We hear it all the time: The arts are in trouble. Finances are tight; school arts programs are in decline. It’s never easy to be an artist—but is it getting harder all the time?
The 2013 Artys issue comes at a time when the sky not only appears to be in no danger of falling, but may in fact be the limit. While we celebrate the state’s great visual and performing artists, writers and craftspeople, there’s evidence that we’re still willing to support the infrastructure that makes art possible. Renovations at the Capitol Theatre will include a new home for Ballet West; plans were approved this year for the new performing-arts facility on the 100 South block of Main Street; vibrant spots like the Granary District provide focal points for creative folks. Over and over again, Utahns keep demonstrating—including with their votes for this issue—that the arts matter to them.
So, while this issue looks at the year in the arts just completed in handing out recognitions, this is also a great time to look forward. As this issue’s cover design suggests, we’re building something amazing here.
PERFORMING ARTS [READERS' CHOICE]
Best Community Theatre Group
Dark Horse Company Theatre
It’s understandable when theater companies play it safe, staging familiar productions to appeal to the largest possible audience. When Dark Horse Company Theatre puts together a season, though, it goes with outside-the-box offerings like Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins, a serio-comic tour through history’s successful and would-be president-killers. Dark Horse productions consistently match gifted singers with terrific musical direction, and the company has brought its shows to stages from Park City to Ogden to Salt Lake City to show the whole state what they’ve got.
Best Touring/Nonlocal Production
The songs are familiar to generations, but the story of their lives was less so. Audiences’ eyes—and ears—adored the 2006 Tony Award-winning Best Musical about the rise to fame of Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi, better known as The Four Seasons. Allowing each character to tell the story of the group’s tensions and tragedies in his own voice gave the musical a unique dramatic structure, but the music—a collection of doo-wopping delights—and the gifted cast members really made it soar.
Best Opera/Classical Performance or Production
Utah Symphony: “Rhapsody in Blue”
Ira Gershwin’s tunes have always provided the perfect musical bridge between classical and jazz; his music is hard to pin down as pure jazz because of its full-bodied string sections and classical structures, and it can’t be categorized simply as classical, with its soaring saxophones and swinging jazz rhythms. Utah Symphony’s version of audience favorites “Rhapsody in Blue” and “I Got Rhythm,” featuring principal keyboardist Jason Hardink, were just the cherry on top of a program filled with other beloved Gershwin classics, including selections from Funny Face and Porgy & Bess, brought to life by Broadway veteran vocalist Lisa Vroman.
Best Individual Dancer
Originally from Omaha, Neb., Adrian Fry joined the ranks of Ballet West in 2010. This past season, as a soloist, he worked in Val Caniparoli’s The Lottery and Nicolo Fonte’s Bolero. Fry also played Herr Drosselmeyer in the annual Nutcracker, and even dressed in drag as one of Cinderella’s cruel stepsisters. But perhaps most notable was the season finale, Innovations 2013, in which he not only stood out from the corps in fellow company member Christopher Rudd’s Trapped and the world premiere of Jodie Gate’s Mercurial Landscape but also choreographed an inventive original work, titled Spun.
Best Dance Production/Performance
The Lottery [Ballet West]
Ballet West opened its season with The Lottery, a new commission choreographed by Val Caniparoli, designed by Sandra Woodall and scored by Robert Moran. Anyone familiar with the 1948 Shirley Jackson short story upon which the piece is based knows full well that the small-town lottery consists of someone getting stoned to death in the end. Caniparoli’s brilliance was deciding that the drawing of lots would take place live onstage. Thus, any one of the 14 cast members had to be ready to step up and dance the finale, ultimately delivering a nervous energy that was electric and palpable from the seats.
Charlotte Boye-Christensen, The Wedding [NOW ID]
Charlotte Boye-Christensen’s newest artistic adventure, NOW ID—an internationally culled, interdisciplinary dance company created with her husband, architect Nathan Webster—began with “an exploration of the most public of private rituals.” The Wedding was staged in the Salt Lake Masonic Temple, which saw a perfect marriage of Boye-Christensen’s choreography—a combination of emotive duets and solos—and Webster’s love of unique spaces. As far as the movement vocabulary goes, it’s Boye-Christensen’s keen ability to juxtapose sharp angularity with softer, more fluid gestures that imbued The Wedding with both its power and vulnerability.
