But then I started asking questions and found myself on an adventure that led me to a whole new side to Utah County, specifically downtown Provo.
So, what is the Gallery Stroll? In a nutshell, on the first Friday of every month, from six to eight, downtown Provo opens their doors to display the artwork of local artists for all to see.
The Gallery Stroll was started in 1999 by the Provo Arts Council under the direction of Kathryn S. Allen, who is currently the Program Director at Downtown Provo Inc. Many of the interviewees discussed the struggle to make the arts a thriving part of Utah County. As Allen told me her story it became clear that there’s a lot of truth behind those feelings.
The Gallery Stroll has had a bumpy row to hoe, but things are looking better than ever before.
“The weather, and definitely the artists and the galleries, but ultimately the energy of the artists and their willingness to promote their work” has made a tremendous difference, Allen said.
I also spoke with Jared Morgan, Executive Director of Downtown Provo Inc. and he was very focused on the topic of “making Downtown a destination spot rather than a pit spot.” He was impressed with the success of a student-run gallery called the Waggenry during the last Gallery Stroll. He said it was by far the most popular show of the Gallery Stroll.
The Waggenry studio was started by a young painter named Steven Waggoner who needed a space to paint and wanted to get involved. He and fellow painter Annie Henry (the studio’s title is a fusion of their last names) converted the decrepit loft into a usable space, and they’ve since collaborated with local artists to make the studio a destination point for the community.
Jann Neilson, one of five artists who displayed at the Waggenry during last month’s Gallery Stroll, had an extremely successful show—selling two pieces and getting commissioned for two more. “It was a dream come true,” she said.
Not only is the Gallery Stroll a way to connect with your community and get involved, but it’s a great evening for date night, or a night out with the girls, boys or family. Galleries are encouraged to provide light refreshments so there’s free food along the way.
Start at the Covey Center for the Arts enjoy the current art display, note the fabulous stained glass windows and receive directions to the next gallery. Each gallery will send you in the right direction, completing a circuit of six galleries scattered throughout downtown Provo.
But the Gallery Stroll is about more than just art. Music (including the free “rooftop concert series” beginning this Spring) and performances (including mimes and gypsy dancers) are often included in the roster. And twice a year, in April and October, they have the “Art Chase.” Patrons are given cards with partial pictures of an artwork throughout the stroll. Each time they match a piece with one of the pictures they get their card punched. If they can fill up their cards they can submit them into a drawing where they have the chance of winning all sorts of prizes ranging from gift baskets, original artwork and free nights at local Hotels.
When all is said and done, the Gallery Stroll is about uniting the community—and creativity is the glue.
By Abbey Elison