Former BYU student Nicole Utley launched a Valentine’s Pop-Up Museum in Provo for the first two weekends of February, where she combined her love of the holiday with her passion for experience design.
Utley aimed to create an “Instagrammable” event through the pop-up museum to provide people with something to do. However, she also wanted to make the experience more than that.
In an effort to change the perspective of the holiday, Utley constructed the museum to convey the idea that love is accessible to everyone, whether it be from a significant other, friends, family or even love from oneself.
Sharing this twist on love for Valentine’s Day piqued many people’s interest such as Mariee Paniagua, an attendee of the event. Paniagua said the message of universal love is what caught her attention when she saw an advertisement for the museum on Instagram.
“Valentine’s Day should be a day to celebrate all types of love and relationships,” Paniagua said.
When asked about the “why” of the theme, Utley shared her fond memories of Valentine’s Day as a child, saying it was a holiday she looked forward to every year. Her mother would make a special day out of it, filled with candy and heart-shaped cherry chip cake. The tradition continued as she grew older.
“On my mission, we were trying so hard to find it and we couldn’t find it at any store — it’s just a cake mix but she [Utley’s mother] mailed me a package of it and we made cupcakes for everybody and took them around town,” Utley said.
Paniagua also opened up about her feelings toward Valentine’s Day, reminiscing how as a child it was all about candygrams, classroom parties and school dances. However, her perspective has changed with age, and she said “there is some sort of pressure to have a date or plans with friends, but I still feel like it is a celebratory day.”
Meg Griffes, a relationship coach and educator at Guiding Relationships & Overall Wellness, made an appearance at the pop-up museum. She sat down with others throughout the event to give advice about love.
Griffes shared how growing up, the holiday wasn’t made to be a big deal. As an adult, her views have changed tremendously, focusing on being more giving toward others and fighting for the right for people to love who they love.
“I want to challenge people to be more loving toward the people around them on this day because love is all about what you give,” Griffes said. “I think the other part about Valentine’s Day that is really important to me now as well is fighting for other people’s rights to love.”
Utley discussed how she sees both sides of Valentine’s Day and understands why this holiday may be difficult for some people.
She discussed how difficult it may be for those who are not in relationships and feel this day serves as a reminder of that. She mentioned how it could also be hard for those who are in relationships because of the mind games and the pressure to meet certain expectations.
“It’s very obligatory — we have to go to dinner, we have to get each other presents and depending on how far we are in a relationship then we have to get a certain type of thing and hope they’re at the same level,” she said. “It’s just way more complicated than it needs to be.”
Griffes provided advice in regards to these challenges, stating what she wants both people in relationships and those who are single to know.
“Learn how to feel whole and work on having expectations for other people and knowing who you are and what you want,” she said. “Healthy people are more likely to seek, attract, find and keep healthy partners and the best time to get into a romantic relationship is when you don’t need one.”
For couples who are in more long-term relationships, she emphasized relationship maintenance and shared three important rules. First, make it safe to connect in all sorts of ways: “The number one priority in a relationship is to make sure your partner feels safe and can communicate,” she said.
Second, decide, don’t slide, she said. “When we’re not intentional about the maintenance in our relationships, things can just shift into disarray without us noticing.”
Third, “Do your part instead of just waiting for your partner to fix the thing you’re upset about with them or if it isn’t necessarily going well,” she said.