Best Stand-up Comic
Melissa Merlot isn’t just breaking stereotypes sometimes held about female comedians by narrow-minded audience members; she’s breaking down the doors of what can be done in a smaller market. Merlot brings her A game to the stage every night, and she’s irreverent, witty and unafraid to say something that might ruffle the feathers of a Utah crowd. And on the side, she helps comedians both established and on-the-rise with the Comedy Roadkill event at The Complex, providing an opportunity for people to see all-local comedians for cheap.
Best Local Theater Production
Adam & Steve and the Empty Sea [Plan-B Theatre Company]
Best Original Play
Adam & Steve and the Empty Sea, Matthew Greene [Plan-B]
It may have been inspired by one of the most divisive political fights in recent history—California’s anti-gay-marriage “Prop 8”—but Matthew Greene’s challenging play explored those divisions with clear-eyed compassion for both sides. Following a years-spanning relationship between two childhood best friends—devoutly LDS Adam and openly gay Steve—the text dug into the thorny ways that core beliefs about God, love and the world can force people into conflict. Jason Bowcutt directed a gripping production in which simple lighting cues and the centerpiece figure of a tree allowed the performances to search for a common ground of shared humanity.
Best Improv Troupe
They’ve been making it up on the spot since 1994—the same spot, no less. The Laughing Stock improv troupe has been performing at the Off Broadway Theatre for almost 20 years, making them the longest-running show on Main Street (insert joke and/or create sketch about panhandlers here), if not the entire state of presumably humorless Utah. Every Friday and Saturday night, Laughing Stock kicks out the improv jams and delivers the cleanest fun to be had in downtown Salt Lake City (south of City Creek, anyway).
272 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-355-4628, Facebook.com/LaughingStockImprovComedy
Best Local Theater Performance
Teresa Sanderson, Eric(a) [Plan-B Theatre Company]
In the movies, you might look at it as the kind of role almost too obviously built for awards: playing a different gender, and doing it in a one-person show. But in Matthew Ivan Bennett’s Eric(a), Teresa Sanderson takes on a challenge perhaps even more unique than playing a female-to-male transgender: playing with confidence a character who defines himself by his lack of confidence. In a premise that finds Eric called on to give a speech at a conference, Sanderson captures someone so locked into his uncertainty—about how to stand, or whether a woman can love him—that he doesn’t grasp how much courage he’s showing right in that moment.
VISUAL ARTS & CRAFTS [READERS' CHOICE]
Best Photography Exhibition
Trish Empey, Retrospect: A Look Back at Sundance [Art Access II]
It’s easy for us to forget the humble past of the Sundance Film Festival as it continues to grow and expand every January. But during the 2013 festival, Art Access II presented a showcase by Trish Empey that featured the photos she took during her time as a Sundance volunteer between 1993 and 2003. Her works, mostly black and white, show celebrities attending throughout the years, enjoying one another’s company. They also find glimpses of the intensity and passion for the work the festival does to entertain millions around the globe—and the few thousand packed into Park City.
Best Sculpture/Mixed-Media Exhibition
Nancy Holt, Sightlines [UMFA]
Nancy Holt, one of the leading artists of the Land Art movement, returned this year to see one of her major achievements, the Sun Tunnels, in the west desert, and discussed her work at a retrospective exhibition. Her art is about the Earth’s place in the universe: The four concrete tunnels are aligned with the sun’s path during solstices, and holes drilled in them line up with various constellations at night. The trek she led to the site was a sojourn in the changing perspectives that art can provide, as well as a chance to share in her joy of creation.
Best Touring/Nonlocal Exhibition
Da Vinci: the Genius [The Leonardo]
We all know Leonardo Da Vinci was a genius, but it’s an extraordinary experience to be in the presence of his creations, which speak to the viewer as almost no other artist’s can. This exhibition allowed hands-on educational experiences for visitors of all ages, who could turn the cranks and levers of the working models of many of his inventions. And Secrets of Mona Lisa (also represented in replica) uncovered fresh details about the enigmatic portrait. This show was a rare chance to learn something new about an old master.
Best Short Film
Boomtown [Torben Bernhard/Travis Low]
It certainly doesn’t sound like a thrilling cinematic experience to listen to oral histories of those who lived in the 1880s mining town of Frisco, Utah—a briefly vital community that, after the collapse of the Horn Silver Mine, soon became a ghost town. But Torben Bernhard and Travis Low combine these compelling accounts with contemporary images of the location, now reduced to rotting timbers and little other evidence that humans ever inhabited the place. The long-ago voices mix with the modern-day decay in this 12-minute short to create a fascinating study of transience.
