Highlight Hollywood supports all venues of the entertainment industry, from politics to sports to cinema to fine arts. This year, we again have the exclusive rights to introduce our readers to the 25 Best Museums And Galleries In America, as designated by the American Art Awards. The AAA board, headed by president Thom Bierdz, chooses only one museum or gallery per state per year. Their selections are based on years established, industry reputation, location, size, socially relevant exhibits, motivational and educational programs, represented artists as well as artist, client and visitor references.
Bierdz explains, “In the past, American Art Awards has honored well over a hundred museums and galleries. We study thousands each year and could not be more impressed with the Utah Museum Of Contemporary Art. It is the jewel of the region, the showplace of Salt Lake City and the epitome of a contemporary museum. We proudly award UMOCA the Best Museum In Utah, 2016, and one of our 25 Best Galleries Or Museums In America, 2016.”
Awarded “Utah’s Best Museum” by Best of State Awards in 2011- 2013, and 2015, UMOCA has been an award-winning aesthetic force and community leader since it was established 85 years ago. UMOCA is also a four-time recipient of funding from the Andy Warhol Foundation and is also a 2015 recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts’ Art Works Grant Award.
Located in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City, UMOCA encourages exploration into what it means to exist in today’s world through art that inspires imagination, stimulates thought, and transforms society. The Museum connects people around the contemporary art practice of Utah and beyond to shape an engaged and thoughtful global citizenry. UMOCA strives to be a place where all points of view, experiences, and ages feel welcome to explore the pressing issues of our time.
Alta Rawlins Jensen is the person most responsible for the foundation of the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (formerly known as the Salt Lake Art Center). An activist and visionary, Jensen conceived of a contemporary art center for Salt Lake City and Utah. In 1931, she co-founded the Art Barn Association with those who shared her dream and served as its first President. (The Art Barn still exists today under the operation of the Utah Division of Arts and Museums.)
Beginning in 1932, the Art Barn, which was located on Finch Lane, near the University of Utah campus and was managed entirely by volunteers, began to host art classes and exhibit artwork. By the early 1940s, the Art Barn gained credibility as an art institution, exhibiting nationally and internationally renowned artists, including a series of oil paintings by Vincent Van Gogh.
The exhibitions featured avant-garde pieces from local, regional, national, and international artists. Although Utah artists were exhibited in the galleries with some frequency, there was a larger emphasis on the necessity of introducing the Utah community to artists from outside the state.
In 1958, the Art Barn’s name changed to the Salt Lake Art Center, and in 1961, the institution saw the hiring of James Haseltine, its first paid full-time director. Under Haseltine’s direction, SLAC began a more in-depth exploration on Abstract Expressionism, architecture, and sculpture.
When the institution moved to its current location in 1979, SLAC found itself in the heart of Salt Lake City and the cultural center of Utah. In 1984, SLAC underwent its first and only major outdoor renovation, adding a new ramp, revolving doors, and the signature glass pyramid atop the entrance.
In 2011, SLAC became the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, a re-branding that better discloses to the public the organization’s function as a museum that specializes in contemporary art. From its groundbreaking exhibitions to its extensive education and outreach programs, UMOCA excels.
Since 2011, UMOCA has partnered with the Jarvis and Constance Doctorow Family Foundation to present the biennial Catherine Doctorow Prize for Contemporary Painting to an emerging or mid-career national artist who shows a great range of talent and forward-thinking within a contemporary idiom. (Past winners have included Firelei Báez (2015), Tala Madani (2013) and Kim Schoenstadt(2011).)
UMOCA touts 5 gallery spaces (The Main Gallery featuring national and international artists. The Street Gallery features national and regional artist, The Projects Gallery is dedicated to artists living and working in Utah. The Codec Gallery exhibits time-based art, and finally the Ed.Space Gallery builds on themes present in the Main Gallery through artists working with similar ideas, community participation work, and youth art exhibitions.)
UMOCA is currently under the leadership of Executive Director Kristian Anderson and Board President Val Atczak.
Utah Museum of Contemporary Art
20 S. West Temple
Salt Lake City, UT 84101
801.328.4201Closed Sun & Mon, Tue – Thu: 11 am – 6 pm, Fri: 11am – 9 pm, Sat: 11 am – 6 pm