Central Utah Art Center is about to open a gallery in Salt Lake City Saturday following its eviction last summer from a city owned building in Ephraim. Since CUAC no longer has a presence in Ephraim, what was originally planned as an SLC "satellite" gallery likely will become CUAC's permanent home.
The kick-off show, “After The End,” will include work by Cara Despain, Venessa Gromek, Matthew Choberka, Rebecca Campbell, Bruce Case, Daniel Everett, Lenka Konopasek, Richard Burde, Jason Metcalf and Annie Kennedy.
Chances of CUAC returning to Ephraim dimmed after settlement negotiations stalled and lawyers became part of the dispute.
Many of us who followed CUAC's evolution were intrigued with what appeared to be a story of a rural town, better known for its turkey farms, embracing a gallery that showed challenging works in video, photography, installation and paint. Over the last few years, CUAC (pronounced “quack”) had established itself as one of the state's most foward-looking contemporary art galleries, featuring artists from around the globe.
To bridge the 150-mile gap between its exhibits and the Wasatch Front population cluster and its openings, CUAC found a creative solution by running a monthly party bus in from Salt Lake City and Provo.
But our fantasy of the power of art to bridge any gulf crumpled in July when the City of Ephraim bounced CUAC from the historic Ephraim Granary building.
CUAC curator, artist ("Matter of Words" below) and Sanpete County native Adam Bateman maintains that the residents of the county supported CUAC and its mission. He calls the city's eviction “censorship” following a couple of edgy exhibits. Bateman says CUAC is considering a suit against the city for violating its freedom of expression.
To his mind a return to Ephraim is still possible: “We continue to have presence in Sanpete County and our future programming in Ephraim will depend on the settlement,” Bateman says. But he also acknowledges, "CUAC is really interested in settling the matter and moving on.”
Ephraim City Manager Regan Bolli has little doubt that CUAC will not be returning to Ephraim, at least in a city owned building. He says the City Council has given a “resounding no” to that idea.
Bolli rejects Bateman's allegation that the city censored CUAC. He counters that CUAC failed to live up to the agreement it had with the city in showing “more diverse” art and in providing education programs to local schools. He also says that CUAC mismanaged funding it received from the city and other entities.
“CUAC made certain commitments—by Adam's own admission they didn't follow through. It is that simple,” Bolli says. “They showed only contemporary art with a capital C. We want to show contemporary art and regular art, landscapes and photography. We want that kind of educational facility.”
Bolli also disputes the view that CUAC and its art was embraced by the Sanpete County community. “We hear CUAC is popular in New York and internationally, which is really cool,” says Bolli. “But if you walked two blocks from CUAC, citizens didn't know what CUAC is.”
So, at least for the time being, you can see CUAC's exhibits at 175 E. 200 South, Salt Lake City, beginning with its grand opening Saturday (Dec. 22) at 8 p.m.
Now, start thinking of a new name for the displaced CUAC. "Northern Utah Art Center" is obvious. Utah Museum of Contemporary Art renamed itself, abandoning "Salt Lake Art Center," perhaps CUAC, like a hermit crab, could move into that name? Or simply, "Exile Gallery."