Best Tattoo Art
Sarah de Azevedo
Tattoos saturated the mainstream years ago with a dozen ink-shop reality series on TV simultaneously, but then jumped the shark in 2013 with an onslaught of “I done got a bad tattoo” shows that would make the casual observer wonder where all of the true artists have gone. Artys voters know where the best in Salt Lake City can be found: Oni Tattoo Gallery, where three-peat winner Sarah de Azevedo illustrates fantastically detailed, nearly three-dimensional work guaranteed to never be seen on Bad Ink.
325 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City, 801-355-1885, OniTattooGallery.com
LITERARY ARTS [READERS' CHOICE]
Best Fiction Book
Jana Richman, The Ordinary Truth
In her 2008 debut novel, The Last Cowgirl, Jana Richman drew from her history as a daughter of the West for a complex portrait of people pulled between the city and the country, and between their relationships and their psychological baggage. She followed it up with another terrific story, The Ordinary Truth, this one following the interactions between a grandmother and granddaughter freighted by years of family estrangement. And once again, she struck a beautiful balance between developing rich, prickly characters and exploring the landscape and the backgrounds that shape them into who they are.
Best Poetry Collection
Katharine Coles, The Earth Is Not Flat
Some creative people are willing to go to the ends of the earth figuratively for their art; Katharine Coles was willing to go there literally. Inspired by the poet’s 2010 trip to Antarctica under a National Science Foundation grant, The Earth Is Not Flat captures a brilliant creative mind processing a completely new world: the frozen landscapes, the unfamiliar animal life and the other people willing to make such an isolated place their home. Her tight verse lines explore a place both threatening and fascinating, as described in “Here Be Monsters”: “… As soon as we arrive at any point/ We’re headed out the other side, / A place beyond which/ There is no beyond except/ In the mind …”
Best Painting Exhibition
John Bell, Election [Kimball Art Center]
For his Election series, John Bell was inspired by the 2007 French presidential election. He took photos of protesters, political posters and other scenes in Paris that year, then digitally manipulated them, adding layers and multiple colors to underscore the tension in the air. The result was a series of digital archival prints that were as breathtakingly realized as the political climate was mesmerizing. Bell creates his most captivating works when the viewer is caught in the cultural crossfire.
Best Graphic Novel/Zine
Super Cool & Stuff
A lifetime of comic books, video games and cartoons helped shape Ricky Vigil’s unique style, but it’s his daily routines and misadventures in the city of salt that bring his creations to life. His self-produced zine, Super Cool & Stuff (as well as its sequel released this year), was a hit at the Alt Press Fest, and featured stories of heartbreak and love of pizza, with his cartoon self decked out in a Descendents T-shirt and carrying around the family dog. It’s a great collection of local comics featuring the psychotic tendencies of locals, all while seeking out the awesome bits of life.
Best Illustration Exhibition
Chris Bodily, HATROBOT [Stoneground restaurant]
Bodily’s work always stands out, no matter what medium he happens to be working in, and could probably be best described as a passionate cartoonist’s view of the world he wishes he lived in. His HATROBOT exhibition showcased the best of both of Bodily’s passions: his love for pop culture (with his own personal spin on creations like Star Wars and He-Man), and his own twisted drawings that often resemble personal reflections of life in general and the madness seeping out of it.
Best Clothing Design
Reinventing her works year to year, Suzanne Clements has managed to stay on top of the local fashion scene by finding unconventional styles to fit the modern flow. Her union of patterns and various styles has turned what would normally be mundane fashion items into statements that cannot be ignored, making her a prominent name in craft circles and a must-purchase for anyone looking for an item you’ll never find on the racks. And with her downtown location spinning out new creations daily, it’s only a matter of time before she invades your local boutique.
366 S. 500 East, Salt Lake City, Etsy.com/shop/SorryClementine
Best Public Art/Graffiti Art
Longtime Salt Lake City artist Benjamin Wiemeyer’s work is everywhere—and that’s no hyperbole. His wild, colorful explosions grace surfaces from Park City to Salt Lake City, where herecently covered the prestigious Leonardo and the delicious Cannella’s Italian restaurant across the street. With a spray can, Wiemeyer crafts bold, hip-hop-inspired murals bursting with life and hues; with a paintbrush, he creates more subtle, muted imagery that wouldn’t seem out of place in any gallery. But whatever the medium, he works large—no small canvas can contain this imagination.
