Utah’s capital is so much more than just mountains, moguls and members. It’s a thriving metropolis full of urban art waiting to be discovered — from massive murals standing five stories tall to colorful sidewalk engravings measuring just a square foot or so. Look around! Look around! Look up, look up and look down. (OK … those lyrics may have been altered a bit, but you get the idea.) There’s street art everywhere.
Next time you're downtown, stroll through its outdoor museum and admire these wall murals in Salt Lake City. Keep your eyes open for smaller paintings sprinkled on the sides of coffee shops, florists, restaurants and other local businesses. There are also tiled/painted planters and artistic bicycle racks installed along the city’s Cycle Track on 300 South.
SLC Pepper | 250 South 400 West
There’s a lot of history on this wall. You can’t help but stand in awe as you look at the 50-by-30-foot mural.
When Jann Haworth set out to recreate the larger-than-life version of her Grammy-winning album cover of The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” nearly four decades after its release, she wanted it to include more ethnic and gender diversity. Many of the people depicted in the original artwork were replaced by people who have shaped our culture for the better, like the Dali Lama and Martin Luther King Jr. Even Ellen DeGeneres received a place on the wall for advocating equal rights (though our culture has since canceled her for not quite being the sweetheart America once thought she was).
More than 33 artists worked together to complete the first phase of the mural in 2005, including youth volunteers. The finished product is iconic to say the least. It’s a celebration of community and social change. Instead of immediately trying to get an Insta-worthy shot by positioning your phone through the iron fence, take a moment to let it all soak in. Chances are your picture is going to be as crooked as a tween’s unorthadontia’d teeth anyway.
Book Mural | 222 S Main Street
Once that tween has turned into a teen with a straight smile, bring her to this quaint courtyard tucked back away from Main Street next to a parking garage. Book Mural is a popular place for senior photos and graduation pics. But it’s also a great place for bibliophiles to sit and sip some soda on a date or enjoy a sack lunch in the middle of the workday.
Utah artist Paul Heath — who characterizes his work as “pop nostalgia” — was commissioned by Sam Weller’s Books to create the mural in 2004 for the retailer’s 75th anniversary. The company has since changed its name to Weller Book Works and moved to a different location in SLC, but this painted chapter in its history remains. The single row of spines includes both classic and popular titles, from “The Grapes of Wrath” to “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
Fun fact to impress your date with: The mural was originally supposed to have a shelf of books on top of this one, but the money ran out.
Wildlife Wall | 239 S Main Street
Like mom’s refrigerator … but bigger. And better. The Gallivan Center’s Wildlife Wall isn’t the type of street art you might expect. It features 48 bronze engravings translated from the artwork of first graders. Mixed media artist Day Christensen worked with Metal Arts Foundry, a Lehi company, to create the grid in 1994. The kids are now adults, but their imperfectly written names remain forever young on each art piece.
Nature of Wisdom | 150 S State Street
How does a mural on a five-story wall measuring 150-feet wide come to life? With one boom crane, several private donors and a lot of paint. Like, a lot a lot. The building’s owner turned the bland brick wall into a blank black canvas before internationally renowned street artist Yvette Vexta went to work with countless cans of neon spray paint.
At the heart of Nature of Wisdom is the flammulated owl. The nocturnal creature is about the size of a robin IRL. But on this Salt Lake City mural — one of Utah’s largest — it’s supersized and perched on brightly colored shapes inspired by the geometry of the salt crystals at Bonneville Salt Flats. It took her about two weeks to complete the project.
Utah Jazz Mural | 102 S Main Street
A wall depicting four decades of basketball greatness? In the immortal words of “Hot Rod” Hundley, “You gotta love it, baby!” From Pistol Pete to The Stifle Tower and all of our favorite Jazzmen who came in the years between (yes, Stockton, Malone and Coach Sloan are also featured), the mural celebrates those who have largely impacted Utah’s NBA franchise.
Trent Call created the artwork in pieces then collaged the elements together before painting the wall’s 3,400 square feet. This isn’t one to quickly walk by. Jazz fans who study it closely will find little details from the team’s history, like a scoreboard with 103-100 on it honoring one of the proudest playoff moments of 1997. Strike that. Stockton’s game-winning, series-clinching three was definitely one of the best moments of all time. (Michael Jordan’s infamous push off a year later? Not so much.)
Pro tip: Bring your giant foam finger to make it easier to point out those deets to your crew … and look super cool while doing it.
Head to Center Street to explore small businesses, local art, and live music in Downtown Provo. The Provo Art Stroll is a self guided art tour that takes place on the first Friday of every month in Downtown Provo! Art Stroll maps can be found at every participating location.