Since Dec. 24, 2018, the Kearns Library has sat closed to the general public for full renovation. Just as all of our schedules have been changed due to the pandemic, the library’s progress was brought to a halt early this year.
Since July, however, a team of highly talented artists have been working diligently to bring the art within the building to life — enter Matt Monson, an assistant professor of visual display and merchandising at Salt Lake Community College, and his crew.
Monson was commissioned by Salt Lake County back in 2019 to design and paint the three murals that would be featured inside the Kearns Library. This was no ordinary job, and the hiring process reflected that. He was interviewed alongside several other accomplished artists from all across the Salt Lake Valley, but ultimately, it was his unique art style and history with the town of Kearns that landed him this opportunity.
Though his father’s work brought him and his family all around the globe, Monson’s grandparents lived right in the heart of Kearns. His summer visits as a child would ultimately be a large inspiration for what the library murals would showcase: The past, present, and future of the people of Kearns.
“When you’re trusted with the keys to a multi-billion dollar building, you feel the pressure of, ‘How do we step up? How do we meet a level worthy of creating a tribute to the community?’” said Monson.
That sentiment is shared by his whole team, and is shown in just how much work went into planning and creating the murals.
“With all the diversity in Kearns, and that there are so many stories, we wanted to capture something where everybody could see themselves in it. That was super important early on,” said Monson.
The mural of the “Present” depicts a woman at various stages in her life: a child with her father, a mother with her son, and an old woman stitching the groundwork of Kearns for future generations.
“We’re all cycling through the shared experience of life,” said Monson.
The size of the “Present” mural is 65 feet by 25 feet, took roughly 800 hours to sketch and paint, and is larger than both the planned “Past” and “Future” murals combined.
Brooklyn Ottens, second-in-command and manager on the project, illustrated just how much time, resources, and effort goes into making a mural of this caliber.
The initial sketching for the “Present” mural required 15 or 16 different projections splayed across the wall via a projector and scaffolding, and had to constantly be compared to full-scale diagrams of the mural. Careful measurement made the beginning stages comparable to building a gridded puzzle, with different segments being added on over time.
“This is by far the biggest project the rest of us have ever worked on, especially with so much detail,” said Ottens. “After finishing each projection, you look forward to seeing which part of the mural will be revealed next, and you can’t go back and visualize what it looked like plain. It can’t have not been there, it’s so perfect.”
Thirteen colors and varying shades of grey were gradually introduced after sketching, and similar to revealing new projections, the team looked forward to each new color being introduced to the wall. The “Present” mural is composed of acrylic paint, and the “Past” and “Future” murals will be composed of non-toxic spray paint and multimedia paints, respectively.
“We purposefully chose this mural to be the most visible to everyone outside the library, too,” said Monson. “We’ll have strip lighting above the mural, as well, so that even at night, it’ll shine outward for people driving by to see.”
With the “Past” and “Future” murals expected to take roughly half the time of their much larger counterpart, they will be visible to the public when the library opens this holiday season, though this date is subject to change. The “Present” mural is currently available for viewing. Take a drive by the Kearns Library at any time of day, and the color and life of the “Present” will leave you awestruck.