Laura Durham: The work of an artistic woman


Laura Durham enjoys her job with the Utah Division of Arts and Museums. Photo courtesy of Durham.


Utah native Laura Durham has a bachelor’s degree in art history from Brigham Young University. She currently works for the Utah Division of Arts and Museums in Salt Lake City and manages marketing and special projects that encourage public value of the arts in the state.

Growing up as a young girl, she really enjoyed music and art. Both her parents were musicians so she was surrounded by music all the time. The turning point for her was when she was in high school. She went to London with her father when she was 17 to study art and music.

“Since my parents were both musical artists I knew I wanted to do something with art and music and kind of rebelled against them by going into the field of art history,” she said in an email interview.

She has 15 years of working experience with the Utah Division of Arts and Museums. Before being promoted to marketing and public value manager, she worked as the visual arts coordinator. She also does graphic design on the side as a hobby, but has used those skills to create a brand and unique look for the Utah Division of Arts and Museums.

Durham also enjoys cooking, traveling, writing and sharing stories in her spare time. With her enjoyment of music, she sings with the Utah Chamber Artists.

Durham works out of the division’s main office in the historic Glendinning Mansion at 617 E. South Temple in Salt Lake City. Also located there is the Alice Gallery, named after founder Alice Merrill Horne. Durham chose to work at the Utah Division of Arts and Museums because she wanted to work with the arts and build programs, while also giving back to the community.

She serves on many boards, including the Salt Lake Gallery and Utah Emerging Museums Professionals. And she sits on the Downtown Marketing and Events committee, assisting with the Downtown Farmers Market, Dine O’Round and other community events.

She has worked for several other arts programs within the Utah Division of Arts and Museums, and was the visual arts coordinator managing the Rio Gallery and Traveling Exhibits. She also served as the vice president of the Salt Lake Gallery Association from 2003 to 2006.

Durham was program director of the Salt Lake Gallery Stroll from 2005 to 2010. “It was significant because it’s a great anchor in Salt Lake City when it comes to the visual arts,” said Durham in an email interview. “It’s a community event that people can count on each month and it has fostered a fertile environment for new galleries to pop up and join. A lot of business have joined the fun too, as we see more small business rotating local artwork on their walls and opening up their doors for the Stroll.”


A piece that Durham designed for “15 Bytes” about Utah artists. Image courtesy of Durham.

She regularly contributes to “15 Bytes,” which is an online visual arts magazine in Salt Lake City. She serves, too, as assistant editor and managing music editor. Durham has developed a longstanding partnership with Artists of Utah, publisher of 15 Bytes. The magazine publishes two free adds every month for the Utah Division of Arts and Museums so it can advertise what is going on in its galleries, literary arts programs and more.

Durham has developed many other partnerships, such as with the Salt Lake Film SocietyUtah Film Center and She is in the process of helping the latter showcase its website and direct tourists to the wide variety of arts that are available here in Utah.

In 2014, Durham completed the Change Leader Program, which is a professional development course. According to the Utah Division of Arts and Museums website, “Participants attend a three-day institute with instruction on assessing environment and the communication and facilitation skills necessary to implement change.” As part of the program, Durham initiated a project called “Utah’s 15 most influential artists.” In a press release about it, Durham said, “Hopefully this program will inspire more people to recognize how art has enhanced their quality of life as well. And hopefully we will nurture a society that more widely and visibly values artists and their contributions.” She  said in the release she believes artists influence our landscape and culture. “I sought to identify Utah artists who influence and impact our community,” she said.


The Utah Cultural Alliance: Past, present and future


It all began in 1981 as Utah Citizens for the Arts. According to a history of the organization, it led the development of the public art programs in Utah. It also held events to help educate the community and elected officials.

Then, in 1993, it assumed a new identity and became the Utah Cultural Alliance (UCA). Its job is to work with the art and culture organizations as well as the legislators and county governments to solidify funding throughout the state of Utah and its community.

“Everyone and anyone can work with the arts and make a contribution to the community,” said Kate Ithurralde in an email interview. Ithurralde serves on the UCA board as treasurer.

According to UCA’s website, the organization serves as “the voice of the arts, humanities and cultural sector of Utah.” Its mission is to “empower and strengthen this community through advocacy, professional development and awareness.”

Crystal Young-Otterstrom, executive director of UCA, said, “It’s a great way to help the Utah community and for others to get involved and make a difference in the community as well.”

According to the website, UCA has transformed into a membership-driven organization comprised of many museums, corporations, and groups such as the Utah Division of Arts and Museums, the Stewart Foundation and the Salt Lake City Arts Council.

UCA has joined to help support the Utah community through cooperation, communication and advocacy in an attempt to help increase the value of the arts program in the state.

“I choose to be involved because the arts and humanities have a rich history in our state and I think we can do a better job supporting the sector,” said UCA Board Chair Jason Myers in an email interview. “By doing that I believe we will have more vibrant and rich communities — culturally and economically,” said Myers, who manages internal communications at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

Young-Otterstrom said one way that community members can become involved is by becoming an advocate. “The most important part of advocacy is anyone can choose to be involved, can talk to an elected official. It’s really not a hard thing to get in touch with one of them and get involved,” she said in a phone interview.

UCA seeks community involvement to help impact the culture in Utah. The organization is committed to working with people to increase their individual and organizational knowledge of policy issues. UCA also involves the community by hosting events like Arts Day on the Hill in February, which UCA notes is an opportunity for residents to connect with their legislators and discuss why the arts are important.

UCA has a new five-year strategic plan for 2016-2020 that outlines its desire to become the forefront organization of Utah’s cultural issues. A subcommittee of the board factored in the mission, vision and value statements when creating the plan.

The subcommittee identified several guiding principles to help UCA accomplish its goal. For example, the small group recommended creating a separate advocacy branch that will enable UCA to endorse candidates and pursue fundraising to directly support advocacy efforts in Utah.

Another guiding principle is awareness. The organization aims to expand marketing and public relations in order to increase appreciation of the arts. It also plans to develop a Utah Culture Wiki, a comprehensive site about the arts and humanities.

According to UCA’s website, “the Utah Cultural Alliance [looks] to become the top voice of the arts, humanities and cultural sector of Utah.”

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