Best New Playwright Opportunity
Wasatch Theatre Company Page-to-Stage Festival
Filmmakers can make a short as a calling card for the prospect of a career in the field, but what do you do when you’re an aspiring playwright wanting to get some work in front of an audience? Every January, Wasatch Theatre Company calls for local playwrights to submit scripts, both “Short Shorts” (10-15 minute scripts featuring minimal characters and staging needs) and feature-length plays, for staged readings. It’s all part of the Page-to-Stage Festival, a unique opportunity for young writing talent to show the world they’ve got what it takes.
Best Custom Shoe Designs
At some point in your life, you’ve probably wanted Tupac’s face blasted on a brand-new pair of Vans, right? How about a cosmic Justin Timberlake staring up at you from below your knees? Or, better yet, a detailed rendering of John Stockton’s short-shorts on a pair of Converse? Well, this is now all possible, thanks to local artist and shoe enthusiast Dominic Suazo. For the past few years, Suazo has been hosting special shoe-painting events for Toms Shoes at shops like JMR, Nordstrom and Journeys, and just recently launched his own custom shoe-design business, Create Aesthetics. Whether it’s graffiti art, personal portraits or celebrities, Suazo can do it.
Best Taken-For-Granted Art Spectacle
Utah Arts Festival
Every June, just like clockwork, the Utah Arts Festival rolls around, and thousands of Utah residents enjoy all or part of the four days. So sometimes, it’s easy to forget what a rare opportunity it is to experience a taste of virtually everything the local arts scene has to offer. Painters, sculptors and craftspeople show off remarkable works; dance companies dazzle spectators; local comedians and poets provide humorous and serious food for thought; musicians entertain across a broad spectrum of genres. The experience provides a spark for attendees to learn more about the state’s talented creative people.
With a Kick
Kung Fu Theatre at Brewvies
Brewvies helps kung fu adherents enjoy the best of ’70s kung fu cinema—gritty tales of honor, warring Chinese clans, bad hair and worse dubbing—on the big screen for free every month. Classics range from foundational Jackie Chan classics like Drunken Master to timeless Shaw Brothers flicks like the gloriously gory Flying Guillotine.
677 S. 200 West, Salt Lake City, 801-355-5500, second Wednesday of every month, Brewvies.com
Best Downtown Brainstorming
SixtyNine/Seventy Design Competition
When you get more than 200 design teams from 48 countries all submitting ideas on reimagining public spaces downtown, it’s more than just a brainstorm—it’s a brain-tsunami-twister-sharknado of collaborative genius. Thanks to the Young Architects Forum, a competition was held asking design teams from around the world to redesign blocks 69 and 70 (between 100 South and 200 South), which comprise downtown Salt Lake City’s cultural hub. Teams recommended interactive games, climbing walls, trees, urban theaters and all manner of ideas that city leaders can now draw upon to revamp the neglected alleys and parking lots of the heart of downtown.
Best Molding of Young Artsy Minds
Nurture the Creative Mind
Layton-based nonprofit Nurture the Creative Mind knows that helping youth express themselves through the arts isn’t about just painting pictures or writing poems, but about allowing them to get in touch with their authentic selves and build character to help them through life. At NCM, students work on fun, volunteer-guided projects—including painting, theater, writing or contributing to a special Blank Page magazine created by the students—and learn that with self-expression comes a building and understanding of one’s self.
2955 N. 400 West, Suite No. 1026, Layton, 801-499-2371, NurtureTheCreativeMind.com
Best Burning Mastodon
Bluff Arts Festival
In the small town of Bluff, artists with a love for the desert landscape of southern Utah can take part in unique workshops as part of the annual Bluff Arts Festival in October. In one class, residents can participate in what will hopefully be an annual tribute to the solstice and the natural history of the area by joining local artist Joe Pachak in the creation of a giant mastodon effigy—a San Juan County version of Burning Man, one that pays homage to ancient petroglyphs in the area depicting the giant beast. Participants were allowed to re-create the prehistoric animal with bones made out of steel and flesh made out of tree limbs. As a poetic send-off, the beast was then set on fire on the winter solstice.
Best Multimedia Theology
Secrist’s liberal-mindedness and familiarity with world religions translate into provocative micro-installations— objects precisely ordered in a site-specific manner—investigating organized-religion norms. Instead of derisively attacking theology, Secrist’s intelligent visual critiques examine religion by questioning absolutes, such as, “Can we blindly accept religion, or do we discover our own truth?” Secrist’s found-object mixed-media works are a brave search for truth from an artist unafraid of what he might find or whom he might offend.
Best Train-Bound Art Stroll
Airport TRAX Line
Downtown Salt Lake City welcomed a renewed connection with its west-side neighbors this past year with the completion of the new TRAX line to the airport. As part of the Art in Transit project, a piece of art—often cleverly incorporated into the design of the station itself—was included at each of the line’s six stations, honoring the rich ethnic diversity, natural features and cultural identity of the area. From the murals at Jackson Euclid Station (“Comunidades en Solidaridad: A Collective Transformative Vision” by Ruby Chacón) to the metal sculptural homage to the local wetlands (“Spatial Perception” by Shawn Porter) at the 1950 West Station, the art is a celebration of community and neighborhood pride.
