Temporary sound exhibition “Ecotones” examines changing nature of Sugar House
Jul 03, 2019 15h07
By Spencer Belnap
Listeners gathered at the Sego Lily Dam in Sugar House Park to hear the final exhibit of “Ecotones,” a performance by Connor Lockie and Indigo Cook. (Spencer W. Belnap/City Journals)
By Spencer W. Belnap | [email protected]
On the evening of Friday, June 14, downtown Sugar House was as vibrant as its been all year. There was the typical restaurant and bar crowd, but the area around 2100 South and Highland Drive was that much more bustling. It was the summer rendition of the Sugar House Art Walk, and people came out in droves to enjoy the warm weather and stroll from one gallery or exhibition to the next.
One exhibition was a temporary sound tour winding from Hidden Hollow (behind the pet store) and ending at the Sego Lily Dam in Sugar House Park. The exhibition called “Ecotones” examined the fluctuating nature of past and present Sugar House through sound.
Meggie Troili is a Westminster graduate who researched the neighborhood throughout her time in school. As she would walk along various trails and sections of the area, she noticed all these natural spaces that could serve as amphitheaters and places for art. One of them was Hidden Hollow and its accessible nooks and spots along the path up to the park and new Sego Lily Dam. She and some fellow Westminster artists came up with “Ecotones” as a sound exhibition offered to the public for one night only.
“Ecotones is the space between two biological systems,” Troili explained. “When they start to overlap, that space where that happens is called the ecotone. It could be just a few inches between some sort of ecological system on land and in water where they start to overlap. It could be smaller, it could be miles wide. So, I thought about this concept and how it’s a great metaphor for what Sugar House is experiencing right now.”
The constantly growing and changing neighborhood is bringing new people and new urban landscapes. These are welding with the natural spaces around, which have always been valued by the community. Troili wanted to reflect that welding; something that has occurred time and time again in the history of Sugar House. “Ecotones” moved through some of that history with five different sound exhibits.
The first one was along the path in Hidden Hollow, near a bench beside the creek. It was an “auditory activation station” where guests were to “reactivate” their sense of hearing by closing their eyes for 30 seconds and asking: “What do you hear?” “What do you think you hear?” and “Where is it coming from?”
After activating their ears, people were led by arrow signs further down the path. In a cleared circular setting, the second exhibit alluded to the Native American history of Sugar House and the tribe that lived there. Artists Sarah May and Jasmine Despain created “Land Acknowledgement of Eastern Shoshone” using three drums and a hidden speaker to remind guests about the original people in the area.
The next exhibit was by one of the sugar beet statues further up the path. There, two local historians presented a live oral history of Sugar House and Hidden Hollow. Lynn Olson and Sheri Sohm had historical photos and artifacts displayed and offered a wealth of knowledge to anyone who stopped and listened. The two women are key figures in a group called Hope Kids that ultimately saved Hidden Hollow, the original Sugar House Park, from being destroyed decades ago.
From there, people strolled east and along the Echo Canyon replica that leads into the tunnel underneath 1300 East and into the park. Troili created this exhibit called “Echos of the Brass.” She had tucked small speakers in some of the red rocks of the canyon replica and had them playing various brass sounds and music as people walked beside them.
Finally, the main exhibit of “Ecotones” was a performance at the Sego Lily Dam. The north petal of the dam serves as a natural amphitheater of sorts. Westminster grads Connor Lockie and Indigo Rain Cook wrote and performed “Ecotones-a musical interpretation.” Folks who had been walking through the sound exhibits as well as park joggers, bikers and families stopped to listen.
“That was amazing,” Cook said after their performance. “A lot of our music is about the melding of environment and sound, so that was really magical.”
Troili hopes to offer more engaging and unique exhibitions like this in the future.
“Yes, Sugar House is changing,” she said. “And it can be a little jarring and upsetting, but Sugar House has changed many times. If we can do more things like this that bring people together and explore that, we can kind of take some control.”