Claim it! is a multi-year project in which various youth art collectives, guided by artists and educators, spent months exploring the theme of “Claim it” and conceptualizing public artwork that expresses who they are as artists and what is important to them, their families, and communities.
The project began when Megan Hallet, a Civic Arts Curator, held community engagement activities to collect concepts and ideas from the public at libraries and community events. In addition, three teaching artists worked with youth groups to shape the ideas of the community and develop their own ideas into youth-produced artworks and exhibit pieces. Working with the University of Utah School of Architecture, students had the opportunity to learn about the Westside Master Plan and the connections between three art installation sites—the Sorenson Unity Center, the Oxbow at the 9th South River Park, and the Pump Track. Two community exhibits were mounted to share student artwork, installation models, and Westside Master Plan connections with the public. As the project progressed, the Sorenson Unity Center staff managing the grant worked with Salt Lake City Corporation’s Public Art Program and selected artist Donna Pence to commission three public art pieces. Ms. Pence worked closely with various youth groups to develop designs for the artworks that incorporated their ideas into fully-formed installations.
The first of three installations, is a series of three totem sculptures representing the three locations and the claims made by the community for physical, spiritual, and communal needs. The Sorenson sculpture is a response to the claims for books, home, family, and music. The Pumptrack totem depicts the physical in the form of bicycles, food trucks, and healthy living. The Oxbow sculpture symbolizes the spiritual in nature through birds, fish, the river, and vegetation. The totem themes and concept were influenced by artworks created in the beginning stages of the Claim it! project. The content reflected in the totems were informed by a short documentary chronicling the project by Kerri Hopkins, while Liz Bunker’s use of stacked cubes to exhibit student art and ideas of how families interact informed the totem concept.
The totem series installation has been completed on the Sorenson Campus. Installation at the remaining two public art sites, the Oxbow site and Pump Track, will be completed by summer 2017.
This public art project was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Salt Lake City Public Art Program. Special thanks to the Sorenson Unity Center, Youth City, Salt Lake Art Design Board, the Salt Lake City Arts Council, and Salt Lake City Corporation for their assistance with this project.