Light in the Dark: GLOW at the Gallivan Center

Though we’re well into the darkest and coldest days of the year, downtown Salt Lake features an oasis of light so jam-packed with joy and wonder it’s sure to chase off even your most stubborn midwinter doldrums. GLOW, on display now at the Gallivan Center Plaza (239 S. Main St., SLC), encompasses nine different LED-lit sculptures, commissioned by THE BLOCKS and created by In Theory Art Collective.  

Photo by Bobbi Tolman.

But calling GLOW’s art pieces sculptures doesn’t do this experience justice. Gallivan Plaza has been transformed with luminescent flowers and animals, multidimensional stars that float overhead from the plaza’s pergolas, and a tunnel of offset-lit cubes and a glowing arch that invites passing through and under. Iterations of GLOW have appeared at the Gallivan for the past two winters, but never with as many pieces as are displayed for this year’s installation. “THE BLOCKS gave us carte blanche to create what we wanted, and the vision became to not just have one or two pieces but to draw people through the space in a celebratory and inspirational way,” says Emily Nicolosi, In Theory Art Collective director and artist.

Emily and Ian Nicolosi (and their baby). Emily is the lead artist and director of In Theory Art Collective and Ian is a contributing artist to the collective. Photo by Bobbi Tolman

A theme central to this year’s GLOW is celebrating Utah’s diverse natural, cultural and social landscapes “in an inherently positive way, full of joy and love,” says Nicolosi. “And we wanted at least one of the installations to be created in collaboration with a Native American artist or group of artists.” And so In Theory invited author Laura Tohe (, a Navajo Nation Poet Laureate, to write a short poem inspired by GLOW’s place-specific theme. The result is “You belong to the earth,” a beautifully optimistic and comforting elegy that In Theory republished in scripty neon text as part of GLOW. “The inspiration,” Tohe explained, “was to remind us that we are all a part of this planet we call Nahasdzáán, Mother Earth. She sustains us, human and non-human, animate and non-animate, by providing us with everything we need to exist. We don’t have another place to live. More so during global warming, I hope that we take more seriously our responsibility to care for the earth and in doing so, we take care of ourselves. I want my children and grandchildren to live in a world that has a healthy heart.”

Other GLOW pieces include Columbine Clusters, illuminated interpretations of one of Utah’s most defining native wildflowers, and Fauna Illuminata, clear acrylic, LED-lit animal sculptures created on a 3-D printer depicting Utah’s endangered species—both of which are interspersed among Gallivan Plaza’s evergreen “forest.” Treehive is a collection of neon hexagons in varying sizes, created originally for THE BLOCKS Open Streets initiative, revived for GLOW to call attention to the threatened Western bumble bee. And those who’ve visited the Gallivan Center in the past will remember Miri the Star, a multidimensional, lit snowflake sculpture, and koro loko, an on-point heart Nicolosi made originally to display at the 2019 Burning Man Festival and that seeded creation of In Theory Art Collective.

Even in daylight, GLOW’s dichroic sculptures liven up the winter landscape. Photo by Bobbi Tolman.

Nicolosi invites you to enter GLOW from the Gallivan Plaza’s Main Street entrance when you go. You’ll be greeted by Polychroma, a 16-foot-tall, steel-framed arch lit with LED lighting that graduates from black and white to the colors of the rainbow. “This piece acknowledges Utah’s LGBTQ+ community and is a metaphor for the fact that diversity is a beautiful thing,” Nicolosi says.

GLOW is on display at the Gallivan Center through the end of February. Admission is free and open to the public.  

Melissa Fields
Melissa Fields
Melissa (O' Brien) Fields is a contributing editor to Utah Bride & Groom magazine and a contributing writer for Salt Lake magazine. She is an accomplished freelance writer and editor with more than 20 years of experience.

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