Landscape, Land Art and the American West:

A Joint Research and Scholarly Engagement Initiative of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts and the J. Willard Marriott Library

Robert Smithson (American, 1938–1973), Spiral Jetty, 1970, Rozel Point, Great Salt Lake, Utah, black basalt rock, salt crystals, earth, and water, 1,500 ft. long and approximately 15 ft. wide. © Holt/Smithson Foundation and Dia Art Foundation, licensed by VAGA, New York.


In 2018 the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded $500,000 to the Utah Museum of Fine Arts and the J. Willard Marriott Library at the University of Utah in support of a four-year collaborative project entitled Landscape, Land Art and the American West. This initiative is revolutionizing how the two institutions work together, capitalizing on both the Museum’s and Library’s substantial collections with the goal of transforming the U into a global resource hub for scholars studying the West.

Over the four-year period of the grant, the Mellon Foundation’s award will be matched by a $200,000 grant from the Office of the Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs, and additional support from across campus, including from the colleges of Fine Arts, Health, Humanities, and Mines and Earth Sciences. With this award, the UMFA and the Marriott appointed two joint faculty members, Jessica Breiman, Art and Archives Metadata Librarian, and Alana Wolf-Johnson, Collections Research Curator, to embed new collaborative practices between the Museum and the Library that will support faculty and student research.

The grant provides the UMFA and the Marriott with a unique opportunity to learn from one another while sharing their resources and ideas to foster interdisciplinary, collections-based scholarship across campus. The initiative invites students, faculty, artists, and scholars from not only the University of Utah campus, but from around the world, to critically engage with the UMFA’s and Marriott’s collections, furthering creative and scholarly research in the arts and sciences.

The grant supports three key goals:

  • LIBRARY-MUSEUM DISCOVERY PORTAL
    Create an online platform that enables simultaneous discovery and use of both the UMFA’s and Marriott’s collections;

  • COLLECTIONS RESEARCH
    Support focused, object-based research in the areas of landscape, Land Art and the American West that will increase the scholarly value of the UMFA’s and Marriott’s collections for artists and researchers across disciplines.

  • COLLECTIONS ENGAGEMENT
    Advance and disseminate innovative scholarship centered on the UMFA’s and Marriott’s collections by engaging with faculty, students, and the broader Utah community through public programming, exhibitions, curriculum planning and the initiation of an annual Fellowship in Collections Engagement Award.