Why search for art and architecture in Provo, Utah?
Provo, Utah is a university town rich with history and nestled in the Wasatch Mountains. It’s also a melting pot of diverse cultures and languages as students from all over the world are drawn to Brigham Young University. And it’s growing into its own as it promotes art, gastronomical pleasures, and the entrepreneurial spirit.
Provo is also a place I find myself visiting over and over again. I have seen its transformation taking place over the last 33 years…since I first showed up as a college student at BYU in 1982. I met my husband there, gave birth to my first two children there, and have seen all four of my children attend college there. It’s not my home, but it sure feels like it sometimes.
My most recent trip was not unlike many others…drive from San Diego, stay with family members, help move a college student into a new apartment or attend a special family event, eat out at a few restaurants, discover a new attraction or a new business, and spend some time just exploring. Because it’s fun to reminisce and because there’s always something new to discover.
On this excursion, I wanted to search for art and architecture in Provo — specifically, the downtown district, which surrounds the intersection of Center Street and University Avenue. The recently restored Provo City Center Temple and beautiful grounds provides a perfect centerpiece to Provo’s downtown district, a wonderful mix of old and new, as well as traditional and eclectic. I found that by exploring the art and architecture in Provo, you can learn a lot about its culture.
Provo City Center Temple
The Provo City Center Temple used to be the Provo Tabernacle, built in 1898 and destroyed by fire in 2010. Rather than just demolish the remaining outer shell of the historic building, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints decided to re-build the tabernacle and create a new temple (50 S. University Ave). Lesson learned: Anything can be made beautiful and new again! The grounds are landscaped with flower gardens, an intricate copper fountain, and a statue depicting the joy of family. If you’d like to know more about what’s inside an LDS temple, click here. You can also learn more about the importance of family at this link.
Nu Skin Innovation Center
As you wander west from the temple, down Center Street, the next building you come to is the Nu Skin Innovation Center (75 West Center Street). Nu Skin invested more than $100 million in downtown Provo, and it shows! With its modern silhouette and outdoor courtyard, as well as its grand lobby and atrium, the Nu Skin campus is quite stunning. Plants and reflections become art. A statue inspires. Space that lifts your eyes heavenward is exciting.
Wasatch Contemporary Dance Company
Wasatch Contemporary Dance Company recently posed for a photo shoot at the Nu Skin Innovation Center. WCDC is another force aimed at extending art and creativity to more of the community surrounding Provo.
WCDC’s mission is to ‘develop Utah County’s potential as a hub for the arts by teaching dance in the community, providing accessible and affordable performances for all audiences, and collaborating with local artists of all fields.’ (WCDC photo credit: Luke Isley)
As I continued to stroll down Center Street, I happened upon two examples of street art: a historic mural and an underwater scene. I’d love to see even more of this kind of art in Provo!
Here Home & Gift
Since art can also come in the form of creative encouragement, I just have to mention a new store on Center Street, called “Here”, found at 26 Center Street. It’s an art, home and gift gallery that provides independent creators a brick-and-mortar marketplace.
The twenty-or-so minutes I spent browsing through this boutique was a pleasure! I’m sure you will love finding things that are 1) unique, 2) affordable, and 3) look like museum pieces! Did I escape without losing a few dollars? Absolutely not! Nor did I mind.
Underground Social Hall
Around the corner at 65 N. University Avenue is the Underground Social Hall, a special events venue that is literally underground. When I was in college, this used to be a very popular prohibition-era decorated restaurant with an old 20’s car sitting in the middle. To reminisce, I just had to check it out. Doing so feels a little like walking back in time — all the way back to the 1800’s, when the building was built. I loved the beautiful staircase, old stone walls, and historic sketches.
If architectural history is your thing, downtown Provo won’t disappoint. Across the street from the Underground (20-24 N. University Avenue), look for the Knight Block, on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1900 by Jesse Knight, it is a beautiful example of early Provo historic architecture.
Utah County Courthouse building
Just a block away, you can tour the grounds of the neoclassic Utah County Courthouse (151 S. University Avenue), built in 1926. Read the description of the sculptures found above the main entrance:
Justice stands with her balances resting upon the law, in one hand, with her sword in the other. On the right of Justice sits a woman representing the County, supporting a shield bearing the inscription, ‘County of Utah’ and in the other a cornucopia,overflowing with good. The arts and industries are represented at her side. Horticulture is represented by fruit trees; dairying and stock raising by an animal projecting beyond the tree; mining by the pick and shovel; and further down, her sheep raising and poultry farming. On the other side of Justice, you can see Provo City, enthroned and supporting a shield with the inscription ‘City of Provo.’ She is flanked by symbols of the arts, industry and education.
The grounds of the Utah County Courthouse include other sculptures as well.
Courthouse grounds sculptures
Gary Price, the sculptor of the ‘Children of Peace statue, said, “Children are the hope of the future and if anything represents peace it is children releasing doves into the air.
‘Responsibility + Liberty = Freedom’, is a pair of clasped hands that serves as a prototype for a 300-ft tall statue that is planned to be built and displayed on the west coast of the U.S. The idea for the statue came from Viktor Frankl’s book, “Man’s Search for Meaning”, where he proposed that a Statue of Responsibility is needed to bookend the Statue of Liberty on the east coast. This statue was also created by Gary Price.
‘The American Family’ is the work of Avard Fairbanks and honors the love, hope, faith, and unity of the Latter-Day Saint family.
Any more art and architecture in Provo?
You’ll find more sources of art and architecture in Provo — sculptures, creative landscaping, fountains, art galleries, sleek architecture and historic buildings. I was surprised to learn there’s even a historic library that was gifted to the city of Provo by Andrew Carnegie (15 North 100 East).
- I’d love to attend Provo’s First Friday Downtown Provo Art Stroll between May and September. Art galleries are open late in the evening, and often include live music and refreshments. The public is welcome and admission is free.
- The Provo Covey Center for the Arts hosts over 200 performance events a year — most of which are produced and performed by members of the community.
- For a thorough study of art (visual and performing) in Provo, you’ll want to visit Brigham Young University. The BYU Museum of Art is a first-class art museum with traveling and permanent exhibits. While you can find art displayed in the library, the Joseph F Smith building, and the Harris Fine Arts Center galleries, the entire BYU campus has many artistic surprises.
- Use this link to find an interactive map of all historic buildings in Provo.
I enjoyed discovering art and architecture in Provo. Through its art, I learned what is important to Provo — primarily family, history, freedom, and innovation. Provo is promoting and supporting art — and there’s plenty of room for more art here, in its many forms.
What kind of art would you like to see expanded in Provo? What art have you enjoyed? How do you search for and support art in your own home town?
**I’ve partnered with GPSmyCity, and this article can now be downloaded free by using this link. You may read it offline, or upgrade for a small fee to receive the article with GPS coordinates embedded. You won’t need the internet or data to be guided through Provo! I will receive a few cents commission, which helps to keep this blog going–thank you!