How these organizations are blending art and technology for the benefit of Salt Lake City

On Thursday, Kaladharaa dance owner and Indian classical dancer Sonali Loomba, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and Chitrakaavya dance owner, Indian classical dancer and teacher Srilatha Singh spoke after a panel discussion. (Kristen Murphy, Desert News)

Estimated reading time: 3-4 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Derek Dyer thinks people have two choices when it comes to augmented reality, “Whether we like it or not, it’s coming to us.”

Dyer, executive director of the Utah Arts Alliance, said people could embrace augmented reality — make it a “cool, good thing” — or they could “make it a really bad[thing]… that It will make our lives worse.”

The Utah Arts League sees the fusion of art and technology as a beneficial thing, he said. That’s why it’s trying to get ahead of the game.

For example, November 11-12 is the group’s annual Illuminate Festival, held at the Gateway, where indoor and outdoor art showcases blend technology and artwork. On Nov. 11, as part of the festival, the Alliance will debut its drone show at 8 p.m. in Library Plaza, where 150 synchronized drones will create bright images in the sky. They’ve also created several augmented reality apps, such as the SCANNOW AR app, which enhances artwork throughout the city.

“Technology as an art is one of the most underrepresented art forms that we’re really trying to cultivate here,” Dyer said. “Salt Lake City is on the brink of an art renaissance…if we support our artists, we can become a global tourist destination.”

Dyer’s comments came during a panel discussion on the future of art at Gateway’s Lost Eden Gallery on Thursday.

Dyer discusses the intersection of art, technology and the city with Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, Weber State University art professor María del Mar González-González and JOYMOB founder Bahaa Chmait.

Mendenhall said she was happy to support the arts and the community during her tenure as mayor — in fact, she said the Arts Council added three full-time positions during the last budget, the first increase in the Arts Council in a decade .

The Arts Council supports community arts programs in everything from festivals to grant programs, Mendenhall said, “We’re proud to do this with our taxpayer dollars.  … It’s all good, it creates a real culture.”

Creating authentic experiences is what the Chmait organization is all about. JOYMOB focuses on connecting people through events such as street dances and writing “love letters” left in public places.

Growing up with Lebanese parents in a “white Ukrainian Christian town” in Canada posed some challenges, Chmait said, such as his family wanting him to live by Old World values ​​in a community surrounded by the New World.

But those challenges gave him “a stepping stone to being a programmer, someone who codes for our culture and my community,” he said. “I think we have a real opportunity in Salt Lake City, especially with all the economic development (and) new infrastructure … to really shape Salt Lake City for future generations.”

“We’re looking to reshape how we think about public spaces and gatherings,” he said. “We create courageous spaces for people to show their true selves.”

González-González emphasized the importance of supporting diverse artworks.

She said she teaches Latin American art history and that Latin American artists are “woefully underrepresented” in the art world. That’s why, in her upcoming partnership with the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, she’s focused on expanding representation in mostly white spaces, she said.

“I hope we consider more nuanced and complex ways of expressing ourselves,” she said.


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