Art Barn Association (1931-1958)

Alta Rawlins Jensen is the person most responsible for the foundation of the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (formerly known as the Salt Lake Art Center). An activist and visionary, Jensen conceived of a contemporary art center for Salt Lake City and Utah. In 1931, she co-founded the Art Barn Association with those who shared her dream and served as its first President.

Beginning in 1932, the Art Barn, which was located near the University of Utah campus and was managed entirely by volunteers, began to host art classes and exhibit artwork.

The exhibitions featured avant-garde pieces from local, regional, national, and international artists. Although Utah artists were exhibited in the galleries with some frequency, there was a larger emphasis on the necessity of introducing the Utah community to artists from outside the state. It was also not unusual to find numerous exhibitions curated by galleries or museums in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco in the galleries.

Salt Lake Art Center (1958-2011)

In 1958, the Art Barn’s name changed to the Salt Lake Art Center, and in 1961, the institution saw the hiring of James Haseltine, its first paid full-time director. Under Haseltine’s direction, SLAC began a more in-depth exploration on Abstract Expressionism, architecture, and sculpture.

When the institution moved to its current location in 1979, SLAC found itself in the heart of Salt Lake City and the cultural center of Utah. In 1984, SLAC underwent its first and only major outdoor renovation, adding a new ramp, revolving doors, and the signature glass pyramid atop the entrance.

Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (2011-present)

In 2011, SLAC became the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, a re-branding that better discloses to the public the organization’s function as a museum that specializes in contemporary art. From its groundbreaking exhibitions to its extensive education and outreach programs, UMOCA continues to encourage and inspire people to explore what it means to exist in today’s world.