Art, better than aspirin

Will it make us feel better?

AFSC Exterior at duskIt’s the first question I ask when hanging something on the walls of our home.

Turns out the same question was asked at the new Intermountain Health Care clinic in American Fork. That’s where I discovered beautiful prints hanging in the lobbies, halls, and patient rooms. The quality, variety, and thoughtfulness of image selection were astonishing.

This is a clinic?

I had to know more:

  • In this time of number crunching and high health care costs, how can Intermountain afford something as nebulous as art?
  • How did they acquire such a compelling mix of local work?

I contacted Laura Salazar, an Intermountain marketing representative. Art installation, she said, is part of a progressive, holistic understanding of healing.

“Art is part of the healing environment as a whole,” said Salazar. “We are using art that reflects nature to enhance that process.”

Turns out research supports the idea of hospitals investing in feel-good efforts like nice rooms and nice things to look at. Some 600 studies have now confirmed what we knew personally, at home. It’s beneficial for hospital employees to work in a pleasing environment, as well. Read more.

flowers“Everyone is coming around to how important art is,” said Apryll Killpack, president of Alpine Art, the Salt Lake City gallery hired to select and install some 300 pieces at the four-story clinic. The process took months. The works all depict nature but are diverse in style and medium; some are behind glass, some are metal, others are printed on canvas.  There are colored x-rays of flowers and plants in the x-ray suite.

“If you have landscape after landscape after landscape, you’ll quit looking at them,” said Killback. “We worked with local artists and worked to reflect the community. People have rural roots…A lot of people in American Fork have horses.”

I gravitated to this image, taken by Utah photographer Charlie Lansche and printed on canvas for a captivating, oil-painting look. It was taken in Chalk Creek Canyon in Summit County.


“I was roaming country roads during early winter looking for eagles to photograph,” recalled Lansche. “I came upon the Clegg family who were unloading a couple of horses in a high country corral. I asked if I could photograph them and they said they were heading up to their high pasture to bring down their rodeo stock for the winter and invited me to go along.  I grabbed my camera and jumped in a truck and up the mountain we went.  It was a scene from the old west as three generations of Cleggs rounded up these beautiful paints and pushed them down a couple of miles to a loading corral.”

Wow. Now I feel even better.

The Sunday Supposition

dogs and hiking

lds teeA Salt Lake City man told me his friend, an out-of-state salesman, modified his wardrobe whenever approaching Utah businesses. He wore a white t-shirt under his dress shirt, making sure the shirt was thin enough for folks to see the tee underneath.

There was a presumption on his customers’ part that ‘we’re all Mormons here,’ said my acquaintance. Mormon men traditionally sport undershirts.

I’m finding Sundays, or rather, how people spend their Sundays, can be almost as revealing as that white tee supposition.

Initially, I noticed this when encamped in Provo at the Residence Inn (where we stayed before moving to Herriman). I sought daily solace and exercise in Rock Canyon, the breathtaking, urban park leading into National Forest land just off N 1450 E. Read more about Rock Canyon.

Six days of the week were bustling, full of walkers, runners, big families, moms strolling in tandem with baby carriages. Sundays were eerily calm. The dogs and I had the run of the place. Fellow hikers laughed when I IMG_3880asked them about it. Natives and non-natives, they essentially said, “Duh! Everyone’s at church.”

In Maine, Iowa, and elsewhere, Sundays were just the opposite. It was a day for heading out real early or real late if you wanted to avoid crowds. For many friends and family members, church attendance wasn’t something that dominated the day. It was fit into the schedule.

I’m learning.

If you have issues with crowds, do not visit parks on Saturdays. Everybody is there with his brothers and sisters. Likewise, do not hit the mall, restaurant, or any other venue on Friday evenings or Saturdays. DO head there on Sunday if they’re open. (This is another Utah thing: lots of stores and restaurants are shuttered on Sundays.)

As for church-going, this poet put it best:

I don’t cotton to no church with walls or bylaws,

But I get down on my knees for Nature.

Take them horses. Why, they deliver homilies every day.

Straight shooters. Nothing thorny.

It’s just a matter of knowing their vernacular and showing up.

Not just Sundays but every day.

And, heck, my ass always felt better in a saddle than in a pew.

A. B. McCormick

Fit and Fit to be Tied

I’m getting a handle on this Clean Living thing, something Utah promotes as one of its intrinsic qualities.

IMG_3700First, there’s the wilderness. Utah has more public land than any other state except Nevada and Alaska. People here get out! Even in the lesser known Oquirrh mountains, we see scores of riders in all kinds of weather.

