Stephen Goldsmith on Living Creatively Across Disciplines

Guest Blogger: Kylee Ehmann

When you think of people who are going to help solve the world’s “wicked problems”—issues like poverty, injustice, pollution—you might not consider artists.

But Stephen Goldsmith, local artist, urban planner, and professor at the University of Utah, says that artists and creators—those actively engaging with their imaginations—are in fact the best people to tackle today’s most difficult problems. And in his July 28 UMFA lecture, “Studio Without Walls: Living Creatively Across Disciplines,” Goldsmith will discuss how creative thinking can break out of artist studios and shape more sustainable and equitable communities.

stephen head shot u of u

“If we look at traditional societies around the world . . . the artist wasn’t somebody who was there to ornament the lives of those who could afford their services. The role of the artist was to help solve problems,” Goldsmith says. “Being a creator allows me to engage in problem solving…[and] create sustainable communities, places that are filled with elements that can enliven the human spirit.”

This interdisciplinary talk reflects Goldsmith’s varied career. In addition to creating environmental art such as the Seven Canyons Fountain in Liberty Park, he’s taught in the College of Fine Arts and College of Architecture and Planning for more than twenty-five years. He’s also served as director for nonprofits such as the Center for the Living City, which pushes for creating sustainable and equitable cities.

7 canyons

Goldsmith was the first artist to serve as planning director for Salt Lake City or any other major American city, and he was a central player in bringing the North Temple viaduct, where the TRAX Green Line meets the Frontrunner train station, to life.

Goldsmith says the pivotal moment in his creative life came when he founded Artspace, a housing, childcare, educational, and office space for non-profit agencies.

Picture 095

“I began to see the larger palette of this magnificent oasis on the edge of a desert as a place that needed to be preserved and needed to be treated with the respect that one should have for a place that has this kind of majesty,” Goldsmith says.

Jorge Rojas, UMFA director of education and engagement, says Goldsmith’s approach to art and community is the perfect fit for the ARTLandish series.

“If more people thought about our cities as landscapes and artworks, and of ourselves as co-creators in the process, then perhaps we might be more inclined to treat them as such and be more thoughtful about how we take care of the land we live on and how we design the cities we live in,” Rojas says.

While it may seem to many that actively participating in designing a city is out of reach, Goldsmith says everyone can create their environment, and he hopes those coming to his lecture realize that.

“The creative process is part of our evolutionary impulse as animals, as human beings,” Goldsmith says. “The tools and materials change, but the creative process stays pretty much the same.”

The talk, part of the UMFA’s ARTLandish: Land Art, Landscape, and the Environment series, will take place at 7 pm at the Salt Lake City Public Library. Like all ARTLandish programs, it’s free and open to the public.

For more information about this and other ARTLandish talks, visit



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