A Salt Lake City book and music store hopes community grant will make art more accessible

Free concerts, art classes and poetry nights is how one small business would use a neighborhood grant.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brandon A. Anderson, at his 9th and 9th Book and Music Gallery in Salt Lake City, Friday, Feb. 11, 2022.

When the COVID-19 pandemic ended Brandon A. Anderson’s 13-year career as an independent record store director, he decided to open his own brick-and-mortar store in Salt Lake City.

“I’ve been collecting books since I was 8. I’ve been playing instruments and singing and performing for so long,” Anderson said. “It seemed like the perfect storm and a good opportunity for me to open this store.”

As a dedicated music and arts lover, 9th and 9th Book and Music Gallery is a tribute to the craft in which Anderson has been immersed his whole life. The store sits at 872 E. 900 South, in an alley across the street from the Tower Theatre, and is filled with mostly locally sourced and pre-owned goods like books, records and instruments.

“With the exception of very few things,” Anderson noted, “like new harmonicas, because no one wants a pre-owned harmonica.”

Anderson said he envisions the business to be more than a retail store. He wants to transform the small storefront into a community arts and culture hub.

The aim, he said, is to create a “safe space” for everyone to feel welcome and showcase their art form. In the afternoons, Anderson said, kids stop by on their walk home from school, strum one of the many guitars and just hang out.

“Art is a unifier,” Anderson said. “The more arts access and opportunity you can create for any given community or region just enriches the value of the life of the people that participate or live in that community.”

Anderson organizes free concerts and built a stage for local musicians in the alleyway behind his shop. He even contracted two artists to paint a mural in the alleyway. He also hosts free art classes, and said he intends to start holding poetry nights and other art performances.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brandon A. Anderson points out the 9th and 9th Book & Music Gallery, which will soon have a wall mural as well as a stage in back of the building, on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022.

It’s no small feat for a one-man operation. So when Anderson came across a newsletter from the East Liberty Park Community Organization (ELPCO), asking small businesses and residents in the area to apply for a community grant, he jumped at the opportunity.

“It would help me pay for a real stage that I don’t have to build every single week,” Anderson said. “Or it could help me supplement the cost to make sure these muralists are getting paid a professional rate.”

Jason Stevenson, the co-chair of ELPCO, describes the organization as “a volunteer local government” that keeps the neighborhood informed and acts as a “sounding board” for larger city policy discussions. The ELPCO is one of 22 such organizations, from Rose Park to the East Bench, registered with the Salt Lake City Attorney’s office.

Inspired by similar city art grants, the ELPCO boost grant money bloomed from the popular 9th and 9th Street Festival, which the community council hosts each September.

The boost grant is a way to “give back to the community” Stevenson said, by encouraging innovative projects that uplift the neighborhood, which contains 4,000 households.

The grants, Stevenson said, are a way to “thank the community and really give them the ability to create something a little bit better in their block, in their alleyway, among their neighbors.”

While grant applicants are required to reside within the boundaries of ELPCO (between 800 South and 1700 South, and between 700 East and 1300 East), the sky is the limit when it comes to the type of proposal.

“We really didn’t want to say exactly what these projects should be, because we wanted the creativity of the neighbors and the residents to come forward and really show us where they are needed for this project,” Stevenson said.

So far, Anderson is one of six applicants for the first ELPCO boost grant, according to Stevenson.

With a maximum award of $2,500, Stevenson said he hopes more residents and businesses will take advantage of the opportunity. The ELPCO’s 12 board members and selected residents will collectively decide who receives the grants. One applicant could be granted the entire bucket of money, or it may be split among many projects.

“We’re looking at the quality of applications and how much thought was put into it,” Stevenson said, “as well as community interaction.”

Any East Liberty Park resident or business owner can submit an application before the deadline of Feb. 28; and winners will be selected on April 1. The application form can be found at facebook.com/ELPCO.