The proposal the city submitted to Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Public Art Challenge is for a project called “Wake: The Great Salt Lake.” 

Salt Lake City has won a $1 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, to create a public art project about the plight of the Great Salt Lake.

Felicia Baca, the director of the Salt Lake City Arts Council, said in a release Thursday that “this is the single largest grant ever awarded” to the council.

Salt Lake City is one of eight cities to receive the grants as part of the Public Art Challenge, awarded Thursday by the charity started by Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire, former New York mayor and one-time presidential candidate. The challenge is meant to fund “temporary public art projects that address an urgent civic issue,” according to a previous news release from the philanthropic group.

In its release, the arts council said its project, “Wake: the Great Salt Lake,” is designed “to address the shrinking of the Great Salt Lake caused by humans and climate change by curating and installing several temporary public artworks by diverse local, regional, and internationally recognized artists that speak to this environmental crisis.”

The project, Baca said in a statement, “embraces many definitions of the word ‘wake.’ A wake is a time for reflecting on loss; ‘to wake’ means regaining consciousness after a period of rest; and a wake is the turbulence created when one moves through water.”

The Tribune reported in June, when the city was named one of 17 finalists for the grant, that the project will include visual art installations in each of the city’s seven city council districts — and that Salt Lake City’s proposal was one of five nationally aimed at addressing climate change.

In a statement, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said she was excited about the grant “and the action it will inspire. The opportunity for local artists and creators to harness their talents to encourage stewardship of the Great Salt Lake — the city’s namesake and one of the most vital ecosystems in our region — is absolutely phenomenal.”

The arts council stated it has begun to make partnerships “throughout internal City departments, local nonprofits and artists, and is actively working to create partnerships with local tribal communities, scientists and diverse community members.” The public and private sectors will be working together over the next two years to execute the project, the council said.

Updates on the project, and more about the Public Art Challenge, can be found at

Salt Lake Tribune Culture Reporter
Palak is the culture reporter at The Tribune. She graduated from the University of Utah and has previously written at The Daily Utah Chronicle, SLUG Magazine, Utah Stories and other publications. She aspires to one day be a music critic.

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