Environmental Art Adorns New Trax Station

17 Apr

Your link to the happenings throughout the College of Fine Arts, interpreted by us, the spring 2013 MUSE Arts Journalist Interns. 

By Lindsey Wilbur, Guest Blogger

The long-awaited Airport TRAX line (part of UTA’s existing Green Line) had it’s grand opening this past weekend!

With the opening came the debut of new artwork by Shawn Porter, an artist among us here at the U. There’s no doubt that the new TRAX line has students at the U looking forward to airport access via light rail, but it’s the art installation adorning the new platform at the intersection of North Temple and 1950 West that’s generating excitement for students in the College of Fine Arts.

Porter’s artwork, entitled Spatial Perception, has changed the landscape of the TRAX line that runs along North Temple.

Porter works as the Facility Supervisor of the ART Building and proposed his idea to disseminate an environmental message in artwork along the new TRAX line, in a letter, to the Salt Lake City Arts Council. He was later commissioned by UTA to create his installation.

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Photos Courtesy of Holly Christmas and Shawn Porter

Porter worked tirelessly behind the scenes of UTA’s light rail construction, with the help of his wife, Holly Christmas, friend, Mike McGlothen and sculpture professor in the Art and Art History Department, Dave Eddy.  At times Porter says the team formed an assembly line grinding, cutting, and welding steel to form the reed grasses that shoot up through a water-like wave of steel.  Porter also cast bronze birds for the art installation by employing lost wax, a process that uses wax to form a mold of a sculpture before it can be cast in bronze.

Even with the help of his supporters, Porter’s project was a two-year undertaking that required him to adjust his regular work schedule to accommodate three-day weekends devoted to working on his artwork.

Though Porter had to commit his weekends to the project, he said that reaching out to the community is one of the rewards he gets out of creating public art.

Porter’s motivation to increase the local public’s awareness of Salt Lake’s natural environment formed during his own development as an artist.  Porter’s art has roots in furniture making that, while always aesthetic, grew away from practicality and became more and more artistic until Porter’s skills expanded to include wood bending and sculpting.  While utilizing the Salt Flats as an aesthetic location to photograph some of his work, Porter’s own eyes were opened to the wildlife inhabiting the Great Salt Lake environment.

“People think of the Great Salt Lake as a smelly wasteland,” Porter said, “but it’s an active ecosystem.  If they get out there they might think otherwise.”

Porter’s installation is an attempt to change people’s perception of the Great Salt Lake as a “smelly wasteland.” He hopes they are able to see it as the necessary environment that it is for a variety of wildlife.

Redwinged Black Birds and Wison’s Phalarope are two species of birds that inhabit the area Porter incorporated into Spatial Perception.  In fact, according to Porter, the Great Salt Lake is actually the largest breeding ground of the Wilson’s Phalarope.

In addition the artistic design of his artwork, Porter considered how he could incorporate the diverse group of people who will be exposed to Spatial Perception.

At its location on North Temple and 1950 West, the TRAX stop provides service to the Utah State Library for the Blind and Disabled. To include these citizens in the conversation, Porter included brail inscriptions of prose he wrote that describes the liveliness of the Great Salt Lake ecosystem.

Porter says it is a relief to see the successful completion of his work; and now you can enjoy the fruits of his labor!


The e-zine 15 Bytes and Salt Lake City Arts Council, in partnership with Salt Lake Gallery Stroll, invite you to take a stroll via TRAX this Friday, April 19, 6-9 pm as part of your monthly Gallery Stroll. According to 15 Bytes, “the first 200 art lovers who show up at Mestizo Gallery after 6 p.m. on the 19th will receive a free ticket to ride the new TRAX line that evening.”


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8 responses to “Environmental Art Adorns New Trax Station

  1. josephpatrickrichards

    April 17, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    I am pleased not only to see the opening of the airport line, but also to see the artistic offering along the rails. Thanks for the report.

  2. Toni Smith

    April 18, 2013 at 11:07 pm

    Wow Shawn, such a lovely piece! Thank you for including the braille poetry. People with disabilities, especially the blind, are so often left out of the art community. You found a really beautiful way to include an underrepresented group while honoring the location and function of the work. You are such an incredible asset to our University community and our department specifically.

    • fineartsutahstudents

      April 19, 2013 at 11:59 am

      Thanks for leaving your comments. We’re proud to have students writing about the great work being done by individuals in the College.

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