Light, Love & Luminescence: Downtown Salt Lake City’s Must-See Art Installation

November 22, 2023 Written by Melissa Fields. PHOTOS by BOBBI TOLMAN

Beginning November 24, 2023, the Gallivan Center ignites with “GLOW,” an awe-inspiring art experience created by In Theory Art Collective. And though you may already be familiar with “GLOW”—parts of the current installation have appeared at the Gallivan and as part of Open Streets previously—this season’s version is larger and even more magical than past iterations, with a broadened theme celebrating Utah’s diverse natural, cultural and social landscapes. “‘GLOW’ now dives deeper into social and environmental themes, but in an inherently positive way that remains full of joy and love,” says Emily Nicolosi, lead artist and director of In Theory Art Collective. Discover GLOW November 24 through February every night at Gallivan Center, dusk till 10pm.
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The seed that blossomed into “GLOW” is very personal for Nicolosi. In 2019, she experienced a profound loss and “I had to do something,” she said. That something turned out to be koro loko, a twelve-foot-tall dimensional heart, strung with more than 2,000 shimmering dichroic squares, engineered to stand on point. With the help of her then fiancé and now husband, Ian, and several friends, who would become In Theory Art Collective, Nicolosi took koro loko (Esperanto for “heart place”) to Burning Man that fall. There, in front of her plump and glittery heart sculpture, Nicolosi and Ian were married. A year later, when THE BLOCKS issued a call for art pieces to display on Gallivan Plaza for the 2020-21 holiday season, In Theory applied with koro loko. The piece was selected and displayed with Paige Tashner’s Purr Pods, a pair of cat sculptures that, ironically, had also debuted at Burning Man in 2019. Programmers with THE BLOCKS invited In Theory to return koro loko to the Gallivan for the 2021-22 winter season. When they received an invitation to display their work at the Gallivan for a third time in 2022-23, In Theory created two more pieces to display with koro loko—a snowflake-like sculpture titled Miri the Star and an interactive piece they called Love is … that asked viewers to write their definition of love on a plexiglass square to add to the display.


“For this year’s ‘GLOW,’ we wanted at least one part of the installation to be a collaboration with a Native American artist or group to help amplify Native voices and perspectives,” Nicolosi says. And so In Theory approached Laura Tohe, current Navajo Nation Poet Laureate, with an invitation to write a poem reflecting “GLOW” 2023’s environmental and social consciousness theme. The result is “You belong to the earth,” a beautifully optimistic and comforting poem that In Theory republished in a display of scripty neon text to include in “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 inanimate, by providing us with everything we need to exist. We don’t have another place to live. More so during global warming, my hope is 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.” 


The balance of the pieces In Theory Art Collective designed and fabricated to appear along with koro loko and Miri as part of “GLOW” 2023, include:

  • Polychroma, a 14-feet-tall, steel-framed arch lit with state-of-the-art LED technology. “This piece acknowledges Utah’s LGBTQ+ community and is a metaphor for the fact that diversity is a beautiful thing,” Nicolosi says;
  • Treehive, a revival of an installation In Theory created for Open Streets made up of LED neon hexagons in varying colors and sizes. For “GLOW,” the Polychroma arch will anchor a Treehive corridor into Gallivan Plaza from Main Street, inviting visitors to enter the experience. “This piece is also meant to call attention to the endangered Western bumble bee,” Nicolosi says;
  • Columbine Clusters, illuminated interpretations of one of Utah’s most lovely and defining wildflowers, interspersed among the Gallivan Center’s traditional “forest” of lit holiday trees;
  • Fauna Illuminata, clear acrylic animal sculptures created on a 3-D printer and lit from within by LED lights, depicting Utah’s endangered species and placed, with the Columbine Clusters, within the Gallivan Center’s holiday “forest;”
  • Prismatic Portals, lit steel squares, placed in a progressively off-set, tunnel-like alignment that, according to “GLOW’s” artistic statement, “invite travelers to summon their destination as they move in and through these mind-bending, color-shifting, swirling gateways;”
  • and Crystalline Fantasia, three-dimensional, polyhedral stars and diamonds made in the same format as Miri the Star, floating above the Gallivan pergola.

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“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 with multiple experiential pieces in a celebratory and inspirational way,” Nicolosi says. “I hope that it becomes a destination that folks will want to visit again and again all winter long.”

Downtown Alliance Executive Director Dee Brewer echoed Nicolosi’s sentiment. “’GLOW’ is an opportunity to experience the winter side of downtown Salt Lake City,” Brewer says. “It pairs nicely with dining at any of the dozens of nearby restaurants and bars or with ice skating with friends or family at Gallivan Plaza.”

“GLOW” opens on the Gallivan Center Plaza (239 S. Main St) on November 24, 2023 and will remain on display through the end of February 2024. Admission is free and open to the public thanks to a generation sponsorship from the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation.