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Sugar House Journal

Why the hottest spot in town may be next door

Sep 18, 2015 17h39 ● By Rhett Wilkinson

An Asian Buddha figurine sits next to their photo of Joel Otterstrom and Crystal Young-Otterstrom’s Latter-day Saint wedding. The two have developed a uniquely decorated house that hosts many movers and shakers in the Salt Lake area.

By Rhett Wilkinson

Everyone deserves a break from their labors, let alone those who offer a world-class product. So it only makes sense that the Utah Symphony, one of just 15 52-week orchestras in America, should be able to celebrate another in-town soul-stirring performance at New Yorker, Caffé Molise or J. Wong’s.

Then there are houses in the area that are so cool, they provide a quite-worthy destination place. That’s why the Utah Symphony was found at the home of Crystal Young-Otterstrom and her husband Joel last month after a performance. They were even joined at the house by a national group with which they teamed up at a highly-anticipated evening at Red Butte Gardens. And count the performers as impressed.

“Her house is a perfect location for a symphony after-party because it would bring together not just symphony lovers, but art lovers of other kinds because it is a microcosm of contemporary art,” Mercedes Smith, Utah Symphony’s principal flutist, said. “It has wild colors and eccentric themes that reflect her personality, but is something that can bring different parts of the community together.”

Along with the symphony, the art-gallery-meets-gingerbread-house-meets-the-house-you-don’t-have-the-bravery-to-make has housed individuals in the musical, political, religious and you-name-it arenas, including members of Vivace, Planned Parenthood, Friends of Contemporary Art, LDS Democrats, Salty Cricket and the local Mormon congregation, besides invitees to several parties.

Folks, many like the Utah Symphony coming just up the road downtown, don’t walk away disappointed. They say that it looks like a museum because of the assortment of art. They’ve been in a house painted in a half-dozen different colors; a house with pictures meshing Star Wars and Disney before they were meshed; a house with art, with art about art and a work of art itself.

“People respond positively to it because there is not enough of it in people’s lives,” Crystal said. “I hope that my crazy bright colors and eclecticism shows that you can be more funky and fun in your own abode. People say their house is boring. It’s because it’s white.”

Crystal strives to show that folks can make their house really exciting without much work or cost. She and Joel painted the house themselves and bought furniture from the DI and consignment stores. (“My budget is low,” she said.) Folks can do a lot with color and interesting objects and a lot with “making sure the flow is right and things are balanced right and the design is good,” she said. Payment installations are helpful and galleries and artists selling their work may compromise with a budget.

Smith expressed gratitude to Crystal for her support of Utah Symphony, personally and also professionally. Crystal started Vivace, a community outreach group supporting arts like that which Utah Symphony provides. Crystal finds the arts important to expand and express our worlds and for “digging into what life is,” citing studies that show that involvement in the arts means longer and happier lives.

“She’s a really incredible person and we’re lucky to have her supporting us,” Smith said.

That feeling is shared from Utah Symphony’s executive offices. When discussing Utah Symphony’s  partnership with top-of-the-industry performers (as in, Steve Martin, Yo-Yo Ma and Kristen Chenoworth), executive Toby Tolokan joked that he and the symphony sometimes say in jest that they wish they could have the career of their rock star (or rock star-status) performance partner. Then they come to, realizing that the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side. In getting treated to artsy fun houses like Crystal’s, Tolokan and his crew may not need to make the effort to get there.