Salt Lake’s Art Community Mourns The Closing Of Contemporary Gallery

Apr 20, 2017

Contemporary art center CUAC, located downtown, will close its doors for good this weekend. CUAC started in Ephraim more than 20 years ago. 

Back then it was called the Central Utah Art Center, now it goes by that acronym: CUAC (pronounced like ‘quack’). In Ephraim, CUAC mostly featured landscape art by locals. Executive Director Adam Bateman is from Ephraim and took the helm at the gallery in 2005, shifting its focus to contemporary art.

Bateman says the move from Ephraim to Salt Lake City came in 2012, he invited some Ephraim City officials to visit the gallery.

“They came into the gallery, saw that we had two photographs by Chitra Ganesh and Xaveria Simmons, respectively, that showed bare breasts. And the next day we were evicted,” Bateman says.

CUAC sued over censorship and the city settled, giving the art center $60,000. Bateman reopened the gallery near 2nd South and 2nd East downtown.

Since then, he’s focused on a couple of things: one is to create a place for Utah artists to show their work in Utah.

“We’re unique in our ability to do that,” Bateman says, “and also to show high-profile, successful artists from outside of Utah. And then we try to pair those artists with artists from Utah who maybe haven’t had the opportunity to be peer reviewed outside.”

CUAC’s closing will leave a hole in Utah’s art community, says Whitney Tassie, a curator of modern and contemporary art at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. Tassie recalled a recent exhibition where a couple artists from Florida took over CUAC’s space.

“There was fire, and airplane-timed printing of paper and really big ideas,” Tassie says. “And you just aren’t going to see those pieces in other galleries or museums around here.

CUAC will close its doors for good this weekend. It’s hosting a farewell party beginning at 6 p.m. on Friday.