Vlasic on Vicious: Behind-the-Scenes at UMOCA’s Annual Gala


Gary Vlasic has an art life and a business life. Luckily for him, he gets the best of both worlds with the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art’s annual gala.

Vlasic began art directing the gala 15 years ago and has since become the chair of its committee. The event is UMOCA’s largest fundraiser of the year, and themes have ranged anywhere from a classic White Party to Pop Art to Western. Typically, there’s a cocktail hour, a dinner, and then the parts of the evening that helps UMOCA continue to thrive: the art auction, silent auction, and live auction.

There’s just one thing, though. UMOCA’s gala falls in the first week of June every year, right before over a dozen other organizations and museums host very similar fundraising galas. Vlasic’s mission, then, is to set UMOCA apart and ensure that UMOCA throws the boldest and most memorable party of them all. (A surefire indicator of a party’s success, Vlasic notes, is whether or not people are dancing.)

“I really try to mess it up,” Vlasic says. “We’re a contemporary art museum. We’re the one group that can push boundaries. Some days, you just have to break the rules and try to do something new.”

And so, UMOCA presents this year’s gala: Vicious. “We’re doing our interpretation of what punk looks like in this day and age,” says Vlasic. “What anarchy’s like as it applies to being in 2015.”

For the first time in 15 years, the gala is moving out of UMOCA’s esoteric white walls and into the noisier and grungier black walls of The Complex. The sit-down dinner is being traded for a more modern and livelier interpretation: cocktail and food stations. X96’s Bill Allred will emcee, and Jeffery Hacker (DJ/DC) will spin the tunes. This time, though, local punk band Foster Body will join the lineup with two thrilling 30-minute sets of their brand of contemporary art punk, a swirling mass of noise, aesthetic, and performance.

“It’s a huge leap for us to branch out this year, to make this a more freeform event,” says Vlasic. He also contacted several designers, architects and artists to visualize their concept of punk and to craft outfits and statement pieces for a punk-chic fashion show. The works will then be auctioned off as part of the silent auction, along with other items that range anywhere from experience packages to tattoo parlor gift certificates.

“We’re working hard to keep people’s attention, to add more entertainment, to keep the party lively and do the auction in the midst of it all,” says Vlasic. After all, he reminds, the biggest emphasis is the art and the continued role that UMOCA plays for Salt Lake City.

“Contemporary art is so important. Every major city, at the heart of its culture, has a contemporary art museum,” says Vlasic.

vicious“The beauty of contemporary art is that it offers room for a broad interpretation, for a mix of challenging work. The beauty of a museum, then, is to challenge and provoke, to make people think, to provide a fun and unexpected experience. Contemporary art is important to keep alive.”

Vicious will take place on Saturday, June 6 at The Complex. Tickets are on sale now.