Everyone knows that there are two types of people in this world, those who make shit happen and those who don’t. Luckily for Salt Lake, Corey Bullough happens to land in the first category. At just 31, he has already had a huge impact on Salt Lake’s thriving contemporary urban community. Not only is Corey responsible for helping open FICE, one of the best clothing boutiques/art galleries in Utah, he is also guilty of commissioning one of the most breathtaking pieces of street art in the world, right here in downtown Salt Lake City. Lucky for us, Corey agreed to sit down and answer a few questions about how it all came to be.
REVOLV: First off, let’s get some of the fluff questions out of the way. How old are you and where are you from?
COREY: I’m 31 and I was born in Portland, but I pretty much grew up in Utah. (Layton)
REVOLV: When did you move from Layton to Salt Lake?
COREY: Well, I moved out of Utah right when I graduated high school, and then I went to Logan for a bit. I was in and out of there for a while, traveled for a bunch of years, and then I moved to Salt Lake about six or seven years ago.
REVOLV: What inspired you to open FICE?
COREY: A while back, I was in the lower eastside of Manhattan and I saw this super dope sneaker spot. Once I saw it, I got super inspired. I ended up flying home that night and went to the Circle Lounge…
REVOLV: Wait… the Circle Lounge? Really?!
COREY: Yeah, back in the day when it first
REVOLV: ..so, before how it is now? Okay, go on. Sorry.
COREY: Haha yeah, so I went there and I happened to bump into Laura (Hadar). I remembered that she had been interested in opening up a store a few years prior, so we sat down and I verbalized my idea to her, and she was into it.
REVOLV: How did you two originally meet each other?
COREY: I had met her a few years back while skateboarding. Actually, when I first met her, I had no idea what she did.
COREY: Yeah. So you know how I work with
kids? (Side Note: Corey also works with under privileged kids. Yep, he is a better person than you)
COREY: I used to get a bunch of free snowboard stuff back then, and one day I was handing out a bunch of Nakita posters to some of the girls I was working with. While I was handing them out, one of the girls was like “this girl is really pretty!” So I looked at the poster and there was Laura. It was crazy! I had no idea.
REVOLV: That is pretty wild.
COREY: Yeah, so I had only known her casually for a couple of years before we opened FICE. Like I said, she had mentioned wanting to open up a clothing store; which happened to be around the same time I was fucking around with real estate, so I told her that I would help her find a spot. We had lunch a few times and talked about it, but she realized that she was too busy to run a store at the time.
REVOLV: Because her snowboard career was blowing up, right?
COREY: Yeah. So nothing became of it. After that, I hadn’t seen her for a few years, but we stayed loose friends. Then I happened to run into her again that night at the Circle Lounge… I guess you could call it fate.
REVOLV: So it just took off from there?
COREY: We started looking for spaces around town again, but we weren’t really into any of them, so the plan started to fizzle out. Then one day I checked out the old Guthrie building, which was completely empty at the time. Actually, where FICE and Este (pizza) are now, was one big open room. It was disgusting. The floors were all black… it was a giant shit hole (laughing).
REVOLV: That’s when you knew it was the place, right? (laughing)
COREY: I liked the actual building, so I wanted to check it out. I made the phone call and Tom Lee answered (Note: Tom Lee started Blindside Snow and Skate, which was one of the first snowboard/ skateboard shops in the Layton area while Corey was growing up….. so they were both well aware of each other). After about thirty seconds into the conversation, Tom was like “Wait, Do I know you?” Once we figured out who each other was, we were both like “Oh, shit!”
REVOLV: Man, talk about a small world.
COREY: So, I set up a meeting to go check out the property. While I was driving over there, I saw Laura on the side of the street talking to some of her friends. Once I saw her, I was like “What the fuck?!” (laughing) So I pulled over, told her to jump in the car, and we went and checked out the space.
REVOLV: Let me get this straight. You just coincidentally saw her on the side of the road while on your way to go check out the space, which is now FICE?
COREY: Yeah, it was crazy! And once we saw it, we both knew that was the spot.
REVOLV: Sounds like fate to me. Aside from being inspired by the sneaker shop in New York, what was your vision for FICE at the time?
COREY: I have always been into street art, so I had more of a grandiose vision as far as the gallery side goes. I planned on bringing in a bunch of my favorite artists that have been so inspiring to me over the years. The first artist we brought in was Cory Smith, who is from LA/Portland. After that show, I realized that the people our age (20’s and early 30’s) in Utah don’t really have the money to spend on that kind of art. So, I decided from that point on to have all of our shows feature local artists. I am really glad it worked out that way, because it has made the art more affordable and the shows feel more communal.
REVOLV: Speaking of bringing in artists that inspire you, how did you hook up with the artists who painted the mural on the side of FICE?
