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.


scale model

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.