Salt Lake Gallery Stroll Spotlight: Mod a-go-go

Story and photos by PEYTON M. DALLEY

Clear pane windows line the walls and the smell of old furniture fills the room. In the background, a smooth-jazz album spins on the record player.

Welcome to Mod a-go-go, at 242 E. South Temple in Salt Lake City,  and step into the scene of the iconic sitcom “Mad Men.” Jon Hamm’s character, Don Draper, would not be disappointed. With local artwork on the walls as well as a compilation of old-school furniture, this store-turned-gallery is just one of the 36 galleries featured in the monthly Salt Lake Gallery Stroll.

On the main floor, buyers or patrons of the event can look at both furniture and artwork.

But the real masterpieces are located upstairs, where Mod a-go-go hosts its stroll event. And on the night of Feb.19, that event, which focused on landscapes, captured the essence of what artists here in Utah have to offer.

The idea became a reality

Eric Morley and Marcus Gibby are the owners of this local gallery. When artists choose to have Mod a-go-go promote them, Morley and Gibby split the profit 50/50. “We’re a launching pad for artists,” Morley said. “We have had people here who now are featured outside of Utah.”


Eric Morley, left, and Marcus Gibby, owners of Mod a-go-go, enjoy a break during February’s Salt Lake Gallery Stroll.

He and Gibby set up everything for the artists. “We don’t even require volunteer work,” Morley said, unlike some galleries. “Our goal here is to get artists out of cafes and restaurants and give them a place to showcase their work.”

Morley came up with the idea for the gallery during a project he was working on as part of his MBA. He said his entrepreneur class at Westminster College in Salt Lake City helped spark the idea, because students had to identify a gap in the market. Morley knew the business of art, while his business partner, Gibby, was an artist. Together, the two balance out the scene of the gallery.

Emergining artists

Artists who are interested in showcasing their work through Salt Lake Gallery Stroll must contact the specific gallery they want to work with. For example, Mod a-go-go has an online application that individuals can submit with a sample of their portfolio.


Artist Laura Beagley and husband James stand by a piece they designed together. James creates the base, and Laura uses copper wire and precious stones to construct the piece.

Artist Laura Beagley promoted three pieces for the first time at Mod a-go-go. She showed delicate sculptures created as part of a “Wishing Forest” theme.

“Wishing trees and the tree of life are what inspire me. Every culture has a tree of life in it [that] links us to the world and heaven,” Laura said. She handcrafts the works with copper cord and precious stones that her husband, James, finds from the Utah mountains. He also helps her set the foundation for her works of art.


Artist Oscar Da Silva stands in front of his canvas artwork portraying the theme of the West. He was exhibiting for the first time at Mod a-go-go.

“I get different inspirations. I like the feeling of the seasons,” Laura said. Her pieces also reflect a mythical approach and include fairies and fantasy.

Local artist Oscar Da Silva also had his first showing at Mod a-go-go. He had on display six of his original oil pieces portraying the theme of the West.

“I like working with subjects that don’t limit my creativity,” Da Silva said.

He said he prefers to paint portraits, but said he loves the land.

“Take a look around you, that’s inspiration,” Da Silva said. “Inspiration comes, let it find you.”

He is passionate about what he does. S0 passionate, in fact, he quit his full-time job in customer service at the University of Utah to pursue his art. He has shown in galleries across northern Utah.

Gallery Stroll draws crowds of all ages

Word of mouth, and promotions by local media such as City Weekly and SLUG Magazine, are how artists and viewers alike get a snippet of what is offered at the Salt Lake Gallery Stroll.

Natassja and Ryan Turek said it is their second time attending the gallery stroll. They said they are merely “art appreciators,” but hope to one day buy pieces of their own.

The Salt Lake Gallery Stroll on the night of Feb.19, 2016, drew crowds of all ages to venues such as Mod a-go-go. With the scent of old finished wood still lingring in the air, and the record player spinning jazz music, the gallery slowed down for the night. But a  few visitors lingered in the “Mad Men”-like setting.




