“I think that taking a risk and being courageous is part of being an artist. Artists are entrepreneurs. As artists, we are completely creating and manifesting our own lives, our own businesses, our own worlds, however we want to do it.”
Artist Traci O’Very Covey was born and raised in Salt Lake City. She graduated from the University of Utah with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, where she studied painting, drawing, illustration, and graphic design. A week after finishing her program, she opened a graphic design business with a friend and has been working in the arts since. It wasn’t easy figuring out how to create a business plan, find clients, and maintain a steady income, but Traci was drawn to the profession. For Traci, graphic design work can be very illustrative, and relies heavily on visual content and symbolism. It involves interpreting a client’s requests and needs and creatively determining how to communicate those requests through symbols, shapes, and color. The jobs involve varying levels of engagement with clients, which has always been a source of inspiration for Traci.
It’s no surprise that these skills translate well into the public art realm. Public art projects often include a community engagement component, which allows the artist to work with project stakeholders and community members in conceptualizing an artwork that fits within the project goals and speaks to local needs. Each public art project has its own set of criteria, and it is the artist’s role to creatively transform those criteria into meaningful, site-specific artwork.
In May of 2019, Traci completed Colorful Connection, a public art installation consisting of steel sculptures, “NOTE District” signage, a vinyl mural utility box wrap, as well as complementing landscaping between the bridges that are specifically designed to enhance the pedestrian/bicycling/automobile experience while traveling under the I-15 underpass on North Temple. As a space that experiences heavy foot traffic, the project intended to make this underpass a brighter, more walkable, welcoming place. “With public art projects, you need to consider the criteria: what the project’s all about, what it’s trying to do in a community, what it’s trying to accomplish in a space. […] Whether it’s symbolically, a mild suggestion, or a literal thing that needs to be communicated. To me, that is the fun part of figuring out how to creatively convey that,” Traci said of the North Temple Public Art project goals.
Traci drew inspiration from the North Temple “NOTE” District branding, which uses bright colors and circular shapes in its logo. Like many of Traci’s artworks, she wanted to evoke a sense of harmony and interconnection through the characters and composition of the installation. As the first large installation that Traci has completed which contains multiple components, the artist worked with engineers, fabricators, and a landscape architect to create her metal sculptures, vinyl mural utility box wrap, and stained concrete pads and bollards. The installation stretches between both the East and West sides of the Interstate, and playfully engages passerby with its imaginative figures and immersive elements. Whether you are on a walk with your dog or driving home from work, Colorful Connection is sure to catch your attention, engage you with your surroundings, and bring a bit of color into your day.
This project was made possible through the Salt Lake City Arts Council Public Art Program, with support from the Salt Lake City’s Redevelopment Agency, Engineering Division, and Department of Housing and Neighborhood Development.
For more information on the Salt Lake City Arts Council’s Public Art Program, please visit saltlakepublicart.org. To see more from Traci O’Very Covey, visit the artist’s website tracioverycovey.com.