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Walk by the Salt Lake Center for Science Education and you can’t help but notice the vibrant mural on one of its west-facing walls.
It depicts a young girl with a butterfly floating over each of her open hands. Around her are images of books, corn, water and roses.
The piece took about a week to create and is called “This Is How We Move,” said artist Jorge Arellano, and it’s about the local community’s strength.
“[It] represents the people of the neighborhood, how they work together as a community,” he said. “They move as one force.”
Arellano’s mural is one of 10 created by various artists in honor of Salt Lake’s rich diversity, said Kaitlin Eskelson, president and CEO of Visit Salt Lake.
The nonprofit corporation, which promotes Salt Lake as a convention and travel destination, partnered with Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson and the Utah Arts Alliance on the project, called the West of Conventional Mural Tour. (“West of Conventional” is Visit Salt Lake’s slogan, and Eskelson said it refers to how “we are a city full of juxtapositions. We’ve got urban-meets-mountain, we’ve got a very diverse population.”)
With help from the Utah Arts Alliance, local artists were selected from the communities they painted in, Eskelson said, who then helped them find meaningful sites for the artwork.
She said they chose to commission murals because they’re accessible to everyone and can be interpreted in a variety of ways.
“I just think [these murals] tell our story,” Eskelson said. “Everyone wants… to have a takeaway and an authentic experience. And I think that’s what murals do.”
She added that the public can participate in a free Mural Tour Pass opportunity by going to bit.ly/3AfxuPU, where they can check in as they visit each mural. When they’ve stopped at six of the 10 paintings, they can claim a “West of Conventional” t-shirt at the Visitor Information Center at 90 S. West Temple in Salt Lake (inside the Salt Palace Convention Center).
Telling community stories through art
Eskelson said they asked artists to incorporate certain colors and geometric shapes in order to match Visit Salt Lake’s branding, but beyond that, they were free to tell their communities’ stories in any way they saw fit.
For Arrellano, telling that story meant working with local school kids, who interviewed neighborhood residents about what they wanted to see in the mural.
One of the most commonly mentioned themes was immigration, a topic that’s personal to Mexico-native Arrellano. The mural’s butterflies were painted to represent immigration, he said.
Arrellano said he’s sometimes asked if he prefers doing big paintings over small ones, but he thinks an artwork’s size isn’t important.
“[Art] is a way to express a point of view, an idea, a feeling,” he said. “I think that’s what art is for me: something that brings a message and makes people think about what’s happening.”
This isn’t Arrellano’s first time working on a public art project. He’s also painted a mural inside of a school, held student workshops and is part of an art group for people of color called the Nopalera Artist Collective. His next project will be a mural honoring a friend who died of COVID-19. (Location is pending but will likely be somewhere in downtown Salt Lake, he said.) Fans can also follow his work on Instagram @stenciljam.
Arrellano said he’d advise aspiring artists to be honest with themselves and express what they’re feeling in the moment.
“It doesn’t matter if you get inspiration from other artists, but don’t copy. Get your own style and try to represent things that move people,” he said.
Where to see the murals
Artists and their mural locations are as follows. Note that not all murals are finished yet.
Jorge Arellano, Salt Lake Center for Science Education (1350 Goodwin Ave., Salt Lake City, UT 84116)
Chris Peterson, Hip & Humble (1043 E. 900 S., Salt Lake City, UT 84105)
Jimmi Toro, INDUSTRY (659 S. 500 W., Salt Lake City, UT 84104)
Gerry Swanson, Caputo’s Market & Deli (1516 S. 1500 E., Salt Lake CIty, UT 84105)
Bill Lous, Valley Fair Mall (3601 S. 2700 W., West Valley City, UT 84119)
Traci O’Very Covey, Mountain America Expo Center (9575 S. State St., Sandy, UT 84070)
Miriam Gutierrez, The Copper Mine Saloon (9071 West Main St., Magna, UT 84044)
Matt Monsoon, Brighton Resort (8302 S. Brighton Loop Road, Brighton, UT 84121)
Shae Peterson (also known as SRIL), Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center (100 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84101) — located on the connecting wall of the Salt Palace and the new Hyatt Regency Convention Center Hotel.
Josh Scheuerman, Murray Theater (4961 S. State St., Murray, UT 84107)
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