facebook-pixel

Photos: South Salt Lake gains several new murals, which bring art ‘to the street level’

Artists from this year’s Mural Fest share how street art is transforming the city.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) George F. Baker III, works on his mural for the 2021 Mural Fest in South Salt Lake, on Thursday, May 6, 2021.

Murals featuring imagery ranging from cranes to cats were added to Utah’s “largest collection of street art” this month during the fourth annual Mural Fest.

Artists from Utah and beyond added murals to 10 locations, most of them in South Salt Lake’s Creative Industries Zone, an area between 2100 South and 2700 South, and 300 West and State Street. People are welcome to walk through the area and see the murals whenever they like.

Some of the mural artists talked with The Tribune about themselves, their art and their process. Their answers have been lightly edited for clarity.

[Read more: Learn more about Salt Lake City’s street art with an interactive map]

‘Towards the Light,’ Matt Monsoon and Brooklyn Ottens

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Mural by Brooklyn Ottens and Matt Monsoon, for the 2021 Mural Fest, Thursday, May 13, 2021.

Describe yourselves as artists.

“A friend once described Brooklyn’s art approach as ‘creating order out of chaos’ — and [Matt’s] approach as ‘making chaos out of order.’ We operate as a yin-yang artistic duo.”

Tell us about what inspired your mural.

“We live at the bottom of an ancient sea bed, which once was home to all kinds of exotic sea life. Years ago, while out in the Utah redrock, I swore I spied a jellyfish swimming through the deep blue sky — as if time had overlapped for a moment, and our paths crossed. His ocean was my sky, and I was at the bottom of his ocean floor — just as oblivious to the sea of air we live in as a fish is to water in which it swims.”

Tell us about your work process. Do you plan it out beforehand? Or do you create as you go?

“Brooklyn’s process is methodical and precise, as she hand paints elements of sacred geometry into her works. She plans and designs the pieces in beautifully detailed illustrations in her sketchbook before they make the leap to mural size.

“Matt also plans his work out, usually by hand sketch first, and then finalizes the concept in Adobe Illustrator. For the jellyfish, Matt referenced artwork he’d created years ago, and then adapted that idea to a unique freestyle interpretation for this mural — all done in spray paint.”

Tell us about the message behind your mural.

“The jellyfish represents our subconscious selves, navigating the depths and moving through the darkness. Brooklyn’s mandala represents the light breaking through — representing hope, change, enlightenment and renewal. After collectively working through some really tough times as a community, this piece, ‘Towards the Light,’ represents our emergence into a new, better normal than we ever knew before.”

How does a mural change a building?

“A mural doesn’t just change a building — it changes a community. For proof, just look at how murals are changing a formerly blighted, industrial area of South Salt Lake into an art gallery. Aside from bowling at Bonwood — I’d rarely go to that neighborhood. But now, with all the fantastic art, new breweries and local businesses coming in, you can feel the energy — and the way it’s transforming South Salt Lake. After decades of being obsessed with beige and Band-Aid colored buildings, it’s nice to see Utah get a little more personality.”

‘Safe Place,’ Emily Ding

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Emily Ding, from Houston Texas, works on her mural for the 2021 Mural Fest, Thursday, May 13, 2021.

Describe yourself as an artist.

“I try to portray and express human emotions through flora and fauna. I feature a lot of natural elements in my work, kind of depicting or story telling through wild creatures.”

Tell us about what inspired your mural.

“I usually try to pick a somewhat local animal, and I like power cats like tigers and lions. I chose a mountain lion, Utah’s landscapes, and the theme ‘Safe Place’ is the title for it, so I wanted to tell a story with my pieces portraying an interaction between two figures, portraying a sense of comfort and safety and vulnerability between two figures.”

Tell us about your work process. Do you plan it out beforehand? Or do you create as you go?

“I will usually plan a mural beforehand in terms of the general layout, colors and composition, but it is very free-wheeling and improvisational, because I will let it grow as I paint it. I will have an initial vision for it that I create a sketch or mockup for, but it takes a life of its own as it goes.”

Tell us about the message behind your mural.

“When I paint animals, I want them to have a human emotion, because I feel like we can relate through empathy even though they are not humans. The message is more about a friendship or relationship, and finding comfort and trust and safety in them.”

How does a mural change a building?

“I feel like over time it becomes part of the community. It’s like a synthesis of the people that live here, and what was in the past, combining with something new and vibrant with something that comes to represent them.”

Joseph Toney

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Mural Fest artist Joseph Toney, puts the finishing coat on his mural for the 2021 Mural Fest, on Thursday, May 6, 2021.

Describe yourself as an artist.

“I am a multidisciplinary artist working primarily in mixed media painting and large-scale murals.”

