Slide down the pages of a book. Climb through a picture frame to find a miniature art show. Discover books sorted by the rainbow or twisting overhead in an arch.
“Love Letters,” a new immersive art installation at The Gateway, is dedicated to the various ways people use the alphabet to tell their stories and to understand others’ stories. Following on the heels of similar installations “Hall of Breakfast” and “Dreamscapes,” the space opened Friday and will run through Sept. 1.
“This is kind of a great way to write our own little love letter to Salt Lake, as well as create something really interactive and fun and playful for families throughout the summer,” said John Connors, co-creator of “Love Letters.”
The show is about lettering, typography, the alphabet and literal love letters, and invites people to interact with the art. Pieces include a slide that’s 15 feet tall, slanting down the pages of an open book, and a bookcase where oversized classic novels loom higher than your head. The Utah County-based Tiny Art Show has mounted a collection of miniature paintings based on favorite children’s books.
Guests can write their own love letters and the show will mail them anywhere in the world. The last part of the exhibit has a paper shredder 12 feet high that produces rainbow confetti.
“That room kind of talks about the idea that if you’re going to be brave enough to try to communicate, you’re also going to make some mistakes,” Connors said. “But you can turn those into something beautiful, too.”
Connors, along with his co-creator Becca Clason, wanted to create an exhibit that felt participatory.
“So often when you go to a museum exhibit, there is this distance created between you and the art where you can’t really engage with it, you can’t add to it or interact with it in a way that makes you feel like you also are a part of the art,” Connor said. “This art was created for you to interact with, for you to find meaning by touching the art and playing with the art or adding things to the art.”
The installation is meant to be accessible to all ages. Connors said he envisioned three generations of people coming through together and enjoying the work.
Clason, who is a lettering artist, approached Connors last year after the creation of “Hall of Breakfast,” an art exhibit that celebrated breakfast foods. She was interested in doing something similar with lettering.
“[It] became a mashup of both the idea of custom lettering and typography and breaking down letter forms and also the aspect of communication and telling your story and using words to do that,” Clason said.
“Love Letters,” at 24 S. Rio Grande across from the mall’s fountain, is the latest in a string of interactive and immersive art installations at The Gateway. Last year, “Hall of Breakfast” drew more than 35,000 visitors to the north end of The Gateway, in the old Urban Outfitters space near the Union Pacific Depot.
“People loved playing on our life-sized doughnut swings, sliding down a piece of bacon and tasting local treats,” said Emma Gillett, marketing manager with Bigsley Event House, the design company that created the breakfast exhibit.
Artfully shared experiences
The popularity of “Dreamscapes” has led the Utah Arts Alliance to extend its run for another full year at The Gateway, said Derek Dyer, the group’s executive director. More than 30,000 visitors have walked through the exhibit’s 17 imaginative realms, located at the south end of the mall next to the Urban Arts Gallery, 116 S. Rio Grande St.
“We are getting a lot of families. We’re getting a lot of people that are going there on dates. We have a lot of people that are cultural tourists. They’re in town and they’re looking for some cool things to do,” Dyer said. “Most of the people across the board that are coming in have just heard of it through word of mouth or on social media.”
Because the show has been extended, 10 new projects are going into the exhibit, as well as upgrades to existing projects.
“Our intention all along was to create a permanent immersive art space, and part of what we were doing with this phase of the project was to kind of learn what it takes to run an immersive art space,” Dyer said.
Dyer said while he wants “Dreamscapes” to become a permanent installation, he doesn’t know if it will be located at The Gateway or somewhere else.
“We feel like this is really kind of the future for art,” he said. “It’s a way for people to experience art on a deeper level and that’s a big part of our mission; and we’re seeing people really gravitate to this and there’s a lot of support from the community to do it.”
Dyer said the role of these type of immersive and interactive art exhibits is to connect art with the community, and for people to connect with each other on a personal level.
“What we’re seeing is people getting together as families or on dates or with friends and having this shared experience together, that is helping to build a better community,” he said.
SEEING ‘LOVE LETTERS’
The new pop-up, interactive art exhibit opened Friday and will run through Sept. 1.
Where • At the north end of The Gateway, at 24 S. Rio Grande across from the fountain.
When • Open 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
Tickets • Admission is $16.50 for adults and $12 for children under 10. Children 2 and under are free. Tickets available at https://www.lovelettersmuseum.com/.
— This coverage of downtown Salt Lake City arts groups is supported by a grant from The Blocks, a cultural initiative of Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County. The Salt Lake Tribune makes all editorial decisions.
Correction: 2 p.m. June 24: This story has been updated to correct the location of the exhibit and the link to tickets.