Utah Arts Alliance announces plans to acquire, preserve and renovate the Historic 15th Ward Chapel in Poplar Grove

Utah Arts Alliance

The Art Castle is a project by Utah Arts Alliance to acquire, preserve and renovate the historic 120 year-old 15th Ward Chapel located at 915 West 100 South in Salt Lake City. The plan is to create a community gathering space, an arts and creative industries incubator, an immersive art attraction and a regional draw for those that would like to experience and participate in new emerging art forms. The Arts Castle project will be an incredible economic development driver and regional tourism draw in one of the most underserved areas in Utah.

The project—estimated to cost $4 million will be tackled in three phases of development. Utah Arts Alliance will purchase the property, ensuring longevity of the project and commitment to the westside neighborhood. Through private donations and a state appropriation, $1 million has been raised to begin the work. Donations of any size are currently being accepted at utaharts.org. Foundations and larger capital donors should contact Executive Director, Derek Dyer at derek@utaharts.org


History of the building

The Historic 15th Ward Chapel is a beautiful castle-like chapel and exemplar of Victorian Gothic revival architecture. Built in 1900, its original use was for the 15th Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Salt Lake City. In 1931, the cultural hall was added to the west of the chapel. The Church sold the chapel in the late 1960s when the ward was discontinued and  merged with the 34th ward.

For the last 40 years, the building has been home to LA East Studios, a recording studio facility owned by Universal Music. During that period music was recorded for hundreds of films including Disney’s Lion King, Toy Story, Jurassic Park and Wonder Woman. Legendary artists like B.B. King, Elton John and Eminem have recorded here. Universal Music vacated the building in 2020. In January 2021, Utah Arts Alliance entered into a contract with the building owner to purchase the building and create plans to build the Art Castle.

David Amott, Executive Director of Preservation Utah noted, “Historic Preservation is not just about saving old buildings. Preservation is also very much about documenting lived experience and the unique ways that life takes “place.” The Art Castle Building is an especially special structure with a history that illustrates, via its forms, finishes, and details, the experience of the Poplar Grove neighborhood, its people, and its culture. The Art Castle concept that the Utah Arts Alliance has proposed to install in this building is completely in keeping with this proud local experience and legacy. We couldn’t be happier to see the Utah Arts Alliance take on this once-threatened building and we at Preservation Utah look forward to contributing to the Art Castle’s short and long-term success.”

Phases of Development

Phase 1 will focus on the most immediate aspects of restoration and repair necessary to invite the public and artists to the Art Castle for multi-use activities, both inside and outside of the building. During Phase 1 we will have performance, rehearsal and event spaces available for use in this new Community Art Center. 

Phase 2 of the Art Castle Project will build upon the successes of Phase 1 and add additional amenities to accommodate increased usage and activities. Phase 2 expands the Creative Industries Incubator with the addition of a kitchen space, an immersive art attraction, retail opportunities and an outdoor stage. 

Phase 3 entails new construction in the parking lot on the west side of the property. The design will be scaled to fit the zoning and the character of the neighborhood. While a feasibility study has yet to be conducted, we anticipate the possible  inclusion of affordable housing and additional cultural amenities. Parking will be moved underground during this phase. 

“We are creating a place that will be a home for everyone that wants to experience arts and culture in this community, we envision this place as not only an economic driver for the west side of Salt Lake but also creating a better quality of life for residents and visitors alike. When you come to the Art Castle you will be experiencing something that is totally unique and original to Salt Lake”  said Derek Dyer Executive Director of Utah Arts Alliance. 

Signature Features

Utah Arts Alliance will repurpose the building as a community art center and much-needed gathering space. The Historic Chapel building will house performances, concerts, film screenings, presentations and more. 

Creative Industries Incubator : The Art Castle will foster new businesses and provide affordable space for local business, organizations and creative groups to use as they grow their reach in the community. Offering an affordable way for creative individuals and groups to lower operating costs and invest more money toward growing their businesses and program development. A creative industries incubator will be a vital resource for new and growing businesses, especially for those on the west side of our city. 

Immersive Art Attraction: Utah Arts Alliance is known for creating immersive experiences that are accessible and engaging to all members of the community. This attraction will secure the sustainability of the project for years to come, creating a revenue stream for the participating artists and the organization. Immersive art spaces are a global trend, noting an increased demand for multi-sensory, interactive, technological and highly imaginative art works. 

Community Art Center: Salt Lake County continues to be in need of facilities that support artists and creatives and the need for the public to experience arts and culture. The Art Castle will address these needs with artist studio space, venue rental options, access to public art and an immersive art experience featuring local artists. 

Sculpture Garden: The Art Castle will have an outdoor garden dedicated to the presentation of sculpture. Open to the public to enjoy sculptures and installations at no cost and suitable for outdoor events. The sculpture garden will be a safe, accessible place for the community to enjoy public art and events.

Stuart is the founder, writer and wrangler at several sites including Gastronomic SLC, Utah Now and, The Utah Review; Stuart is a former restaurant critic of more than five years, working for the Salt Lake Tribune and has worked extensively with other local publications from Utah Stories through to Salt Lake Magazine and Visit Salt Lake.