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Friday, March 29 • 2:00pm - 3:20pm
The Spiral Jetty Partnership

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Dia Art Foundation is the owner and steward of Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty. In 2012, Dia formed a partnership with two Salt Lake City-based organizations: The Great Salt Lake Institute (GSLI) at Westminster College and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA) at the University of Utah. Collaboration with Utah organizations ensures local advocacy for this important American artwork, an acclaimed Utah landmark.

Smithson died shortly after the construction of the artwork, and in 1999, the artist Nancy Holt, his wife, and the Estate of Robert Smithson donated Spiral Jetty to Dia Art Foundation, who maintains the earthwork's land lease with the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands within the Department of Natural Resources (FFSL). Created at a time when lake elevation was low, Spiral Jetty became submerged in 1972 and remained hidden under water until droughts caused the lake to recede in 2002. Since the sculpture reemerged, it has received more attention onsite and online, requiring a more active stewardship.

In developing Spiral Jetty, Robert Smithson purposefully circumvented the museum structure, and this independence was innate to his sculptural intervention in nature. Through this important partnership, we aim to uphold the artist's intentions for the work's conditions, which are outlined in the artist's writings, his papers at the Archives of American Art, as well as in important archival documents from the Department of Natural Resources, Division of State Lands, Utah.

The primary benefits of the Spiral Jetty Partnership revolve around increased access, awareness, and interdisciplinary discussions on this iconic artwork. Therefore, this panel aims to provide key insights on how this partnership shapes initiatives to promote the communal care of Spiral Jetty and the surrounding site, such as maintaining visitor access, documenting environmental change, and educational initiatives.

Dia Art Foundation is committed to advancing, realizing, and preserving the vision of artists. Dia is a constellation of sites, from site-specific artworks in New York, the American West and Germany; to an exhibition program at Dia:Beacon, in Beacon, NY, and New York City.

GSLI is dedicated to connecting people to Great Salt Lake through research and education. In achieving this mission, it fosters interdisciplinary collaborations that engage academia and the public. Within this partnership, GSLI spearheads research and outreach opportunities and frequents Spiral Jetty as part of these efforts. Their experience and close physical proximity make GSLI an ideal collaborator for Dia, particularly with regard to environmental issues, maintenance, and site accessibility.

UMFA, the fine arts museum for both the state and the University of Utah, is a vibrant hub for cultural exchange among campus and community audiences. The UMFA maintains a cultural presence for Spiral Jetty in Salt Lake City, at the museum, and on its website. Additionally, the UMFA upholds the cultural reputation of Spiral Jetty within Utah, collaborating with Dia on public programs and the development of curricula around the artwork.

FFSL has management jurisdiction over lands below the Great Salt Lake (GSL) meander line. GSL is a unique and complex ecosystem of regional and hemispherical importance. Sustainable use of GSL’s natural resources ensure that the ecological health, scenic attributes, extractive industries, and recreation opportunities will be maintained into the future. FFSL coordinates with other state, federal and local entities to ensure that the management of these resources will provide lasting benefit to the Public Trust.

Learning Objectives
  • The audience will learn key factors to building successful intra-institutional relationships that facilitate greater access to and use of collections.
  • The audience will gain greater understanding of how to develop relationships with local stakeholders to build a community that works together to steward regional art resources.
  • The audience will learn how promoting Land art, and related collections, can benefit the ecosystem in which the work resides.


Whitney Tassie

Senior Curator, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Utah Museum of Fine Arts


Laura Ault

Utah Shared Stewardship Coordinator, Utah's Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office
Laura Ault is the Shared Stewardship Coordinator for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. Laura started the Shared Stewardship position in July 2019, soon after the Agreement for Shared Stewardship between Governor Gary Herbert and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue... Read More →

Bonnie Baxter

Director, Great Salt Lake Institute at Westminster College

Kelly Kivland

Associate Curator, Dia Art Foundation

Friday March 29, 2019 2:00pm - 3:20pm MDT
Grand America Hotel: Envoy (1st Floor) 555 Main Street, Salt Lake City, UT, 84111