What’s your story? New ‘Love Letters Museum’ prompts visitors to think about language and art

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – How do you want your story to be told? How do you want to be remembered? Who do you want to be remembered by? Those are the questions a new art exhibit in the Gateway aims to help you answer.

Love Letters Museum is part of the new wave of immersive museums, where visitors can actually interact with the exhibit and take part in its activities. Currently, it’s only available in Salt Lake City.

“Traditional museums are really great and really important. Their focus is typically on preservation and observation of meaningful art, and guests are pretty clearly defined as observers. However, the genre-bending shift of immersive museums is to design an experience that is focused on co-creation,” said co-founder John Connors. “This allows guests to not only see something beautiful, but also to make something beautiful.”

The exhibit consists of typographic specialties and a handful of interactive creation elements. Exhibit creators want each guest to leave the museum having created something, such as making a customized pinback button, stamping individual art print, writing a note of encouragement to a stranger, or writing a postcard that can be mailed anywhere in the country.

More than 20 artists from around the world contributed to the exhibit – the closest artist living just a few blocks away from the Gateway to the farthest artist traveling from Switzerland to create a custom piece.

“We wanted to create an exhibit that includes world-class museum quality art and interactive play. But we also wanted to create something that sought to ask and answer some thought-provoking questions for us and our guests,” said Connors. “We believe that language and art is the answer.”

ABC4’s Jason Nguyen and Rosie Nguyen visited the Love Letters Museum

Social media has no doubt played a role in the success of interactive and immersive exhibits, with users sharing photos and videos of their visit online and attracting others in their circle to do the same.

“People do a lot of storytelling through pictures and a lot of daily micro-connecting through social media. It’s how they find and share fun, interesting things to do,” said Connors. “Styling photos is another way people are able to tell their stories. The more unique, self-made art our guest can take home at the end of the exhibit, whether it be prints and buttons they made in our gift shop, letters they wrote in our mail room, or photos they took throughout the exhibit, the better.”

Along with his fellow co-founders and art directors Becca Clason, Josh Clason, and Sophie Welchers, Connors said they wanted to create an exhibit that prompts each visitor to think about how letters, words, and stories allow us to connect on a human level. He and Welchers were formerly with the team behind the Hall of Breakfast exhibit that was also at the Gateway last year. They said the success of that exhibit inspired them to come back this year with something that requires deeper thinking.

“We loved the colorful art and photo-friendly feel of Hall of Breakfast and similar exhibits, and we wanted to combine it with the thought-provoking fun of exhibits like Stefan Sagmeister’s ‘Happy Show,'” said Connors. “People that enjoyed Hall of Breakfast will certainly love this space. People who were looking for something with a little more substance, will find this exhibit much more intriguing than Hall of Breakfast.”

Connors said the owners and managers at the Gateway have committed to building and growing the local art community, which is one of the reasons why they decided to return to the complex for their next exhibit.

“As we were building our exhibit, local muralist Havoc Hendricks was finishing a giant two-story mural, LetterWest was hosting a national hand-lettering conference, the crosswalks were being painted rainbow for Pride month, the chalk art festival was happening, the list could go on for quite a while,” he said. “The Gateway has really established itself as a place that strongly supports art and artists. We feel lucky to partner with them any chance we get.”

Exhibit staff said there’s something for people for all ages at Love Letters Museum.

“We have a lot of three-generation groups that visit together, where grandparents, children, and grandchildren all find different parts of the exhibit intriguing and entertaining. People who love letters, words, books, and stories are particularly interested in the exhibit. But really, there’s something for everybody,” said Connors.

He said his team hopes each person leaves their exhibit inspired to say something meaningful. Through exposing guests to beautiful and inspiring art, he said the goal is to show visitors what tools they can use to tell their stories and prompt them to think about how to connect with people around them in meaningful ways.

“So far we’ve seen a full spectrum of emotional responses. Lots and lots of laughing. Lots of creative photo taking. But as they’re writing letters to people they love, we see lots of warm smiles, even a few tears sometimes,” said Connors.

Love Letters Museum will be at the Gateway until September 1st. The exhibit is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tickets for adults are $16.50, children 3 to 10 years old are $12.50, and children 2 and under are free.

To purchase tickets, click here.

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