. The schedule varies for people throughout the day who work and have lives. We used to have a boutique but we cleared that out, it was hard to manage a gallery and yoga and classes and outreach programs and a boutique all in one.
Gavin: Like, we can do four, but five is just crazy!
Cat: Yes. As far as the Art Center goes, I’ve been involved for a year and I first started off helping with finances, but that’s quite boring. I’d rather be curator because that’s much more fun. So that’s the Center. We actually have a large supportive group, which is shocking because Pierpont died about a year ago and it’s just been dead around here. And that’s sad because this used to be the happening place of Salt Lake. This used to be the busy hubbub, the excitement, the energy that was here was just amazing. You’d have gallery after gallery, but now there’s just a few of us left, most of them moved onto other things. As you can see we’re the only thing open here tonight and in about an hour this place will be packed. Which is nice because they’re definitely coming to our place. So because of that we’re going to stay here at least six more months.
Gavin: What are the plans after the six months?
Cat: There are two spaces we really have our eye on. We really wanted to do a space by Pioneer Park but as a non profit organization we really can’t afford the rent, and there is a second one in Sugarhouse but as lovely as the area is, it’s kind of withdrawn from Downtown’s Gallery Stroll which I wonder how that would do for us.
Gavin: Would Sugarhouse be in the newer area, or in more of the original buildings?
Cat: I think it’s the older one. I actually went to Sugarhouse for the first time since they tore things down, and I was just sad. So sad. Because Sugarhouse is so adorable, and now it was just weird seeing a hole in the ground where all these neat little shops used to be.
Gavin: Cool. Tell us about the monthly events you have going on, like tonight.
Cat: Yeah, the Gallery Stroll. Third Friday of every month. We have just new exhibits we plan out for the entire year, some artists are invited and some have to submit. Tonight’s event was all invited artists, some of Salt Lake’s hottest artists who are couples. Boyfriend/Girlfriend, Husband/Wife. We wanted to show support for the men of the community as well as it’s being so close to Valentine’s Day, we just thought it would be charming.
Gavin: Who are some of the artists here tonight?
Cat: We invited Trent Call and Tessa Lindsey, they each submitted a piece and a collaborative. And I believe for most, if not all of these artists, it’s their first time doing a collaborative. Even for myself, my husband and I have been married almost ten years now, it’s our first time collaborating and it was really a near experience. So tonight we also have Erik and Sandy Brunvand, a husband and wife team where she teaches at the University of Utah and he’s an engineer, so that was quite an interesting team. Then we have Brad Slaugh and Tracy Strauss, a husband and wife team who run Poor Yorick. Also we got Rachel Marston and David Ruhlman, a boyfriend/girlfriend team, he’s more internationally known and sells a lot of stuff in Europe but he’s here tonight which is really cool. Then we have Adam and Jessica Watkins, a local artist couple who support not just established artists but emerging artists as well. And then myself and my husband Blake Palmer, I was awarded Best Photographer from City Weekly last year, and they also awarded him Best Mixed-Media Artist. I’m not going as out and open as I was least year trying to get my name out there, this year I’m probably only going to do six exhibits.
Gavin: What are some of the future galleries coming for the Center?
Cat: In March we actually have a fundraiser coming up, we’re also going to have an instillation performance. We’ll have someone come in and redo the whole inside of the place. April we’re really excited, we have the circle show. We’ll pass out circles to all these different women, and they’ll donate them to us painted with things that remind them of their childhood. It’s something we’ve done for three years now and we want to keep it going even though we’re under new management. And in May we’ll have an architectural exhibit. So that’s what’s coming up for the next few months, we’ve got the entire year planned out, and there’s just exciting things happening every month for us. We’ll also be remodeling our place and opening up four new studios in the back and renting them for dirt cheap. About $125 a month for a studio which is pretty cool, we’ll ask people to submit proposals to get into those studios.
Gavin: You said the place went under new management, what’s the story behind that?
Cat: The previous director had twins, and she realized that having twins is a lot of work. She couldn’t devote the time she needed to this place, so we sought out for a new director and we got the lovely Amie Tullius. Then I came on board last year as a financial person while the switch was being done so I didn’t get to work with Suzie, but she’s a dear friend and we love her a lot, and she’s still involved with the Center. We’re all volunteer based, none of us are paid, but we love it. It’s one of the best groups of women here in Salt Lake.
Gavin: Anything else you’d like to add?
Cat: We just really want to promote our classes and programs. We would love to see more support for our yoga classes because they’re just fantastic and the teachers who teach it are amazing. They teach in other areas throughout the community, but we’re lucky to have them here and they do it for little to no pay as well. Check us out on our website and see what we’ve got going on.