Welcome to OurSLC Blog!

OurSLC is a multi-year civic arts project hosted by the Sorenson Unity Center in collaboration with the West Salt Lake communities of Glendale and Poplar Grove and in partnership with the Salt Lake City Arts Council and the Salt Lake City Division of Parks and Public Lands.

See the work being done as part of the OurSLC: Claim it! with Youth City, City Lab and Latinos in Action at Glendale Middle School and The Westside Storytelling Project by clicking on the tabs on the right under post categories. You can find community member’s participation under the Claim it! photography project link. You can even make your own claim about what is important to you or how you think space should be claimed in your neighborhood by clicking on Get Involved. Lastly, you can find information on upcoming exhibits and related public programs under the Exhibits tab.

Thank you for helping us build this exciting community project.

The Oxbow – From Concept to Construction


Teens are often defined by their rebellious and self-centered attitudes. However, that is not what Donna Pence, the artist working on the OurSLC Claimit! project, found when she met with Glendale students  to talk about a meeting place at the Oxbow site. What she witnessed while working with them is that many were in search of place – a place to call their own where they could be their authentic selves without having to worry about daily struggles. They worked on designing the Oxbow to be a place where people of all ages and backgrounds come together to tell and share their stories and claim this beautiful space within their neighborhood. With this in mind, they created the “Chill Space”.

Student sketch

Student sketch

The “Chill Space” is a circular seating area with a pavilion and decorative/eco-friendly water and light features. This idea is inspired by a traditional fire pit arrangement for storytelling. Once the concept was approved by the Salt Lake City Arts Council Design Board, the next step involved taking it from concept to plan.


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Scale model

Habitat , landscaping and structure were all taken into consideration. In meetings with Parks and Public Lands, one thing that was suggested was that the site provide opportunities for nature study. So, it was decided to incorporate cloud types in the canopies, burning animal tracks in the canopy poles, and various native plant species in thelandscaping, and benches.

The central “fire pit” for the Chill Space/ Story Circle at the Oxbow will be a mosaic representation of fire and water. The students who worked on the concept had the opportunity to work on the mosaic for a week in July at the Sooxbowmural3renson Unity Center.


Next step was to prepare the plans for approval by an engineer.


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After the plans were approved by city engineers, work began at the site. Step one was to deliver the “shaved” lodge pole pine trees. Some of the poles have animal tracks burned into them to look like an animal ran up the tree with muddy feet.

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When complete, this ‘chill space’ will be a beautiful gathering place for the community, conceived by the community.

Latinos in Action students Help Envision Future Public Art at the 9-Line Pump Track


Students from the Latinos in Action program at Glendale Middle School bicycled to the 9-Line Pump Track (900 South and 700 West) to offer their ideas for a future public art installation at the site on Thursday, April 7. The art installation consisted of painting murals and bicycle frames. Students also had the chance to ride the pump track and enjoy Belgian waffles from Waffle Love food truck. They also had the opportunity for Salt Lake Tribune to capture their involvement.

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The event is a part of “OurSLC: Claim it!”, a city-managed, community-driven art project funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The project will result in public art installations in three locations on Salt Lake City’s west side: 9-Line Pump Track, Fred and Ila Rose Fife Wetland Preserve, and Sorenson Unity Center. The installations are expected to be complete by the end of the year.


Latinos in Action at the 9-Line Pump Track

Practicing Artist Statements

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We paired our Altoid box claims with a written statement and the effect was powerful.  These tiny little boxes carry much more weight when given a little insight into the artist’s mind.

We are excited to display these pieces in our art show coming to the Sorenson Unity Center soon!  It will be a show worth seeing.

I am always impressed with the LIA classes.  It looks like chaos but we actually get a lot done.  I challenged each student to push themselves to create a finished piece and they certainly did.


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Sarah Kappos

Art Educator

LIA Art on Display at Sorenson Center

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Would you be able to make a statement about yourself within a 2X3 inch box?

That would be pretty tough, right?

The ambitious students from Glendale Middle School’s Latinos in Action class accepted this challenge to claim something important about themselves within an Altoid box.  Using 3D visual elements and their awesome artistic minds, they have transformed these tiny spaces.  This year the class has been exploring the concept of Claim It!  as part of a National Endowment for the Arts funded program with Salt Lake City and the Unity Center. These young people hope to give a voice to their community, their families, friends and to themselves.

The classroom was a buzz of energy as they discussed what they were thinking about, and rummaged through boxes of fabric, old toys, and paper.  After diving in with their hands and intuition, they stepped back to examine what they had made.  As part of their piece, each artist has written a statement describing the artwork in their own words.  Some of the questions they answered are:

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What is your box trying to say?

Why did you choose the colors/materials that you did?

Did you learn something about yourself while making this box?

How does your art piece show what is important to you?

Is there a story to go with your box?

Does it inspire a poem?

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Look for more artwork from these dynamic artists at the Sorenson Center this May!

Sarah Kappos



Out at the Oxbow


CityLab teens got the chance to get out and about with Lewis Kogan and Nancy Monteith from Salt Lake City’s Parks and Public Lands Division as they toured the Oxbow Site. If you haven’t been there, this is the area just west of where 900 South meets the Jordan River, and where the river makes a gigantic bend (called an oxbow). The whole area has recently been transformed into a wetlands wildlife viewing area, and will soon have a community artwork designed by CityLab.

