The Art Barn had a precarious birth in 1931 during the Depression. But it has survived 60 years, even though there were times when its future looked bleak.

After the Art Barn's formal opening on June 11, 1933, it became the home of the Salt Lake Art Center. And it began to grow and flourish during a time when economic distress was forcing fine art centers across the country to close.When the Salt Lake Art Center moved to its new downtown location in 1979, the future for the Art Barn was uncertain. Fortunately, the Salt Lake City Arts Council decided to move in. Under its direction, the building has undergone extensive remodeling and is now an attractive, up-to-date facility.

What started out as a small exhibition space has mushroomed into six galleries: The Art Barn's Finch Lane and Park galleries and the SLAC's Main, Upstairs, Triangle and Collection galleries.

- Finch Lane Gallery

Last year, the Salt Lake City Arts Council initiated a tribute to visual artists who had exhibited at the Art Barn over the years. David Sucec was invited to curate the show.

Through his research, Sucec came up with the names of more than 300 artists. Because of space limitations, the council decided to divide the show into two exhibits. The first, held last year, reviewed the first 35 years. The current exhibit covers the past 25 years (1965-1990).

For this second exhibit, Sucec selected works by 52 artists. Gallerygoers will recognize works by artists such as Barsch, Bliss, Deffebach, Dibble, Elsner, Goldsmith, Kleinschmidt, Makov, Olsen, Snow, Ure, Wilson and other Utah artists.

But they will be surprised to find works by famous artists interspersed among those by local artists who at one time or another had works displayed in the Art Barn.

In his curator's statement, Sucec said, "I can say how gratifying it has been to see how well the work by our locals "stack up" against the work of the world-class artists such as Rauschenberg, Katz, Lichtenstein, Miro and Picasso."

- Park Gallery

This new gallery is located on the lower level of the Art Barn. Now being installed is a holiday show featuring hand-crafted works by some of Salt Lake's finest artists. The show opens Saturday, Dec. 8 with a reception from 2 to 5 p.m.

The two exhibits listed above continue through Sunday, Dec. 23, at the Art Barn, 54 Finch Lane. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. For details, call 596-5000.

- Main Gallery

Located in the Salt Lake Art Center, 20 S. West Temple, this gallery is between shows. Gallery personnel are setting up a multisensory installation by Beth Ames Swartz of Arizona. The exhibit, titled "A Moving Point of Balance," has been inspired by rituals associated with healing and spiritual harmony. It will be open to the public from Saturday, Dec. 8, through Feb. 1, 1991. A reception is set for Friday, Dec. 7, from 7 to 9 p.m.

Accompanying the exhibit will be a workshop on creativity by Swartz as well as art-lunch tours. The workshop is scheduled for Dec. 8 from 9 a.m. to noon. A fee of $20 includes workshop materials and a box lunch. Swartz will be one of the four scholar/writers participating in the "Issues in Art," a public forum set for 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 6.

The art-lunch tours are scheduled for Wednesdays at noon on Dec. 12 and 19 and Jan. 2, 23 and 30. Look under Art Canvass each Sunday for more information.

- Upstairs Gallery

Since last year's nutcracker exhibit was so enthusiastically received, the center's board has decided to make it an annual tradition. This year, it's titled "Nutcrackers . . . the Exhibit."

The 19 Utah artists participating in this year's show have allowed their imaginations to soar as they have created their distinctive nutcrackers.

Both Diana Gardiner and David Pursley had similar ideas by constructing crackers topped with nuts.

Other imaginative works are Susannah Kirby's "My Little Devil," Pat Ellington's cat wearing a top hat, Laurel Mabey's "Nutcracker Falling from Grace" and Robin Roberts' "Soon to be Heartless."

Mark England, one of the artists participating in the show, will present a gallery talk at noon on Wednesday, Dec. 5. The show continues through Dec. 24.

- Triangle Gallery

This gallery, located in the southeast corner of the SLAC, is currently spotlighting gift items for the holidays. A description of these items, plus other gift ideas found in other galleries, will be the subject for next week's visual arts page. Hours at the SLAC are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1-5 p.m. on Sunday. For information, call 328-4201.