June 25, 2018

Granary District becoming more of a community canvas

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By Adriana Martinez

“Every day I drive to work, I see this mural and it makes me happy.” That was the best compliment Salt Lake City artist Josh Scheuerman received while painting his Bears Ears mural, located in the Granary District on 800 South between 300 West and 400 West. “When I was painting, I had a lot of citizens stop by and talk about how the mural was changing the feeling of the bleakness into something more beautiful,” Scheuerman said. “I believe it'll bring more community feeling into the area and help brighten the once industrial area into a center open-air gallery for the city.”

A multitude of messages and meaning can be conveyed within the frame of a mural. Murals can sprawl from religious to social to personal to communal. In his 1976 academic journal [ITALICS]Tiene Arte Valor Afuera Del Barrio: Murals of East Los Angeles and Boyle Heights, Louis Holscher, who studied the significance of Chicano murals in Latin American communities, stated: “murals are newspapers on walls, and a wealth of information is contained in them. They can be valuable to educators, politicians, sociologists, political scientists, architects, and planners.” As a canvas for expression, murals provide the unique opportunity for an entire community to come together to articulate common concerns, hopes, and values.

Right now, the Granary District is aiming to do just that. In a project put forth by the Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake City, grants are being provided to local artists to “create artwork that contributes to the beautification, diversification, and economic vitality of the historic Granary District.” As the Granary District changes and develops, local businesses housed within the Granary District boundaries hold on tighter to preserve the historical significance of the area. Once an area of factory and commercial development around the railroad, the Granary has now become a rich community of warehouses and industrial spaces inhabited by artists, restaurateurs, entrepreneurs, and other locals hoping to take grass-roots control of how the area develops. “The Granary Murals will contribute to a new version of the city, which is showing support for local artists and businesses to create more art for the public to enjoy,” Scheuerman said.

Murals incite energy into a community space. They ask to be seen and to be heard. “Art has always been and always will be the most important communicator in the world. It transcends language and time,” said Scheuerman. Mural work can represent much more than a community’s effort to find artistic expression - it can provide an opportunity for critical examination of what’s going on in our city. Murals may be unique to a neighborhood, but when you track murals in Salt Lake City from building to building it begins to paint a bigger picture about issues our city considers to be important. “I believe the Bears Ears Mural, and similar large murals, started a conversation unknowingly with cities across Utah,” Scheurman explained “At the time [of painting the mural] we had just lost Outdoor Retailers due to the threat of downsizing Bears Ears National Monument and I wanted to remind everyone why it was important to keep protected.”

The use of murals to preserve the Granary District is significant. Murals create pride in the neighborhood. They offer a window into a town’s history and interweaves it with our present reality. In a time of gentrification of the west side, the Granary District provides Salt Lake the opportunity simultaneously to step back in time and look forward to the future - a future decided by locals looking to protect what makes Salt Lake City unique.  “Murals revive communities and share a combined language. Art has healing power and it has shown us for thousands of years that we can create beautiful and inspiring works of art, which don't have to be protected under glass,” said Scheuerman.

Grants for the Granary Mural Project are currently being awarded to selected artists and murals are expected to start going up in the neighborhood in June.