A view of Nancy Holt's Sun Tunnels with a mountain range in the background during sunset.

Saturday, September 9, 2023 | 1–4 pm 

Join the UMFA for a fun day of art and science at Sun Tunnels, the iconic land art by Nancy Holt in Utah’s Great Basin Desert (known locally as the West Desert). UMFA members, families, teachers, and students of all ages are invited to explore the landscape, listen to music, create art, and learn about the environment of the desert. 

The Sun Tunnels

Nancy Holt's Sun Tunnels (1973–76) is a large-scale installation in northwestern Utah that consists of four large concrete cylinders, arranged on the desert floor in a cruciform pattern that aligns with the sunrise and sunset during the summer and winter solstices. In addition to this perfect solar framing, each of the cylinders is pierced with smaller holes representing the stars of four constellations: Draco, Perseus, Columba, and Capricorn. Holt's design allows for an ever-changing play of celestial light and shadow upon the resolutely material surfaces of her work. Part timepiece and part compass, Sun Tunnels is also a "camera" of sorts, dependent on natural light, with the concrete tubes acting as viewfinders that frame precise images which, in Holt's words, "bring the vast space of the desert back to human scale." 

Follow the Sun Tunnel guide at your own pace or join us for the following programs:

Programming and Art-Making Activities

Katie Porter, Clarinetist, will be performing works in and around Sun Tunnels. Experimental clarinetist Katie Porter (NYC/Utah) will premiere a new work created in collaboration with the poet and art historian Anne Penders (Brussels, Belgium), using their writings, voices, memories, field recordings, and archival interviews Anne conducted herself with land artists, including Nancy Holt, in the mid 90s. The work is an exploration of time and space, pace and place, sound and sources, a shared journey shared towards/within what we can and can't remember/forget. More info: www.fromkp.com.

Jeff Moore, associate professor of geology and geophysics at the U of U will be presenting and discussing a recording he created of the vibrations at Sun Tunnels
Constellation Viewers 

Nancy Holt’s iconic land art, Sun Tunnels, explores space, time, and perspective through tunnels that frame the landscape. In each concrete tunnel a different constellation is drilled into the side allowing you to view the sky through them. You too can view the sky through a constellation viewer you make yourself. Using a tube and paper, punch out one of the four constellations that Nancy Holt uses on the Sun Tunnels: Draco, Perseus, Columba, and Capricorn. 
Sun Prints 
Nancy Holt’s artwork, Sun Tunnels, is all about focusing your view on the landscape. You too can make a photograph focusing the view of natural materials. You'll create art by using sun-exposed photographic paper, a circle mask, and objects you find in nature.  
Try your hand at framing nature like Nancy Holt through photography. We will provide Polaroid cameras for you to use, Nancy Holt will provide Sun Tunnels and you will provide the creativity. You can keep the photographs you make! 
Painting the Sky with Cyanometers 
The sky and landscape play an important part in viewing Sun Tunnels. Explore the color of the sky using a scientific instrument called a cyanometer. This tool invented over 200 years ago is used to measure the shade of blue in the sky. You can use your own cyanometer to help draw the right blue sky in a landscape framed by Sun Tunnels.  


Image credit: 
Nancy Holt (American, 1938–2014), Sun Tunnels, 1973–76, Great Basin Desert, Utah, concrete, steel, and earth, 9 ft. 3 in. x 68 ft. 6 in. x 53 ft., diagonal length: 86 ft. Each tunnel: 18 ft. 1 in. x 9 ft. 3 in. diameter, from the collection of Dia Art Foundation with support from Holt/Smithson Foundation, © Holt/Smithson Foundation and Dia Art Foundation, licensed by VAGA, New York.