COREY: El Mac (graffiti/street artist) was in a crew that one of my friends was in at the time. While I was growing up, I remember seeing some of his freight train graffiti. He would always paint faces next to my friends tag names. Sometimes it would be a picture of his face, his girlfriends face, Jesus’ face, or whatever.
REVOLV: So, he was a face guy?
COREY: Yeah, totally. About eight or ten years ago, I reached out to him to see if he would draw me a picture of Jesus. He seemed all about it, but I didn’t hear back from him for about a year. He finally hit me up and told me that there were two drawings for me to choose from. He sent me one, and then about a month later he sent the other.
REVOLV: Why did he wait a month to send you the other one?
COREY: I guess he had it in some art show, so he had to wait to get it back. It’s crazy because back then I only paid a couple hundred bucks for it, but now I could probably sell it for $5,000-$10,000.
COREY: Yep (Laughing). Anyways, there was that spot on the wall of our building where the old Guthrie logo was, which I kind of felt bad about painting over, but I knew it would be a great spot for Mac to do something amazing. I reached out to him, showed him the wall space and said “Let’s do a Virgin Mary! What do you think?” He thought it was a great idea, so he agreed.
REVOLV: Did it cost you a load of money?
COREY: I had to raise a little bit of money, but they actually agreed to a very fair price. So fair in fact, it probably wasn’t even worth their time.
REVOLV: So it was more “fair” for you?
COREY: Oh yeah, for sure. I happened to ask both he and RETNA (EL MAC’s painting partner) to do the painting while they were getting really famous. It was going to be their largest painting to date, and I think they were both just stoked on the idea. So, we got everything settled and then they got super busy. They were flying all over the world, painting everywhere. They were killing it. I was like “Okay, this is probably never going to happen. They are way too busy and it won’t even be worth their time anymore”, so I didn’t invest too much into it after that. Two years later (2009), I got a call in early November and they told me that they could be here the following week.
REVOLV: They were down to paint in November?
COREY: It was the only time they could do it. I originally wanted them to come out during the summer when it was warm, but their schedules just didn’t line up.
REVOLV: So they flew out that following week and painted in the cold ass weather?
COREY: Yeah, they both flew out and got to work. RETNA started the piece by painting all of the outside stuff. Actually, after a few hours of painting, he realized that he wasn’t going to be able to do it all by himself, so he asked for my help.
REVOLV: Whoa! I bet that was a pretty rad experience?
COREY: It was really cool for me because I wasn’t expecting to be involved at all. I was planning on just leaving them alone to do their thing. Because it was such a big piece, and the lift they were using was so high, RETNA needed my help. I got to drive the lift for him, mix his paints,
and actually have some input on what I wanted in the mural.
REVOLV: It sounds like they were pretty cool to work with
COREY: Yeah, it was awesome. RETNA would pretty much paint whatever and would then talk to me about what I wanted. El Mac on the other hand, was going to use a reference photo for the Virgin Mary, so he was pretty much set on what he was going to do.
REVOLV: Why did you decide on the Virgin Mary?
COREY: I have always loved religious iconography. One day while I was walking through Temple Square, I realized how masculine everything was. All of the statues were of men and there wasn’t really any representation of the woman. So I figured, why not glorify the feminine aspect?
REVOLV: I think that is awesome.
REVOLV: Going back to the gallery aspect of FICE. How do you choose the artists that show in your space every month? What do you look for?
COREY: I don’t necessarily just look for street artists or photographers. I am usually looking for someone who is fairly established. We have really big walls in our space, so they are hard to fill appropriately. I also like to change it up and keep it fresh. One month we might have something really dark, and then the next month we might have something a little lighter. I just want to make sure that I am involving all of the different artist communities that we have in the city.
REVOLV: As far as the community is concerned, is there anyone you can think of that is really pushing things in the right direction for Salt Lake?
COREY: Like artists?
REVOLV: Artists, entrepreneurs, anyone…
COREY: As far as artists go, I think that Dan Christofferson is doing some phenomenal things. I am very grateful for Lance Saunders and Will Sartain (The Urban Lounge and Kilby Court). I think that those dudes are doing a great job. Cody Derrick and the CityHome Collective is a fucking powerhouse of awesomeness. Skylar Nielsen with Vita Brevis films is a total boss. He is pushing the god damn limits.
REVOLV: What else do you have your hand in right now? Anything exciting?
COREY: I am working on a zombie extermination device.
COREY: Yeah, they are really cool. They can either function as a piece of art on your wall, or as a weapon to keep you safe when the zombie apocalypse happens.
(He proceeded to show me the device hanging on his wall. Needless to say, I want one)
REVOLV: Well, thanks for taking the time to sit down with me. I hope everything keeps going well for you.
COREY: No problem. Thanks!
REVOLV: Before I get out of here, is there anyone you would like to thank?
COREY: Yeah, I would like to thank Skylar, Tom, Cody, and Laura… and anyone else who I might be forgetting at the moment.
Make sure to check out FICE. It is located at 160 East 200 South, Salt Lake City.