Breaking down walls, with art
In May 2007, subdued murmurs accompanied the crash of collapsing bricks and shattering glass as Adam Price, along with dozens of spectators and over 100 artists, watched the demolition of his first experiment in public art. Inspired by a project in New York, Price and his wife, Dessi, had invited 143 artists -- ranging from teenaged graffiti artists to classical painters in their 70s -- to transform an abandoned, 42-room building in one of Salt Lake City's oldest neighborhoods. The 337 Project, named for the building's address, was open to the public for two weekends. Then the whole thing was dramatically destroyed to make way for green-built apartments that will include space for public art.
Before the demolition, more than 10,000 visitors came to see the sculptures, installations, paintings and murals that covered the building, inside and out. For many Salt Lake City residents, the quality of the artwork was a revelation. "Utah can't think of itself as an individual country anymore," said one awed viewer. "Its walls are falling down."
Price describes the 337 Project as a magical, breathtaking experience. It sounds strange coming from a Harvard-trained commercial litigation and criminal defense lawyer. But then, there aren't many lawyers like Adam Price. Whether he's wearing a suit or a T-shirt, he looks youthful and tousled, with a gentle smile. His wife, with sleek brown hair and a Bulgarian accent, has a similar, self-effacing charm.
"My only claim to any art competency or fluency is the fact that my mother dragged me to every new show in every gallery in town," Price says of his childhood in Washington, D.C. "I think I was bored and resented it at the time, but I guess it sunk in, in ways I wasn't fully aware of." When he moved to Salt Lake City in 2000, he missed the art in D.C., Boston and New York. But rather than fret about the vacuum, Price decided to create something new.
The 337 Project was so energizing and cathartic that the Prices decided to continue creating unexpected avenues for art in Salt Lake City. They are drawn to projects that take art out of museums and catch ordinary people off-guard. Their most recent venture is the Art Truck -- a traveling installation by well-known artists that visits schools, libraries, and even parks in front of people's driveways, unannounced. "There is no plan," says Price; he makes up the route as he goes along. Up next, Price envisions a mini-golf course, with each hole created by a different artist. "People might not even know that it is art at first," he says. "They might just come to play."
A home for the homeless ... on the street
Two years ago, during his daily bike ride from his home to the beach and back, Hollywood movie producer Peter Samuelson began noticing more homeless people than usual. He started counting them, keeping track of the numbers, and then took his interest further.
"One thing that's worked for me in my life, if I'm a little scared of something, I make myself do it," said Samuelson. "I decided I was a little scared of these guys. So I interviewed (62) of them and asked ... where they go at night."
He was surprised to learn that few were sleeping in shelters. So he tapped his philanthropic skills -- he's launched three successful charities -- and raised money to create a contraption he calls the EDAR (Everyone Deserves A Roof). Designed by Eric Lindeman and Jason Zasa, the EDAR is shaped like a shopping cart. It's made of wire and piping, wrapped with military-grade canvas and adorned with detachable pouches. For day use, it can be filled with baggage and pushed around. But a person can lock the wheels and collapse an EDAR in about a minute, transforming it into a raised tent to sleep in.
The EDAR sprang out of a sad pragmatism. Adding a single bed to a typical shelter and providing the necessary staff support costs as much as $100,000, says Samuelson. And the sheer size of the problem -- more than 70,000 people sleep on the streets of L.A. County alone on any given night -- makes the cost prohibitive. An EDAR costs only $500 to build, and Samuelson wants to pay that expense through fund raising rather than charging the units' recipients.
The first batch of 60, released in L.A. last summer, proved so popular that EDAR Inc. is trying to raise money for another 1,000. And shelter managers across the U.S. and Canada, as well as in Romania, the Czech Republic, Brazil and Indonesia, are interested. They see it as a way to expand their capacity and to build relationships with homeless people who would otherwise steer clear of their facilities. By opening their grounds to EDAR campers at night and offering to store EDARs during the day, shelters can connect with people while still allowing them their independence.
Christopher Raynor, a 40-year-old homeless man who camped near Pacific Palisades last December, told the Los Angeles Times that he finds his EDAR "very comfortable. ... This is one of the greatest damn gifts you could ever give to anybody."
Portland's Miranda Homes company turns junked cars into sustainable housing, recycling the steel to make structural framing and charging only $95 per square foot for a finished house.