The Utah Cultural Alliance: Past, present and future

Story by JORDAN SENTENO

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.”