Lewis helped the Claim it! students learn something about the history of the space, from it being a train line, to a dump, to now a beautiful natural place. We also learned about how the water can soak through the ground and make the pond area go up and down. This means that our design will have to be firmly planted, or flexible enough to survive the floods. Thanks to Lewis and Nancy for guiding us on what can and can’t be included in our installation. Sorry Gabby, we still can’t put a snack shack on one of the little islands, but we can make a chill spot for community gathering.


Along the Jordan River at the Oxbow Nature Park Site


4.5-acre “Oxbow” micro-wetlands restoration area prior to site work, 2012


The Beauty of Sorenson Unity Center

Sorenson Unity Center is a special place to the students, staff and families here, and it is an important part of the community in Glendale. Many of the students’ claims in our classes refer back to Sorenson and the feeling of ownership they have of this space.

There are many spaces to create art at Sorenson, and all have the potential to reflect the love, community devotion, playfulness and hope for the future that YouthCity students express when developing different ‘claims’. My hope is to fill as many spaces as possible with art!

It is a precious gift and huge responsibility to work with youth, to try and create art that truly reflects the community in a real and honest way. My biggest community art inspiration is artist, educator and community activist Judith Baca. About community art, she says, “I want to produce artwork that has meaning beyond simple decorative values. I hope to use public space to create public voice, and consciousness about the presence of people who are often the majority of the population but who may not be represented in any visual way. By telling their stories, we are giving voice to the voiceless and visualizing the whole of the American story while creating sites of public memory.”

This idea of creating sites of “public memory” is supported by our ‘Claimit!’ framework, and it has been an exciting challenge to not only talk to students about public art, but to also work to empower them to began to think about themselves as public artists and spokespersons for their community. They ARE Glendale, and it is a beautiful place.

Tiny World Inside an Altoid Box


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Months ago a friend gifted me with 30 tiny tin Altoid boxes.  They have sat dutifully in my art closet awaiting their purpose.

When I brought them into class, the students were instantly excited and spared neither time nor imagination creating a box for their claims.

Using multi-media objects, spray paint, wire cutters, glue guns and miniature figurines each student made their own box.  We talked about how artists can work in two ways.  One is with a very specific plan which they execute from beginning to end according to that plan.  The artist starts out with an intended message and knows precisely how they want to say it. Another way is to jump in and intuitively create an art piece without knowing which direction it will go.  Then the artist steps back and asks, “What is this?  What does it mean?”

Both are valuable ways of working.  The students appreciated permission to work both ways.  We discussed how an artist will work in whichever way offers them the most creativity and fluency of expression.  No particular way is better than the other.

Students were then asked to articulate in writing, what their art piece signified.  Some questions we answered were:

If your box could tell a story, what would it say?

How do the materials, colors, textures or objects express your message?

What did you learn about yourself making your piece?

Why is this piece important to you?


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Legos in the Lab

This week in CityLab, we’ve been working on lego models of what the teens have coined, “The Chill Space”. They propose it be installed at the Jordan River Oxbow. Currently, the space is underutilized by residents and could use a personal/community touch. Here’s where we come in! The CityLab teens hope to have a fully functioning fire pit with surround seating, a pavilion of sorts, and decorative/eco-friendly water and light features. They expect the space to be frequented by local community members especially during the spring and summer months. Stay reading as we develop our ideas in the coming weeks!

Five Ways Arts Projects Can Improve Communities

In his book, The Creative Community Builder’s Handbook: How to Transform Communities Using Local Assets, Arts and Culture, Tom Borrup identifies 5 ways that arts projects can improve communities. OurSLC Claim it! utilizes a project design that hopes to validate each of these :


Through community- based art making with youth groups and community members we are providing opportunities for increased interactions and invitations for shared conversation.


We have been honored to be a part of many already existing celebrations and will offer some of our own opportunities through our exhibits and documentation at the Unity Center and then again when the three public artworks are installed.


Our work was shaped from the start by a desire to work with youth from multiple age groups and settings and allow them to claim spaces and places from their own perspectives.


These artworks, and all of the work leading up to them call attention to the cultural richness of the Glendale and Poplar Grove neighborhoods.


As community-based arts practitioners we hope to bring people together in conversation and cultural engagement with the West Salt Lake Master Plan and fulfill the specific goals expressed by the community.


The Creative Community Builder’s Handbook can be ordered from the publisher, Fieldstone Alliance. For more information seewww.communityandculture.com or www.livable.com.

Get Involved: Make Your Own Claim


We all make claims every day.

We claim our allegiances- to communities, cultures, clubs and sports teams.

We claim space with signs, fences, parking spots and walls.

We claim to know things and not know things.

We claim that this is mine or that is yours.

We notice when claims are made about us that feel good and when false claims are made about our persons, families or communities.

What does it mean to claim these spaces and places? And how does it feel? If we don’t claim when we have the opportunity, can something get claimed “away” from us?

Contribute your claims and your thoughts by clicking Get Involved and then  “Make a Claim”.