Tell us about what inspired your mural.

“Dancing cranes, geometry, architecture.”

Tell us about your work process. Do you plan it out beforehand? Or do you create as you go?

“Most of it gets planned out beforehand. This keeps me from getting lost when I am up close to the wall painting. I’d say my vision is usually 80% there before I start the real mural. The rest gets altered once I am on the wall and in the physical space.”

Tell us about the message behind your mural.

“I am creating an abstract ‘manufactured image’ that’s created with architectural tools. However, my subject is often natural and wild. In this juxtaposition I want to draw attention to humans’ insatiable appetite to encroach on our wild places. We are constantly building, tearing down, paving over, and polluting our most precious resources. I hope that the work can inspire others to seek out our wild places and then allow them to learn to cherish and protect them.”

How does a mural change a building?

“It takes a boring white wall and brings new life to the space. It can become a reference for the neighborhood and in a lot of ways democratize seeing art. Bringing it down to the street level puts the viewing stage on an even playing field. There’s no museum, no gallery, etc. ... By allowing everyone who wants to experience the work, hopefully it can get more people inspired and out there creating something themselves.”

‘Healing of Mother Earth,’ Roots Art Collective

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Miguel Galaz and Luis Novoa from the Roots Art Collective, work on their mural entitled "Healing of Mother Earth" as part of the 2021 Mural Fest in South Salt Lake, on Tuesday, May 11, 2021.

Describe yourselves as artists.

“The RAK is composed of calligraphy-loving, pattern-loving and plant-loving artists with big dreams to paint murals across the world.”

Tell us about what inspired your mural.

“1) The difficult times we went through last year, 2) our regional landscapes, and 3) words of hope that the community shared with us.”

Tell us about your work process. Do you plan it out beforehand? Or do you create as you go?

“Our painting process goes through the steps of being designed digitally. We then outline this design onto the wall to begin painting. The prep work is most important in order to make the painting step flow smoothly. A lot of it is planned and structured but as we get painting, we allow ourselves to be loose and go with something if we truly feel it will build upon the design.”

Tell us about the message behind your mural.

“We used feedback that we received from our followers on Instagram to create positive messages that people learned over the difficult past year.”

How does a mural change a building?

“Murals have the power to make connections and inspire our local communities. It has the power to create thought and spark ideas and new ways of thinking and looking at things.”

Bill Louis

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Artist Bill Louis works on his mural for the 2021 Mural Fest in South Salt Lake, on Thursday, May 6, 2021.

Describe yourself as an artist.

“I am a determined, hard-working, grateful artist.”

Tell us about what inspired your mural.

“My son, my culture, my community.”

Tell us about your work process. Do you plan it out beforehand? Or do you create as you go?

“I have a general idea. I design it and paint it with a bit of freestyle.”

Tell us about the message behind your mural.

“It is a tribute dedicated to our loved ones and those in our community that we lost from COVID-19.”

How does a mural change a building?

“It definitely brightens it up. It transforms it visually and helps create a dialogue for the space.”

‘Habitat,’ Tracy O’Very Covey

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tracy O'Very Covey, works on her mural for the 2021 Mural Fest in South Salt Lake, on Thursday, May 6, 2021.

Describe yourself as an artist.

“I love to bring beauty and joy to people, and that’s one of the reasons I love doing artwork in public spaces. I think it adds value to people’s everyday lives through my art. That is always my mission or intention, to bring beauty and joy to make people happy and enliven their lives, so whether I am painting a painting or a mural, or whatever I am doing, that’s a big part of it.”

Tell us about what inspired your mural.

“This mural is called ‘Habitat’ and it really is kind of a slice of everyday life in a neighborhood. [It’s] kind of a happy place to be with fresh food, some green space and there’s houses in it and a moon and stars and flowers and a dog. This year, the mural has a cat, but it’s a continuation of a theme of day turning to night, and the shooting star or the symbolism of the person catching a falling star. It’s just like the grace and joy of everyday life that I try to portray.”

Tell us about your work process. Do you plan it out beforehand? Or do you create as you go?

“I plan everything out beforehand. I draw sketches by hand and refine the sketches by hand first, and then I scan them into the computer and do a digital representation of the hand drawing. I plan all the colors and everything in advance, so I have line work and color all planned before I start the mural. I do it all to scale and work on it that way.”

Tell us about the message behind your mural.

“To find the beauty and grace and joy of everyday life.”

How does a mural change a building?

“It transformed a masonry wall of a big long building from being just kind of a drab, brown-gray color to being something really colorful and whimsical and beautiful and uplifting, so it transforms the space in a really beautiful, positive way.”

Not sure where to start your mural tour? Chart your route using our mural map below.

Return to Story