If they’re not riding, they’re biking or hiking or running. Just along Interstate 15, between Salt Lake City and Provo, there are a dozen billboards announcing running races.  Our local recreation center is easily the busiest place in town, after the grocery store and schools. Being fit seems knit into the social fabric.

Second, there’re the Mormons. About two-thirds of Utahns belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. God handed down the law of health to Joseph Smith in 1833. It’s better known as the Word of Wisdom and bans the use of tobacco, alcohol, tea, coffee, and illegal drugs.

While it’s thrilling to be amongst a fit population (it ranks sixth healthiest in the nation, according to the United Health Foundation), can I get a decent pint or cuppa?

Read more about the good and bad health of Utah.

Supermarkets sell beer but it can’t be over 3.2 percent alcohol here. If you want to brown-bag anything stronger, you’ll have to go to a state liquor store; there are just 44 of them. That’s one packy for every 64,000 residents. And did I mention the added costs and sin taxes? Did I mention the low pay and low morale of Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control employees?

Whether efforts are state-mandated or supported by the Word of Wisdom, Utah takes the fun out of imbibing, Road closed sign before the road constructionfor sure.

(The other night, a Chris Christie/George Washington Bridge scenario seemed to unfold as Road Closed barriers blocked the street to my local package store. It happened during the LDS General Conference, the church’s semi-annual gathering. Coincidence?)

Read of one Mainer’s successful brewery here.

As for coffee, Utahns seem to be warming to it. A Riverton donut shop has a big banner announcing, “Now Serving Coffee!”

A donut shop without coffee? Only in Utah.

A Gem in the Sands of Sameness


A view of SLC from the county boundary.

There is a stunning contrast to many spaces in Utah, one of the fastest growing states in the country. The valleys are filling up with track housing and strip malls like sand flowing free from an hourglass. The wilderness, of which there is more here than in almost any other state, butts up against this sprawl.

It’s night and day. Black and white. And it’s especially striking when you live on the cusp of both worlds; we share a property line with the Bureau of Land Management area that covers part of the Oquirrh Mountains, on the edge of Salt Lake County, population one million.

Driving around these so-called neighborhoods, you’ll find predictabile blandness at every turn. National franchises rule. Walgreens, Lowes, Wendy’s, Bed, Bath & Beyond. Repeat.

So it was with pleasure and relief that we found Fratelli Ristorante in Sandy.

It’s a gem in the Sands of Sameness.

Brothers Pete Cannella and Dave Cannell run Fratelli (which means brothers in Italian). The pair grew up in the business, working and hanging out at their aunt and uncle’s place, Cannella’s in Salt Lake City.

Putting down restaurant roots in Sandy was deliberate, said Dave Cannell, who runs the floor while Pete manages the kitchen.

frat“We wanted to bring Sandy something they haven’t had, something local and independent,” said Cannell, who feels one shouldn’t have to drive into Salt Lake “just to get a meal that isn’t from a franchise.”

I’m not a foodie or a restaurant reviewer, but my meal, (eggplant parmesan) was delicious. Steve’s was even better (trout with spuds, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus all cooked in parchment paper). The Cabernet Sauvignon was perfect, as was the spiced latte, delicately flavored with honey, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Yum. I’m going back. That’s what most people do, apparently. The place was full of regulars.

How do I know? Cannell greeted every other diner by name and with a hand shake. My kind of place.

[Wondering how and why the brothers have different last names? Pete legally changed it back to the original family name, from generations ago. He suggested his brother do the same, but Dave had just gotten married and his wife would have to change her name for a second time. He declined.]

Speaking of beer

Tile work in brewery foyer

Tile work in brewery foyer

Readers might forgive my subjectivity when it comes to local beer tasting thus far. My favorites come from Uinta Brewing Company, founded by fellow Mainer, Will Hamill.

Hamill grew up in Falmouth and his family still has a place in Harpswell. He first came to Utah for the skiing and mountain biking, he told me.

He moved here permanently 23 years ago and started Uinta in 1993. The brewery is named after Utah’s highest mountain range and the only east-west oriented range in the contiguous U.S.

hopnotchI made a visit to Uinta’s Brewhouse Pub to taste more of their varieties, trying samples of Bristlecone Brown Ale, Hop Nosh IPA, HooDoo Kolsch Style Ale, Yard Sale Winter Lager, and a few more from Uinta’s organic line.

Small samples, I tell you. I like Hop Nosh the best.

Stay tuned for more on Uinta, including a visit to their completely wind-solar powered brewery.

Read more about drinking (or not) in Utah.

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