There is a phenomenon that might be termed 'art festival art,' not that it's bad, but certain kinds of art do better at festivals. As with many such festivals across the country, the Utah Arts Festival seems to aim at being more and more all-inclusive, have 'something for everyone,' but there are certain modes of artistic expression, such as large scale video installations and controversial subject matter that you won't see at this kind of festival.
The first night I attended, Saturday, June 28, nothing in particular grabbed my attention, but then it made for a more leisurely saunter around the booths in the Artist Marketplace. Festival artists have some fascinating stories, like Terry Jones, who lives with his wife Betty in Trout Lake, WA, a town of 600 people and crafts wooden bowls. “I turn the wood on a lathe, and hand finish it,” he notes of the finely detailed workmanship. Glass artist Mariusz Rynkiewicz was originally from Bialystok, Poland, and immigrated to Seattle, WA in 1988. His work, reminiscent of Seattle master Dale Chihuly, has won numerous awards.
I also took time to check out the Urban Art Yard and the '100 Artists 1 Image' community mural project, which were just several of numerous art-making opportunities for children and adults, and the immersive aspect is something the UAF has developed more and more over the last several years. Saturday night was rounded out musically with, among other things, a great night for Latin jazz, with the salsa music of locals Rumba Libre and LA-based Josiel Perez's AC Jazz Project, with players formerly from Cuba laid down expertly the 'caliente' sounds of Cuban and Latin jazz rhythms. This music, for me at least, evokes the joyous, celebratory aspect of summertime better than almost anything.
On Sunday, June 29, I got there a little earlier in the evening, braving the sun of a perfectly cloudless Salt Lake summer sky, and took a few moments to chat with Orem painter Kevin Hogge, about his first time with a booth at the UAF. He formerly had a printing company, but now is painting full-time. “It's been a great time at the festival, and I sold several works.” He will be at the Park City Arts Festival in August, and one later this year in Albuquerque.
The Leonardo offered free admission and discounted entrance to the 'BodyWorlds: Animals Inside Out' exhibit. The ColLABorART local artists' collaboration project continued from last year's beginnings with Shawn Rossiter (pictured above) and Liberty Blake, expanding to include almost a dozen artists paired off in teams of two. The unplanned, spontaneous nature of the project produced some of the most intriguing work in the festival.
Other local favorite artists of mine at the fest included Grant Fuhst's mixed-media paintings, Dave Borba's assemblages, Chris Madsen's imaginative photographs, Julie Stutznegger's kiln-fired glass, and my all-time favorite UAF artist, Fred Conlon with his whimsical metal sculptures from his 'Sugarpost' metal shop. The mix of local and non-local artists is good, but as in many festivals, the works tend toward crafts in the 'arts & crafts' duality of a festival, but that's partly because festivals tend to favor what sells.
A few other artists stood out, like Leslie Duke (Springville, UT) whose still-life paintings of fruits utilized color, light and line brilliantly. Again, this is my experience of the Utah Arts Festival, highly subjective, and that's one thing the UAF has done exceedingly well; creating an event you can tailor your own 'How to Festival' according to your own
The visual arts exhibit at the Main Library in coordination with the Festival, 'Night and Day—Karen Horne Paints The Changing Light of Salt Lake City,' continues after the Festival through August 1, and without any major visiting artist exhibits as in recent years, the exhibit frames the city as a work of art in itself, in a number of them taking scenes from the UAF as subject matter. It's a bit 'meta' but it also reflects on the beauty the Utah Arts Festival brings to Salt Lake City, captures and collects on display for a few short days in late June every year.
My Utah Arts Festival experience this year was a potpourri, a mixed bag—nothing really swept me away, made me impulsively reach for my wallet and buy a work of art. There were plenty of signs of people spending, carrying large canvas away beaming at the excitement of their new acquisitions, but I wasn't among them. I'm not even sure I would pay $12 if I wasn't the recipient of a press pass, but that's partly due to my financial circumstances in addition to whatever 'perceived value' there is that is also subjective.