You’re born naked and everything else is drag


Drag queens are fabulous, but what makes them fabulous? Is it the sequined clothes, the big hair or the bright makeup? Maybe it’s the person behind the layers of foundation and eye shadow, the man behind the woman.

Püre at Club Sound on Friday night lights up with a main and weekly attraction, the drag queen show. Local celebrities, like the one and only Nova Starr, lip sync to pop music and spout choreographed dance moves.

Coming from the “House of Starr,” Nova pushed her way through the ranks of “salty gossip” (otherwise, known as the gay Salt Lake City gossip) and accomplished Salt Lake stardom. Adorned in bright makeup, a curly blond wig, and tight fitting clothes designed to hug the curves on Nova’s voluptuous figure, Nova adores busting out on stage with performances full of surprises However, her quest to change the minds of Salt Lake City citizens and to make an art form out of dressing in drag proved a tedious and frustrating task.

Nova moved to Salt Lake to chase the dream of becoming a costume designer at the Utah Opera Company. Perfecting her skills in costume design, Nova carried her talent her drag persona. A personality filled with expensive styling practices.

Now without the money to make costumes, style hair and live the performer lifestyle, Nova has decided to follow her dreams on tour. A path that was introduced after Nova was named in two books: 100 of the Most Influential Gay Entertainers and the Official Drag Handbook.

However, not wanting to disappoint her fans, Nova does her best to perform in Salt Lake City once a month. “Honey! As a drag performer, you spend hundreds of dollars on clothes and style. Yet, at Püre, I would only get paid $50 a night to perform once a week. That just doesn’t cut it.” Nova said.

Despite such societal stipulations, Nova, with her drag presence, created a niche for yearning drag queens, a niche that offered self-expression and a place to call home.

Like Nova, many other aspiring drag queens have experienced turmoil within the Salt Lake community whether it is the Salt Lake community in nightlife, gay-life or churchlife.

This home, this “House of Starr,” gave community fame to on-the-spur performers, like Paris Starr. It also inspired art admirers, like Vienna Starr.  Vienna Starr, real name, Justin Carter, is known in the real world simply as Justy. He is on hiatus from drag queen life. He gave several reasons.

Stomping into his friend’s bungalow in Salt Lake City’s Sugar House neighborhood, Justy walked through the living room and straight into the kitchen. Pulling out a bottle of Danish vodka, he was ready to pour out his heart and the alcohol.

Like many others who perform in drag, Justy was attracted to the idea of acting as someone else. “It was very easy as to introduce myself as Vienna, get to know these people and then, hang out with them as a boy later… To do drag made social life a lot easier,” said Justy, after sipping from his signature drink, “a touch of class,” a concoction made from vodka, orange juice and tonic water.

It is easy to imagine Vienna’s popularity at Püre. Standing at six feet and dressed top to bottom in stylish couture clothes, Vienna pulled in attention from all corners of the club. Living drag made Justy’s life better in many ways, he said. Coming from Utah County, a predominantly LDS and politically conservative area, Justy hid himself and his homosexuality from the world.

Not coming “out of the closet” until he was 19, Justy thrust himself into the gay world and a new mode of self-expression. This representation of self and sexuality was delayed. Especially, when glancing upon Justy’s peers.

Now 22-years-old, Justy feels that he lived and still is living through, what he calls high school the sequel. To him, high school the sequel arouses gays to experience common adolescent issues. Experiences that his school friends thrust through in their teenage years. For instance, Justy, for the first time, went on his first “real” date, faced peer pressure involving drugs and made attempts to rebel against his family and the LDS lifestyle. Justy’s acceptance of his homosexuality, prompted him to jump over life’s hurdles at an older age and for him to find a place of acceptance.

This form of discovery can be seen in many young gay adults in Salt Lake City. Hoping to belong to a place where they are fully accepted, several of them have found solace at Püre. To some, Püre is a place to call home. It was and sometimes still is the House of Starr.

The documentary, Paris is Burning, produced more than 20 years ago, displayed the meaning of a “House” and it’s importance to the gay world. Nova made the point to prove the film’s presence. “A house is a group of gay people that comes together as a family… in Utah’s community, many people need a house or a family,” she said.

