Provo pop-up Valentine's Day museum tries to rebrand the holiday

Valentine's Day is often viewed as a holiday for couples and has been overtaken by commercialism. A pop-up museum in Provo is hoping to challenge traditional ideas about Valentine's Day and rebrand the holiday to one that focuses on love, but not romance.

"My whole goal is for people to feel differently about Valentine's Day and feel like love applies to them, no matter what relationship status they're in," said Nicole Utley, who designed the pop-up museum.

The museum, located at 48 W. 100 North in Provo, encourages people to explore the idea of Valentine's Day with an open mind and to try to create more love.

Utley said that she is obsessed with Valentine's Day and wants people to see it as a delightful holiday. She designed her museum to poke fun at the romantic side of the holiday and its commercialization. She noted that for many people, the holiday is unpleasant either because they are single or because they are in a relationship and feel like they have an obligation to plan something or buy a gift.

She designed the museum with some visual and "Instagram-able" aspects but also hoped to give it substance. The museum includes interactive displays including themed mad-libs, a blackboard for people to write their love languages on, and a table where they can make Valentine's cards. The floor has a romance flow chart where each path ends with the conclusion "love yourself."

"No matter how you experience Valentine's Day, self-love can be something you take from it," Utley said.

Asher Franks, left, and Arden Covey explore the Valentine’s Pop-up Museum in Provo on Saturday. The museum's creator is hoping to challenge traditional ideas about Valentine's Day and rebrand the holiday to one that focuses on love, but not romance.
Asher Franks, left, and Arden Covey explore the Valentine’s Pop-up Museum in Provo on Saturday. The museum's creator is hoping to challenge traditional ideas about Valentine's Day and rebrand the holiday to one that focuses on love, but not romance. | Mengshin Lin, Deseret News

The Heartbreak Hall exhibit uses Taylor Swift songs and different types of streamers to bring museum visitors through different stages of a breakup. In another exhibit, visitors put on rose-colored glasses, which make it hard to see "red flags" in posters describing various romantic situations.

Mckenna Runnells is Utley's roommate and business partner. She helped Utley with putting together the pop-up museum and was taking photos for groups at the museum on Saturday. She cheered as a large group of girls came into the museum and posed for a photo. She said the museum is not designed for couples, they want everyone to come and feel loved.

"We're two single girls, but like we want people to remember that like Valentine's Day is just about like loving people and, like, letting other people love you," Runnells said.

She said it has been fun to see how news about the museum has spread and more people seem to be coming each night.

Alayna Wells, who came to the museum on Saturday, said that she heard about the event through friends and on Instagram. She noted that the museum was very "Instagram-able."

Anna May makes a card at the Valentine’s Pop-up Museum in Provo on Saturday. The museum's creator is hoping to challenge traditional ideas about Valentine's Day and rebrand the holiday to one that focuses on love, but not romance.
Anna May makes a card at the Valentine’s Pop-up Museum in Provo on Saturday. The museum's creator is hoping to challenge traditional ideas about Valentine's Day and rebrand the holiday to one that focuses on love, but not romance. | Mengshin Lin, Deseret News

Wells enjoyed a section with Valentine's mad-libs and an exhibit that taught the history of Valentine's Day and St. Valentine, which she was not familiar with before.

Matthew Stoner said it was cool to go to an event like this museum that was organized and run by people in his age group, people who are in their 20s or are college-age.

Utley said that some social media posts, including one popular TikTok video, have led to even more people finding the pop-up museum.

"It's gotten way, way more exposure than I expected. And it's really exciting to see people enjoy it," Utley said.

Ultey used to do marketing for a larger company, but she wanted to do event planning, and more specifically experience design. Experience design, she said, includes more details and a focus on who is coming to an event and involves planning for what experience they need to have from coming.

This pop-up museum, she said, is a passion project that she had been thinking about for a few years. She hopes to do other pop-up museums and events building from what she learned running the one.

The museum will be open one final evening on Monday — Valentine's Day — from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Valentine’s Pop-up Museum at 48 W. 100 North in Provo is pictured on Saturday. The museum's creator is hoping to challenge traditional ideas about Valentine's Day and rebrand the holiday to one that focuses on love, but not romance.
Valentine’s Pop-up Museum at 48 W. 100 North in Provo is pictured on Saturday. The museum's creator is hoping to challenge traditional ideas about Valentine's Day and rebrand the holiday to one that focuses on love, but not romance. | Mengshin Lin, Deseret News