The Salt Lake City Arts Council has a new Director, Felicia Baca, who joins a legacy of great arts leadership in our City. What better time than now to highlight the great work being done and plans for the future of this amazing organization? Baca invites anyone with questions or comments – artist or audience – to call, send an email, and set up a time to sit down and chat.
The arts have long enriched the human spirit, providing a lens for culture, and challenging us to see from different perspectives. Salt Lake City is home to a world-class arts and culture scene that plays an important role for families and businesses relocating and expanding in Salt Lake City. It stands as a significant economic driver for the City supporting over 10,000 jobs and delivering engagement opportunities to audiences with higher-than-average attendance.
Recognizing the potential, the Salt Lake City’s Art Council was formed in 1976 at the request of Mayor Ted Wilson. By 1979 a non-profit entity, The Salt Lake Arts Council Foundation, was established to manage funds and the group moved into the “Art Barn” located at Reservoir Park in 1981. Over the years, the Council has been fortunate to staff a passionate and talented group of leaders who have worked tirelessly toward a common goal – to promote, present, and support artists, arts organizations, and arts activities in Salt Lake City.
The Council has developed programs that have endured for decades (inspiring many other arts programming in the U.S.) including:
- The long-running Twilight Concert Series established in 1988.
- The Salt Lake City Public Art Program, founded in 1984.
- Living Traditions Festival, started in 1986.
- Brown Bag Concert Series, 1978.
- Finch Lane Gallery, originally built in 1931.
The growth in attendance of these programs through the years has been astounding. New programs and experiments, like the Buskers Festival, are reaching out to new audiences hungry for more culture downtown.
The arts community has changed dramatically over the past four decades driving a need to re-evaluate what the council does and how it operates. Recently the Arts Council held an open house and stakeholder meeting asking the community for feedback to research and identify gaps in our City’s arts offering and how to boost recognition of Salt Lake City as an arts destination. Baca wants to continue that effort to cast the widest possible net to reach artists who would benefit from Salt Lake City Art Council services and how the council can better serve them. She invites anyone – artist or audience – to call, send an email, and set up a time to sit down and chat.
Q&A with Salt Lake City Art Council’s New Director Felicia Baca
- What can we do to promote the public good that the Salt Lake Arts Council provides to the community?
Our reputation is one of the greatest promotional tools we have-from the person who is the first point of public contact, to the way we execute contracts or include residents in community events. The level and quality of engagement that we have with residents is a reflection of our public service. That being said, we still have work to do in telling stories and promoting the good we already do in the community. I’m eager to look at new ways that we can highlight the important work that we’re facilitating in partnerships we have with artists and organizations. And it goes without saying, but we should always involve creatives and artists in the process of promoting our work, which in turn supports their careers.
- Where to next for diversity? What opportunities do you plan on exploring?
Our programs illustrate how the arts are a bridge between communities and are only successful with continued public and private support. I’d like to see to see more grant funding categories that serve or target historically underrepresented communities. By building cultural equity across our programs it enables our residents to become more invested and included.
I think the agency is doing a wonderful job of serving diverse artistic disciplines. Can we reach deeper into neighborhoods and communities, diversify access, innovate partnerships across non-artistic disciplines where artists become more integrated into diverse contexts? I think so.
- Funding and growing the arts presents an interesting challenge. What are your initial thoughts on funding?
Supporting and connecting our artists to government and business is critical to the long-term success and legacy of the Arts Council. The Arts Council will continue to seek opportunities in every district and neighborhood in the entire City. And part of that effort means awareness among policymakers. I want them to know and connect to the artists or arts organizations that are in their districts.
- Let’s talk about developing art talent in our city. How does the Salt Lake Arts Council fit in the broader creative industries?
One of my “pie in the sky” or long-term ideas is to enable artist training programs that promote the skills needed to collaborate and co-design with the community through projects with non-profits, for-profits, or creative industries in placemaking and social practices. Salt Lake City has an abundance of creative industries, and I think if we can broaden our relationships with innovators, entrepreneurs, and creators, we can work towards developing that ecosystem where art and culture are embedded (and recognized) in the everyday fabric of our lives. When we expand the definition of the creative economy, arts and economic development become even more complimentary.
- Welcome, Felicia Baca! We’re excited to have you onboard!
I’m so excited for this opportunity. This type of work truly takes a village and I’m sincerely looking forward to working alongside the residents, artists, and policymakers in our city.