Adam Price, executive director of the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, has resigned and that's a big deal to Utah's art scene.
It wouldn't be an understatement to say that Price has been a pivotal person in the state's education in and acceptance of contemporary art.
It began with the 337 Project in 2007 in which Price, a Harvard-trained attorney, and his wife Desi invited artists to create within an aging Salt Lake City office building knowing that it —and their work— would ultimately be destroyed.
The project became a cultural milestone for many street artists who sometimes refer to "before 337" and "after 337.” It was a watershed for Price too, who soon after left his lucrative 14-year law career to become the director of the Salt Lake Art Center, which he immediately pushed to be renamed the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art. He also brought on vibrant young curators, first Micol Hebron from Los Angeles, then Aaron Moulton from Europe.
Now Price is leaving UMOCA saying he has no firm plans besides taking a 60-day sabbatical after three years without a vacation.
He admits that burn-out from running and expanding UMOCA through a recession is a large part of the reason he is leaving. Price says he “was burned out about three months into the job,” but hung on until the museum was stable.
“It's been a really long three years,” he says. “It took a lot of work to get it up and going again in that climate. I decided that the museum is at a place where it is a good time to move on.”
One thing is certain, Price says, he will not return to the law: "I love working in cultural institutions because of the kind of impacts a great cultural institution can have on a city. It's fun and it feels meaningful."
Price says he may leave Utah. “I don't have any specific plans. I'm talking to some culture institutions, in the state and out of the state. We'll have to see how it plays out.”
But he says that individuals, no matter their impact, are only cogs in a great museum or art scene.
“It's important to remember the institution is more important the the individual people,” Price says. “I hope the changes I've made will stick. That's the life of cultural institutions.”