Skip to main content

South Salt Lake Journal

Mural artist brings Southern Utah scene to South Salt Lake wall

May 30, 2022 05:45PM ● By Bill Hardesty

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

On a perfect spring evening, over 3,500 people stroll along the small streets in the Creative Industry Zone of South Salt Lake to enjoy food, music, and 10 new murals during Mural Fest 2022. With the new 10, the total number is 45 murals.

“We are thrilled with the communities excitement and interest in public art in South Salt Lake. Our outdoor gallery continues to garner national attention, and we look forward to highlighting additional artists in the years to come,” Julie Taylor, communications and outreach manager for South Salt Lake, said.

This year artists came from as far away as Hungary and Mexico, while others were much closer.

Gerry Swanson ( is a local artist in Mural Fest.

The selection

Swanson was a late choice. The first artist declined the opportunity, so Swanson was asked to paint.

“After trying for five years to get selected, I’m just glad to be involved,” Swanson said.

Participating businesses donate their wall and roughly about 25% of the artist’s stipend. The Arts Council spends a great deal of time trying to find bare walls and businesses wanting to participate.

Once the Arts Council has found the walls and selected the artist, matching the two involves numerous variables. Swanson was selected for the south wall of Superior Grinding along Haven Avenue.

The wall is 120 feet along Haven Avenue and another 17 feet around a corner.

The art

After being assigned the wall, Swanson met with the owners of Superior Grinding.

“It turns out that the family has a rodeo legacy in the Moab area,” Swanson said.

Swanson decided to highlight the beauty of Southern Utah along with crows, ravens, cowboys and horses.

“We (Superior Grinding and myself) have agreed to stylistically portray the La Sal Mountain Range as well as red rock formations of Moab, Utah in the background and portray cowboys, horses, crows/ravens, and a hawk in the foreground,” Swanson wrote to the Arts Council.

Swanson stressed the pictures provided were only conceptional. For example, colors, item placement, or size could change.

“I hope people feel movement as they walk up to the painting,” Swanson said.

He says that the flow is created by using angles. He does the math in his head.

The artist

Swanson is a classically trained artist. He received an art degree from Lewis & Clark College in Oregon. On his website are examples of his murals, paintings, sketches and drawings.

“My art teachers kept telling me to put down the spray paint and pick up a paintbrush,” Swanson said.

They didn’t consider street art as art. However, Swanson loved creating with spray paint from a young age.

“Spray paint is fast, bold and expressive,” Swanson said. “Besides, I always knew graffiti would become an art form.”

Swanson is a local kid from the Taylorsville area. He started to paint murals full time in 2006. His first public work was at Caputo’s Market and Deli at 15th East and 15th South.


“I’ve tried to take advantage of every opportunity,” Swanson said. “It must work because people see my work and they keep calling.”

Swanson’s father was a mason and taught him how to lay bricks.

“I can read walls, which helps me in my work,” Swanson said.

A unique aspect of Swanson’s painting is the murals are painted freehand. Over the years, it has  became common for an artist to use a projector to show their sketch on the wall. Swanson knows what he wants and paints as the picture unfolds before him.

He is a self-professed perfectionist and likes being a one-person show.

Swanson likes to work on numerous projects at once. Besides the Mural Fest mural, he is working on murals at a softball complex in South Jordan.

“I can only work on a project for four or five hours before hitting the wall,” Swanson said.

Swanson is heading to Arizona and Texas when the two projects are completed.

The Process

Swanson’s first step was to spray paint the wall. A dark blue on top and a lighter blue on the rest of the surface.

Using black paint, he blocked out the picture. Then, the fun begins.

Just like a paint pallet, Swanson has milk cartons full of spray cans. He also has a bucket full of nozzles that are his brushes. He chooses the right nozzle for the job. Typically, an artist will have four types of nozzles. Thins are used for small areas, fine details, thin lines, light shading or highlighting. Outlines are medium-sized for solid clean lines. Fats supply a large spray area for painting larger areas. Super Fats are used for very large areas and provide fast output volume.

Besides choosing the correct nozzle, the distance from the wall also changes the volume. Painting close provides a small spray pattern. As Swanson pulls back, he gets a broader spray pattern.

Another unique part of Swanson’s painting is he likes to honor his family in the painting. In this case, there is a mare and two fillies representing his wife and two young girls on the east wall.

“I know the painting is finished in my guts,” Swanson said.

When it is, he puts an antifading clear coat on it. Then, after Mural Fest, South Salt Lake employees put on an anti-graffiti covering that sometimes alters the colors.

After 70 hours, his mural was ready for Mural Fest.

The reaction

“It is really cool,” one viewer said.

“It is impressive,” said another.

But one couple said it the best. “We really like the colors, but you can never go wrong with the Southern Utah landscape.”