Guide to the Utah Arts Festival: You Gotta Have Art

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The culturally-rich 33rd annual Utah Arts Festival showcases varied visual arts, vibrant musical performances, delectable food and fun, art-oriented activities for children.

The arts festival is known as the biggest in the state, which is contributed to its overall event attractions, including the Fear No Film Festival, the Wasatch IronPen writing competition and the Mayor’s Artist Awards, among several others.


This year, with its 137 artist booths, more than 100 performing groups and 20 culinary vendors, the festival should again draw in some 80,000 people over its four-day run. Artists from around the nation and Canada include painter Trent Call, mixed media artist Melissa Behr, photographers Jeff Beck and Greg Gawlowski, jewelry maker Margaret Regan, wood carver David Levy, sculptor Mark Breithaupt, ceramics by Brian Jensen and clay artist Kevin Frazier — just to name a very few.

The Fear No Film Festival’s theme this year encourages festival guests to deconstruct the who-what-where-when-why-how? of each short film. From “who made this short film and does it change my experience sitting here today?” to “when does it reference and does it represent a public or personal zeitgeist of some sort?” to “how did they make it, the production itself?”, the film selection should encourage viewers to ponder these questions. Films include The Young & Evil (Who? selection), directed by Julian Breece, a drama about a defiantly promiscuous young man who finds eros in self-destruction through the roots of homophobia, faithlessness and the need for human connection; Fun with Condoms (How? selection), directed by Jay Sheldon, a comedy about a father who talks with his son about growing up; Heart in the Wound (Where? selection), directed by Lisa Kessler, a documentary about the Catholic Church sexual abuse crisis in Boston; and the fabulous local hit Vapid Lovelies (Best of Other Fests selection), directed by Frank Feldman, a hilarious comedy about two gay guys on a quest for the perfect Sundance Film Festival outfit.

At the Big Mouth Café on the festival grounds is a long list of wonderful literary artists who will share their readings, including Lynn Kilpatrick, “Fiction Mistress,” Diane Fouts, “Cherry Mouth Poet,” Mike McLane, “Jumping Morphine Poet” and Jacob Paul, “Fiction Maestro.” Also on hand at the festival is the SLCC Community Writing Center, offering workshops and performances — workshops on writing poetry, writing responsible lyrics and conducting personal interviews; interested writers may register to enter the Wasatch IronPen Literary Marathon, a 24-hour writing competition (registration closes Friday, June 26 at 6pm); community readings from local writers will also be held.

Each year at the festival the Salt Lake City mayor honors artists and organizations with a Mayor’s Artist Award. This year Mayor Ralph Becker recognizes Joel Long with the Literary Arts Award, Keven Myhre with the Performing Arts Award, Heart & Soul and The 337 Project with Service to the Arts Organization Awards, and Sam Wilson with the Visual Arts Award.

Joel Long is a poet and high school creative writing teacher. In 1997, he founded the Lake Effect Writer’s Conference; it has grown to be one of the largest and most distinguished high school writer’s conferences in the country. Keven Myhre is a theatre artist with over 27 years of experience — namely at the Salt Lake Acting Company — in areas including set design, costume design and directing. His directing skills have most recently been seen in The Clean House and Moonlight and Magnolias. Heart & Soul is a collection of musical performers who bring music to people in isolated circumstances, such as rehabilitation centers, prisons and homeless shelters. The 337 Project is an organization that creates art appreciation and art education in nontraditional contexts. A few of their accomplishments include the 337 Project Building in downtown Salt Lake City, the Present Tense art show at the Salt Lake Art Center and the Urban Gallery benefit for Neighborhood House. Sam Wilson is a prolific painter and professor of Art at the University of Utah. One of his most lasting artisitc contributions is his installations of the “14 Stations of the Cross” at the Cathedral of the Madeleine.

A few of the musical performances taking the stage during the festival are Band of Annuals (Folk), Kate Macleod (Folk), Sister Wives (R&B/Blues), Saliva Sisters (Satire), Big Gun Baby (Pop/Rock) and Traveler (Ethnic/World).

Repertory Dance Theatre and Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company will also be performing.

Street artists will be showcasing some fabulous street theater, such as improv rock and performance belly dance by No Blood to Spare, juggling by Marcus Wilson, Brazilian fire dance by Samba Fogo and traditional Flamenco dancing by Bien Flamenco.

For all those lovely, talented kids darting through the festival is their very own Art Yard, where they can touch, make and create. They can make their own planet, comet or star in the Celestial Cave; they can make a personalized cloud in the Cloud Mountain Range; they can help build stellar spacecrafts at Spaceship Central; they can create and paint colorful butterflies under the Dancing Moose net; they can learn the art of kite-making from Japan Cultural Heritage Foundation.

New this year at the festival is Steamroller Printing. Saltgrass Printmakers will demonstrate the art of big woodcut prints. Artists carve images into wood, apply ink to the raised surfaces and then print them with a 1.3-ton steamroller. How fabulous!

The Utah Arts Festival runs from noon to 11pm, June 25–28. Tickets are $5–7 in advance or $10 at the gate. Between noon and 3pm on Thursday and Friday, tickets are only $5. Four-day passes are also available for $30. For additional information and full event scheduling call 801-322-2428 or visit uaf.org.

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