THE BLOCKS - What You Need to Know About Utah's Premier Arts, Cultural & Entertainment District

March 04, 2019 Written by

On a sun-dappled July day in 2018, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, staff from the Salt Lake City Downtown Alliance and officials from Salt Lake County’s Center for the Arts gathered on Exchange Place Plaza to announce a new partnership. Dubbed THE BLOCKS in reference to our capital city’s famously large city blocks, this collaboration, they explained, was created to showcase downtown Salt Lake City’s broad range of artistic, cultural and entertainment programming. “With its wide variety of venues, audiences and non-stop creative energy, THE BLOCKS offers a quality and consistent experience you cannot get anywhere else in Utah,” Biskupski said.
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THE BLOCKS spans downtown Salt Lake City’s urban core, running from the west side of 600 West to the east side of 400 East, and the north side of North Temple to the south side of 400 South. A smidgen of the offerings and events located within this conveniently compact area include the El Mac & Retna Ave Maria mural (160 E. 200 South) and Jann Haworth’s SLC Pepper mural (250 S. 400 West), the monthly Third Friday Gallery Stroll, the Utah Arts Festival, Abravanel Hall, the Eccles Theatre, the Twilight Concert Series, the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, the Craft Lake City DIY Festival, Pride Weekend, the Living Traditions Festival and variety of events celebrating local Greek, the Pacific Island, Italian, Japanese and Hispanic communities. “With experiences ranging from intimate to arena, traditional to contemporary, world-renowned to backyard, structured to spontaneous, highly-refined to cutting-loose, THE BLOCKS is Salt Lake’s Cultural Core,” says Tyler Bloomquist, Downtown Alliance artistic director of the Cultural Core.
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One of the exciting initiatives as part of THE BLOCKS is a mural inside the underpass at 200 West. Earlier this year, THE BLOCKS partnered with the Salt Palace Convention Center to create a community mural in this previously underutilized space. Six local artists—Traci O’Very Covey, Chuck Landvatter, Matt Monsoon, Evan Jed Mammott, Alexis Rose and Jimmi Toro—created 150-foot-wide, paint-by-numbers style mural along the wall of the underpass, which the public was then invited to help fill in during a celebration held in August.
“As Salt Lake City is embracing our new growth and outside interest, we have seen an infrastructural shift to answer the demand for an engaging and inviting urban lifestyle,” Bloomquist says. “With more people living, working, commuting into, and experiencing downtown, now is the ideal time to reimagine our public spaces, forge new collaborations focused on creative problem solving, galvanize our street life, and celebrate our diversity. Now is the time to create the downtown we have always wanted.
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How will this happen? By supporting and championing our creative community.” And while the quality of life benefits downtown Salt Lake’s artistic community provides are likely immeasurable, the economic impacts of our city’s arts offerings are very much quantifiable and play a key role in our state’s financial well-being. According to a study by Americans for the Arts, 7.4 million people attended arts and culture events in Utah in 2015, spending more than $194 million in the process. Furthermore, spending by Utah arts and cultural organizations and their audiences support more than 10,000 jobs.
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“In THE BLOCKS we have great dining, amazing theaters, and interesting visual arts and we want the entire surrounding regional community to know about and experience all this district has to offer,” says Sarah Pearce, division director of Salt Lake County’s Center for the Arts. “This joint effort by Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City is a testament that investing in the arts makes huge impacts both directly and indirectly to the economic vitality of a community. Visual arts can stimulate a lonely alley or abandoned building and performing arts, film and music events attract audiences that spend money not only on tickets but also at surrounding retail, restaurants and bars. And, a community with a vibrant arts scene attracts new visitors, new residents and new businesses.”

So, whether you’re looking for a new gallery, a poetry reading, a play by a celebrated local writer, a performance of a Bach masterpiece, an edgy piece of street art, the nation’s biggest LGBTQ festival, engaging architecture, whetting your pallet with a new cocktail or coffee, creating alongside your kids at a contemporary art museum or simply stumbling across a ballet versus breakdance battle, THE BLOCKS has you covered.