People like Justy found a new home. They also found a place to showcase their spectacular talents. Nova and others from the Starr family agree that drag is much more than dressing as a woman. It’s about expressing yourself as a person capable of achieving a dreamlike existence. “To be honest, drag is an extension on what I do best,” Nova said.

Though he found a family and attention, Justy experienced negativity in the world of “dragdom.” Skipping experiences as the “true” Justy when in his former years, Justy lived his newfound personality in younger and exuberant ways. These young ways presented many problems for him in the drag culture, problems existing in almost every high school setting.

Like Nova, Justy experienced a lack of appreciation both in and out of the drag queen circle. Justy lived in just one of the many subcultures within the gay community. Such subcultures hold places in a caste system structure. “It’s just like the movie ‘Mean Girls,’ girls, but it’s mean boys,” Justy said.

Speaking in young adult terms, drag queens are the most unpopular group within the gay circles. “Drag queens are at the bottom of the food chain, being at the bottom of the chain means you can’t get dates,” Justy said while browsing through the messages stored in his phone’s inbox.

Perhaps, people classify drag queens as social scum because they play the role of an alter ego. To a lot of the gay population, drag queens are characters that hide behind a mask, or in drag queen terms, layers of makeup. in spite of the existent profiling, Nova argues that dressing drag is an expansion of John Carter, her given name.

To Nova, most everyone adopts a role to play, whether it is on or off stage. “Drag Queens say, you’re born naked and everything else is drag. For instance, every gay man dresses drag, whether it’s a gym bunny with his shirt off or a twink wearing tight jeans (both are groups found in the gay community),” Nova said. Nova attempts to advertise her definition of drag, hoping that all people will find a connection to her personal lifestyle.

To Justy and Nova, many Utahns hold no respect for what drag queens do.  Nova wants people to know that dressing drag has been around for centuries and has surfaced in several cultures around the world. When talking about drag, Nova always mentions its history.

The word “drag” was used during the Elizabethan period to describe acclaimed actors who performed the roles of women in plays. “It makes you think about the bedroom scene in Romeo and Juliet a little bit differently,” Nova quipped.

Dressing drag is still a shock to much of the world. By choosing the drag queen lifestyle, Nova and Justy lived with many forms of discrimination. With Nova on tour and selling jewelry that has received attention from famous drag queen reality TV star RuPaul and Justy pursuing other areas of interest, one question remains: What will happen to the drag queen culture in Salt Lake City?

Said Nova: “Drag in Utah will evolve, though it may take longer to catch up with more liberal areas.”

City Creek Center opening brings thousands to downtown Salt Lake City

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by Tricia Oliphant

Crowds lined the walkway. Parents gripped the hands of their squirming children, who were eager to run off and explore. The shutters of cameras repeatedly clicked.

In one corner a musician put his soul into playing the blues on his saxophone.  In another, musician and performer Steven Sharp Nelson of The Piano Guys entertained a crowd with playful tunes on his cello. The laughter of a nearby group of adolescents resonated as they talked about their plans and what they wanted to see first.

That overflowing excitement most often only theme parks can create filled the masses swarming downtown for the opening of Salt Lake City’s first downtown mall in three decades.

City Creek Center opened on Thursday, Mar. 22, 2012. Like many others, I was drawn to the novelty and newness of City Creek. I decided I had to join thousands of others in visiting City Creek on its opening day so I could answer the question posed by a dear friend of mine, “Is it really as big a deal as it has been made out to be?”

Although City Creek offers ample parking in a giant, heated three-level underground parking garage, I chose to take the TRAX (Utah’s light rail system) to the new shopping center.  In spite of the train being loaded with anxious shoppers of all ages who were also heading for the mall, I thought it offered the convenience of not fighting downtown traffic or hunting for a parking place.

City Creek Shopping Center was funded entirely by cash reserves of the LDS Church and built on three church-owned blocks in downtown Salt Lake City. A sky bridge over Main Street connects two of the blocks and allows shoppers on the second level of the center to cross from one side to the other.

