Sonali Lumba, owner of Kaladharaa Dance and Indian classical dancer, left, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and Srilata Singh, owner of Chitrakaavya Dance and Indian classical dancer and teacher, speak after a panel discussion on the future of art and technology Thursday. (Christine Murphy, Deseret News)
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SALT LAKE CITY — Derek Dyer thinks people have two options when it comes to augmented reality technology “that’s coming to us whether we like it or not.”
Dyer, executive director of the Utah Arts Alliance, said people can either embrace augmented reality technology — making it a “cool, good thing” — or they can “let it be a really bad (thing) … it’s going to ours lives worse.”
The Utah Arts Alliance sees the merging of art and technology as something beneficial, he said. That’s why he’s trying to get ahead of the game.
For example, November 11-12 is the group’s annual Illuminate festival, which takes place at the Gateway and features indoor and outdoor art displays that bring technology and artwork together. On November 11, as part of the festival, the alliance will debut its first drone show at 20:00 in Bibliotheca Square, where 150 synchronized drones will create glowing images in the sky. They’ve also created several augmented reality apps, such as the SCANNOW AR app, which enhances artwork placed throughout the city.
“Tech as art is one of the most underrepresented art forms that we’ve really tried to encourage here,” Dyer said. “Salt Lake City is on the cusp of an art renaissance. … We can be a global tourism hub if we support our artists.”
Dyer’s comments came during the Art for the Future panel held Thursday at Gateway’s Lost Eden Gallery.
Dyer, along with Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, Weber State University art professor Maria del Mar Gonzalez-Gonzalez, and JOYMOB founder Bahaa Chmeit, discussed the intersection of art, technology, and the city.
Mendenhall said she’s been happy to support the arts and the community during her time as mayor — in fact, three full-time positions were added to the Arts Council in the last budget, she said, the first increase in Arts Council staff in a decade .
Mendenhall said the Arts Council supports community arts programs through everything from festivals to grant programs, “and we’re so proud to do that with our taxpayer dollars … (The arts) are good for the soul and the economy and creates an authentic culture.”
Creating authentic experiences is the goal of the Chmait organization. JOYMOB focuses on creating human connection through events such as street dance parties and writing “love letters” that are left in public places.
Chmait said growing up with Lebanese parents in a “white Ukrainian Christian town” in Canada came with some challenges, with his family wanting him to live by old-world values in a community where he was surrounded by the new world.
But those challenges gave him “the stepping stone to be a programmer, someone who programs our culture and my community,” he said. “I think we have a real opportunity here in Salt Lake City, especially with all the economic development (and) the new infrastructure … to really shape Salt Lake City for generations to come.”
“We’re trying to reinvent the way we think about public spaces and gatherings,” he said. “We create bold spaces where people can be their authentic selves.”
And González-González emphasized the importance of supporting different works of art.
She teaches Latin American art history, she said, and Latin American artists are “horribly underrepresented” in the art community. That’s why, in her upcoming partnership with the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, she’s focused on expanding representation within predominantly white spaces, she said.
“I want us to think about more nuanced and complex ways of presenting ourselves,” she said.