Airport TRAX Line, along North Temple, LetsRideUTA.com
Best Evening of
Noir at Night Film Series
Downtown Salt Lake City isn’t quite the seedy underbelly that’s the setting for many noir films, but the Utah Film Center’s Noir at Night series at the Gallivan Center made it easy to pretend it is. On Monday nights in July and one in August, film buffs and newcomers to the genre alike were treated to free showings of film noir classics like The Maltese Falcon, Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo and a popular spoof on the classic detective story, Who Framed Roger Rabbit. In a world where ’splosion-happy summer blockbusters, yawner plots and one-dimensional characters are all too common, Noir at Night gave viewers the opportunity to experience some of film history’s cinematic treasures.
Best LDS Comic Book
Chris Hoffman’s Salt City Strangers
Because there should be a superhero for every kid to relate to, local artist Chris Hoffman launched Salt City Strangers, a crime-stopping, Utah-based, all-LDS superhero group. Born and raised in Utah, Hoffman is not a Mormon himself, so he summoned help from many of his LDS friends to come up with classic characters like Deputy Deseret (who carries Porter Rockwell’s pistols) and Son of Bigfoot (an LDS yeti who was discovered in Provo Canyon). Don’t worry, Salt City Strangers is neither anti- nor pro-LDS; it’s just a good old-fashioned superhero comic—about Mormons.
Best Cat Paintings
Shunichi Yamamoto’s Fine Feline Art
For people who appreciate fine art but avoid it because of its overwhelming lack of cats, there’s local artist Shunichi Yamamoto’s Fine Feline Art Collection, a series of famous art pieces reimagined to include the world’s most beloved furry companion. Imagine, if you will, Georges Seurat’s 1886 masterpiece “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” but instead of humans sitting along the banks of the peaceful river, there are cats in people clothes, smoking pipes and relaxing under umbrellas.
Best “For the Love of Jazz” Series
Founded in 1994 by two friends, Gordon Hanks and Michael MacKay, who simply loved the swinging nature of jazz, the GAM Foundation’s Jazz SLC concert series has produced more than 150 concerts featuring iconic artists such as Dave Brubeck, Herbie Hancock and Ahmad Jamal, as well as relative newcomers like Brad Mehldau, Joshua Redman and Diana Krall. This year, after moving venues once again—from the Hilton to the Sheraton to the Capitol Theatre and now Rose Wagner—they’re amazingly celebrating their 20th season with the likes of Tierney Sutton, John Pizzarelli and The Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
Best Intermission Gallery
Pioneer Theatre Loge Gallery
Pioneer Theatre Company offers plenty of artistic dazzle simply with its stage productions. But PTC also supports the arts even when the patrons are waiting to take their seats. The Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre showcases great visual art from local artists in its second-level gallery, often with a thematic connection to the production running at the time. Before the show and during intermissions, theater-goers can spend their time looking at something far more compelling than their phones.
300 S. 1400 East, 801-581-6961, PioneerTheatre.org
BEST OF THE UTAH SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL & CEDAR CITY
This season’s most eye-popping performance at the Utah Shakespeare Festival was definitely Quinn Mattfeld’s exuberant, hysterically funny turn as Black Stache in Peter & the Starcatcher. In the highly stylized mishmash of cultural nods, gay cabaret, adult insights and emotional drama—which explains how Peter became Peter Pan and how a gloriously camp pirate became Captain Hook—Mattfeld’s utterly self-aware, devious and scene-chomping bravado as the villainous, yet needy, pirate leader dominated the show, ably supported by Aaron Galligan-Stierle as Smee. At the climatic moment when two-handed Stache becomes Hook, as the pirate stared at the audience in disbelief after dropping the lid of a trunk on his hand, a child in the audience called out, “Are you still alive?” A slow nod from the actor to the child brought the house down, a roar of approval that deservedly followed Mattfeld throughout the show.
Best Long-Term Project
Shakespeare From A to Z
This year’s hard-edged production of King John at the Utah Shakespeare Festival was a worthy and powerful version of Shakespeare’s exploration of the relationship between mother and son, threaded through with the vanity of power and ambition. It also heralded a laudable plan by the festival to produce, over the next 12 years, all of Shakespeare’s works, with the historical plays produced in chronological order of the reigns of the kings he wrote about. It’s hard to think of a more exciting gift for regulars of the festival than to anticipate the years to come of the Bard’s canon.
Best Venue in Transition
Adams Shakespearean Theatre
The Utah Shakespeare Festival plans to replace the Adams Shakespearean Theatre in 2015. The theater has stood since 1977 as the world’s first replica of the Globe Theatre, where Shakespeare’s works were first performed. The new theater will have a retractable roof, with stars painted onto the ceiling for stormy days. But for now, enjoy the last year or so of Adams as the moon emerges from behind clouds just at the moment that a lead gives vent to feelings, or as the wind stirs the scenery to add that extra dimension of life to another glorious Shakespeare production.
Best Itinerant Poet
He stands outside Braun Books in Cedar City, his gaze intense behind glasses and fixed upon you, as, clutching a one-page photocopy of his work, Michael Chusid recites with passion and spittle one of his poems about life in Mormon Utah. As itinerant poets go, what makes Chusid admirable is that rather than panhanding, he sells his work for a buck each, his gravelly voice intoning with high seriousness his interests in all things literary. Keep an eye out for him if you go down to Cedar City for the Shakespeare Festival. Whatever his story, his poems are certainly worth the dollar he asks.