Upon arrival, I was impressed by the classy architecture and design of City Creek Center. I quickly realized this wasn’t just any ordinary mall when I noticed the glass roof is actually retractable. City Creek opens the roof when the weather is just right, providing a view of the open sky and surrounding skyscrapers.

Along with over 90 stores and restaurants, the shopping center offers a wildlife landscape downtown with the re-creation of the historic City Creek that winds through the shopping center’s walkways and plazas—complete with live fish.

In addition to the creek, the shopping center offers a variety of waterfalls, ponds and fountains (one of which is open to children who would like to cool off while splashing in the choreographed blasts of water.) I found each water feature to be quite beautiful and each added a sense of natural serenity to the busy shopping center.

“Standing at the base of the skyscrapers surrounded by rivers and waterfalls was a striking experience of both outdoors and the big city at the same time,” shopper Matt Argyle said. “It’s really breathtaking.”

Benches and tables rest on the edge of the creek and beside the waterfalls. These provide places to relax and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere.

Some believe the quality of the food court can often make or break a shopping center.  City Creek’s food court is nothing to scoff at.

The massive food court is located next to the creek and a waterfall. Diners can eat inside (with many of the tables located next to giant windows in front of the water features) or can dine al fresco.  Both options offer a relaxing place to eat.

The food court is made up of everything from Subway to the Taste of Red Iguana to the Great Steak and Potato Company. Other restaurants, such as The Cheesecake Factory and Texas de Brazil Churrascaria, are also located in the shopping center.

By wandering through City Creek Shopping Center, it soon became clear that people came for much more than shopping and spending. This was a public event, a place for relaxing and enjoyment with friends and family. While taking all this in, I wondered about the future of City Creek and its potential impact on surrounding malls (such as The Gateway, a mere two blocks to the west).

Although City Creek attracted large numbers of people opening weekend, The Gateway was not left completely desolate.

“We were actually pretty busy opening weekend,” said Kara Johnson, an employee at Down East Basics, at The Gateway. Down East Basics, a moderately priced casual apparel store, is not duplicated at the new City Creek Center. “I expected it to be dead,” Johnson said.

Despite the crowds of people at City Creek Center opening weekend, many realized the stores at City Creek were more expensive than they had expected. “They came to Gateway because they knew what to expect,” Johnson said.

Unlike The Gateway, City Creek Center is closed on Sundays. This gives the older mall an extra day to attract shoppers and therefore compete with the novelty of the new shopping center.

Furthermore, although some of the stores are duplicated at both shopping centers (such as Forever 21), many are not. This gives a distinct shopping opportunity at each location.

Johnson said that because she has never been to many of the stores now located at City Creek, she would like to go there just to see what they’re like. “I just want to say I’ve been in a Tiffany’s.”

The uniqueness of the new stores to Utah clearly attracted crowds to City Creek Center.  However, many Utahans are known for being “frugal” and “resourceful”. Higher-end stores may not sit so well with a thrifty people.

“I love City Creek. It’s just so nice,” said Jannali Ouzounian, a new mother from Holladay. “I just wish I could afford to shop at all the stores. A wallet at Tiffany’s [costs] $600.”

“I think Utah could do a lot better by bringing in the outlets,” said University of Utah student Kelly Wolfe. She said that putting in stores such as the Tommy Hilfiger Outlet and Bloomingdale’s Outlet would not reduce the classy appeal of City Creek and would attract a greater portion of the Utah market.

Being a bargain hunter myself, I would love to shop at classy outlet stores downtown. However, I find the higher-end stores at City Creek to be alluring.

How long this allure will last remains in question.

“I think once all the hype wears off, City Creek will be just another mall,” said Utah State University student Elise Olsen. However, once all the hype does wear off, Olsen said she plans to shop at City Creek with hopes of finding good sales on high-priced items.

Only time will tell the fate of City Creek Center and whether it will continue attracting large crowds of people to the downtown area. In spite of this, I found City Creek Center to be beautifully constructed and thought it added class to Salt Lake City.

In answer to my friend’s question, City Creek is quite a big deal — for now.

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