Utah art lovers will get their first chance in 19 months to walk the galleries of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts this weekend, and the museum staff is throwing a big party to welcome everyone back.

A slate of events — including a Saturday night dance party, Sunday morning yoga, live performances, movie screenings, guided tours, outdoor ping-pong and a piñata bash — will mark the museum’s reopening, in which curators will show the community how the galleries have been reconfigured.

At a media tour Friday morning, Gretchen Dietrich, the museum’s executive director, stressed how UMFA serves many communities — as the state’s main art repository, the biggest art museum in Salt Lake City and an educational resource for the University of Utah.

“We really do try to be a lot of things to a lot of different kinds of people,” Dietrich said.

One of the biggest ways the reimagined museum targets the community is also one of the smallest: the labels that identify the artworks.

While UMFA was closed for renovations, to upgrade the “vapor barrier” that keeps the building’s humidity levels at museum standards, museum staff spent months thinking about the labels.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Utah Museum of Fine Arts officially reopens with a media unveiling after 19 months' of being closed for building renovations, and a
(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Utah Museum of Fine Arts officially reopens with a media unveiling after 19 months' of being closed for building renovations, and a "reimagining" of the gallery spaces. Signage will not only include more detail about a piece such as Faith Ringgold's bold feminist perspective but also be in Spanish in some of the galleries.

“We spent a lot of time talking about our voice,” said senior curator Whitney Tassie. “We want to still be knowledgeable but also welcoming. That’s a hard sweet spot to hit.”

Each label, Tassie said, required a lot of writing and rewriting, with curators and education staff going back and forth to strike the right balance between information and readability. The museum, Dietrich said, also sought opinions from the public about how much information to deliver.

Traditionally, a label will list the artist’s name, the title of the artwork, the materials used to make it, the year it was made and the name of the rich benefactor who donated or loaned it to the museum.

The new labels at UMFA deliver something more. They contain text, usually about 100 words, with three bullet points of information that give some context to the art.

The bullet points allow museumgoers to digest as much information as they like, Dietrich said.

“That big giant clump of text makes us tired,” she said. “You can read the third point first, you can read none of the points, you can read all three points in order. We’re giving the viewer and the visitor a little more agency.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Gretchen Dietrich, right, executive director of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, gives a media tour Friday, Aug. 25, as the museum reopens after a 19-month renovation and
(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Gretchen Dietrich, right, executive director of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, gives a media tour Friday, Aug. 25, as the museum reopens after a 19-month renovation and "re-imagining" project.

For some works, words aren’t enough. One work in the European gallery is a portrait by the 18th-century American painter Benjamin West. The painting, of West’s wife and baby son, was done in the round-framed style of the Renaissance painter Raphael — so the label includes a tiny picture of a Raphael madonna to illustrate the similarities.

In three galleries — Modern and Contemporary, American and regional, and Mesoamerican — the labels are presented in English and Spanish. Tassie said the museum is waiting to see the response to the bilingual labels before deciding whether to install them in other galleries.

Visitors who want to learn more can check out the museum’s new conversation areas. In the Lookout site, just next to the Modern and Contemporary Gallery, tablets are loaded with articles about the artists in the gallery. The tablets also allow access to a database of the museum’s 20,000 objects.

All this information is presented as unobtrusively as possible. “If we’ve done it well, it looks effortless,” Tassie said.

Some museum purists may disapprove of the more accessible labels. “The art historians here on campus, they would prefer everything was just a tombstone, because the students come in here and just copy [the] labels down,” Dietrich said. “You can never make everybody happy.”

UMFA information

Address• 410 Campus Center Drive, University of Utah campus, Salt Lake City

Museum hours• Starting Aug. 29: Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; open until 9 p.m. Wednesdays; closed Mondays

Admission• $12.95 for adults; $9.95 for seniors (65 and older) and youth (6 to18); free for children (up to age 5), UMFA members, University of Utah students, staff and faculty, students at public Utah universities, Utah Horizon/EBT cardholders and active-duty military families (prices may vary for special ticketed exhibitions)

Free days• Free admission on the first Wednesday and third Saturday of the month (free access may vary for special ticketed exhibitions)
UMFA’s big reopening

The Utah Museum of Fine Arts will reopen, after being closed for 19 months, with a two-day public celebration Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 26 and 27.

The museum will be open from 10 a.m. to midnight Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Here is a schedule of events for the weekend.



Saturday’s events

10 a.m. • Behind-the-scenes collections tour (ages 12 and up; limit 20 visitors per tour; sign up at welcome desk starting an hour before tour)

10 a.m.-noon • “Let’s Take Shape Together!” activity with Las Hermanas Iglesias; ACME Lab in the Emma Eccles Jones Education Center

Noon • Curator Pick gallery tours — American and regional, modern and contemporary, or south Asian (limit 20 visitors per tour; sign up at welcome desk starting an hour before tour)

1 p.m. • Behind-the-scenes collections tour (ages 12 and up; limit 20 visitors per tour; sign up at welcome desk starting an hour before tour)

1 p.m. • “HERE, HERE” opening bash piñata activity with Las Hermanas Iglesias; outside museum

2 p.m. • The Bboy Federation performs “73 ’Til Infinity”; Great Hall

4 p.m. • Curator Pick gallery tours — European, Ilse Bing (photography) or Chinese (limit 20 visitors per tour; sign up at welcome desk starting an hour before tour)

4 p.m. • Behind-the-scenes collections tour (ages 12 and up; limit 20 visitors per tour; sign up at welcome desk starting an hour before tour)

5 and 7 p.m. • Film screening: “The Legacy of Frida Kahlo,” co-presented with Utah Film Center; Dumke Auditorium

8 p.m.-midnight • Dance party, powered by ArtsPass



Sunday’s events

10 a.m. • Yoga, with Jendar Marie Morales; Great Hall

10 a.m.-noon • “Let’s Take Shape Together!” activity with Las Hermanas Iglesias; ACME Lab in the Emma Eccles Jones Education Center

Noon • Behind-the-scenes collections tour (ages 12 and up; limit 20 visitors per tour; sign up at welcome desk starting an hour before tour)

Noon • Curator Pick gallery tours — American and regional, modern and contemporary, or ancient Mesoamerican (limit 20 visitors per tour; sign up at welcome desk starting an hour before tour)

2 p.m. • “SENSEational: Accessing Art Through the Senses”; modern and contemporary gallery

3 p.m. • Film screening: “Boy and the World,” co-presented with Utah Film Center; Dumke Auditorium

3 p.m. • Katie Porter, clarinetist, performs; modern and contemporary gallery

4 p.m. • Behind-the-scenes collections tour (ages 12 and up; limit 20 visitors per tour; sign up at welcome desk starting an hour before tour)

4 p.m. • Curator Pick gallery tours — European, Ilse Bing (photography) or ancient Mediterranean (limit 20 visitors per tour; sign up at welcome desk starting an hour before tour)



Ongoing events

Family Art Making • 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., both days, Emma Eccles Jones Education Classroom

Family Backpacks • Check one out in the lobby, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., both days

Pop-up Docent Talks • Throughout the weekend

The Museum Store • Open 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday

The Museum Café • Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days

Correction: Sunday, 2:37 p.m.: Admission is free at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts on the first Wednesday and third Saturday of the month. An earlier version of a box in this story included an incorrect day.