The New Year will bring major changes at the Salt Lake Art Center including a new name and a new senior curator.
Beginning in 2012, the art center will be renamed Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, says executive director Adam Price. The new name is more in tune with the direction of the center, he says, which since the mid-1990s has grown far beyond art classes and local art exhibitions into a museum that shows cutting-edge contemporary art.
When the center was originally launched in 1931, the institution was called the Art Barn. The name was changed to the Salt Lake Art Center in 1958.
"Over the first year I was working here, when I was talking to people, there was confusion about what the Art Center offered," Price says. "Art centers range from institutions like this that are indistinguishable from museums to a place for community-art classes."
It came to a head, he says, when a staff member at the nearby LDS Church's Museum of History and Art told Price that he had been walking by the center for years, "but never stopped in because he didn't know we did exhibitions." Price added: "It's a matter of the name catching up with the evolving role of the institution."
Gretchen Dietrich, executive director of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, says the new name better defines the center's mission and identity. "There is a lot of energy and enthusiasm in our community for art in general, and for contemporary art, more specifically," she says. "Salt Lake is experiencing a flurry of new and renewed museums and cultural institutions supported by eager museumgoers, and I expect the redefined UMoCA will contribute in a positive way to our cultural landscape."
Price said the art center/museum also will announce a new senior curator in mid-January. But he declined to name the man who has accepted the position.
Former senior curator Michol Hebron recently returned to Los Angeles after barely a year at the center, but will continue indefinitely as long-distance chief curator, Price said. Hebron is in touch with the center almost daily and will return to town to mount exhibitions scheduled through 2013.
The new senior curator will also curate exhibitions, and will handle administrative duties at the museum, Price says. The new curator "will add a voice that is geographically distinct from Michol's," Price says.