Fine art photography gallery The High Points is among the many art galleries inside the newly opened Container Park downtown on East Fremont.Courtesy Photo
Bursts of flame spew from the towering antenna of a giant metal praying mantis; with its explosive bellows and warm gusts, it grabs the attention of visitors to the Downtown Container Park.
The pyrotechnic insect is a kinetic sculpture and refuge from Burning Man by Salt Lake City artist Kirk Jellum. Like some mythical guardian to the Container Park on Fremont Street, each fiery burst affirms the fun and creative goodies to be sampled inside.
Nestled next to the praying mantis, like a giant glowing egg or perhaps cocoon for the massive beast, is the Catalyst Dome. With softly shifting hues, the multifaceted bubble by Vortex Immersion Media is already an impressive light sculpture when viewed from outside, but the space within brings a fully immersive experiences with art installations, a full-dome cinema, astronomy, music and more.
Inside the 1 1/2-acre park, white lights climb the limbs of trees and strings of bulbs cross the air. People wander the shops and pause for a bite at the petit eateries. There’s a feeling of discovery, like stumbling upon a hidden carnival tucked inside a stack of over-large children’s blocks, an illusion created by the re-use of giant metal shipping containers to form all the buildings.
The creative architecture of the Container Park itself can be viewed as a work of art.
In the middle of the park a “Tree House” play area made from containers integrates a 33-foot slide that rises into the night sky. It hums with laughter and a hint of Peter Pan never-grow-up as even adults can use the slides.
“It was 10 o’clock at night and I heard all this laughter,” said Tanya Michelle, artist and owner of the Lil’ Art Bodega shop in the park. “I went out to see what it was and there was a group of grown men in suits and ties, just laughing and going down the slide. I’m serious, you gotta go down that slide!”
Stepping inside her shop, Michelle explains that it was inspired by the bodega stores in New York, where she grew up, that always had “a little bit of everything.” Tubes of paint for sale line a wall along with cubbies of sketchbooks, Sharpie markers, paintbrushes, spray paint and more. A swivel display holds graffiti greeting cards and a coin operated machine sells stickers and art made by local artists such as Juan Muniz. Shelves hold plump plastic toy figures by graffiti artists and blank figures awaiting transformation.
Every square inch of the right wall is filled with local art. A chubby green squid wearing a gas mask holding a spray paint can is by local artist Dan 45. It cohabitates near a work by Jelaine Faunce depicting a hand stitching ripe cherries to a canvas. The gritty red, green and mint textured surface of a triptych, “Concrete Disturbance” by Michelle, catches the eye with a repeating figurative pattern.
Whether looking to buy or make art, the Lil’ Bodega has got it covered.
Next door, we switch from graffiti to the photography of local artist Cameron Grant at The High Points, a fine-art photographic gallery. Epic landscapes from an aerial view of the Luxor on the Strip and rocks jutting from a pink misty sea seem to be illuminated from behind. The lit appearance is actually the result of printing the images on aluminum, which amplifies the light and color creating a brilliant Technicolor effect.
A couple doors down is the satellite salon of Blackbird Studios, now displaying an assortment of works from their Dr. Seuss tribute show at their main gallery, at 1551 S. Commerce St. Be sure to look up as winged graphics of white blackbirds soar across the pipes and small blackbirds perch all along the ducts and pipes above.
On the third floor is Alios, a space devoted to cutting edge lighting and design. Visitors to the architectural lighting space are immediately confronted with a giant roast turkey sculpture by local artist Justin Favela. Appropriately beaming down from above the enormous dinner is a quirky chandelier composed of forks and spoons titled “Hungry.”
“We are trying to combine high art with high design,” explains co-owner Brian McCarthy.
The eclectic lighting offerings of Alios are paired with fun pop cultural Favela sculptures throughout the exhibit. A papier-mâché men’s urinal, paying tribute to Marcel Duchamp, is paired with a fabulous high-tech bathroom mirror. Motion sensors detect an approaching visitor; squares of light fade away and allow the viewer to see their reflection. Nearby, a condensed version of the Simpson’s cartoon living room, complete with orange couch and tilted sailboat painting, receives light from an art-nouveau lampshade.
Both the Neon and Mob Museum are represented, with a joint gift shop on the corner of the second level. Back down on the ground level, fans of Tinkerbell, Mickey and Goofy can find new panels to add to their collection at Disney Fine Art.
Besides the shops and galleries, one can find stashes of fine are throughout the park and in unexpected places. Heading into the Boozery for a pint, one is surprised to glance over the rim and discover botanical drawings of flowers and birds selected for display by co-owner Jennifer Cornthwaite. Over at Jessica Galindo’s boutique, large abstract paintings made by Galindo compliment her leather couture items. And hot dogs eaten inside Pork & Beans share space with detailed portraits of badgers, rabbits and squirrels in suits (think Disney’s Toad Hall) all painted by Portland artist Ryan Berkley.
Ultimately, the variety of artistic offerings at the Container Park, the pieces in galleries and the hidden gems in boutiques and eateries, means that there is something for every creative palate to keep us coming back to visit - and see our amazing neighborhood praying mantis - for more than just tasty treats and eats.
CONTAINER PARK is located at 707 Fremont St. www.downtowncontainerpark.com.