Best Jewelry Design
Tif Blue isn’t just a jewelry designer; she’s a statement-crafter. By that, we mean every time you see someone wearing a Peach Treats creation, you need to stop and just admire the craftsmanship—and be astonished as to how such a lovely piece is hanging off someone’s ear. Her finely crafted tapers, weights, plugs and other finery for stretched earlobes—as well as “fakers” with studded trickery for those not ready to commit to the body modification—have become sought-after pieces of art, most being completely unique or custom-made for the jewelry collector—man or woman—who wishes to stand out.
Best Nonfiction Book
Josh Hanagarne, The World’s Strongest Librarian
How does someone with Tourette syndrome—a nervous-system disorder most commonly associated with unpredictable verbal or physical tics—find himself working in an environment where silence and order are generally expected? That’s only part of the fascination of Salt Lake City librarian Josh Hanagarne’s memoir, which chronicles the way that a man who stands out in any situation—he’s a 6-foot-7-inch, 260-pound strength trainer in addition to having an attention-drawing medical condition—tried to find a way to fit into the world. In his book, he provides a compelling history of finding ways to manage a life that once seemed unmanageable.
Sketch comedy is part of the lifeblood of the performing-arts community in Utah—it’s that strange plateau that actors live on when they’ve grown out of doing improv but haven’t yet become full-time actors. Most attempts at a local TV show have fallen short, but Studio C and its brand of clean comedy has been able to reign supreme on one of the most unpredictable spots: BYUtv. Yes, the cast will all eventually graduate from BYU, and the show will probably end quietly. But for the time being, we have our own Utah sketch show—enjoy it.
Best Indie Art Event
Urban Arts Festival
Once every alternative artist who never got a second glance from major events partnered with the single-day Urban Arts Festival, it didn’t take long for the Utah Arts Alliance to have a major hit on its hands. This year, the Urban Arts Festival invaded The Gateway, bringing more life in a single day to the mall than it sees in a week. The event showcased a skateboard competition, two stages of live local bands, the Bboy Federation dancing all day, and a graffiti wall where people could spray-paint their own masterpieces.
Best Open Programming Selection
Salt Lake City Film Festival
At most film festivals, you know that everything that hits the screen went through about 14 different committees and reviews before it was even put into consideration to be a part of the event. But the Salt Lake City Film Festival—entering its fifth year this September—airs the bulk of its submissions, holding to the old axiom that films are meant to be watched. Festival organizers just hope that SLC will be exposed to more culture and art.
Sept. 26-29, SaltLakeCityFilmFestival.org
Best Recycled Moments
Lars Love Letters
Who says you can’t make a statement with junk—or, in this case, recycled paper, turned into heartfelt cards and sentiments? Brady Lars Burrows takes junk mail, pulps it down and transforms it into multicolored cards, which he then adorns with his own brand of art and humor. It’s the perfect sentiment for anyone who’s both environmentally conscious and looking for something funnier than Hallmark. Who could resist a card with two robots on it that says, “You’re A Little Strange, I Like That. (Let’s Make Out.)”?
Best New Horror Attraction
What’s better than watching zombies get killed on AMC? How about actually participating in the “violence” yourself? Rocky Point Horror legend Cydney Neil returned to Salt Lake City, took over the former RPH location and teamed up with Battlefield Live Utah to give fans of the genre an opportunity to fight their way to safety in a junkyard full of undead characters looking to eat you alive. Short of the actual zombie apocalypse, this laser-tag experience is the best way to live the life of fending off hordes of flesh-eaters.
Best Talk Show
The Paul Duane Show
Paul Duane has never been one to keep to the dark corners; even as a photographer, he was best known for sporting a pair of heels and a skirt at photo shoots. So it wasn’t much of a shock to see him start his own talk show—with his own name as the title—and bring some of Utah’s most influential names to chat with him in front of a live audience at The Complex. With its live band for musical accompaniment and a format going back to Carson’s three-guest presentation, the show is only a TV deal away from being the best showcase in town.
Inspired by the Channel 101 format that Community creator Dan Harmon perfected in California, the minds behind Channel 801 call on short-film directors to create something new once a month and showcase it for an audience to watch at Brewvies and vote on their favorites. The monthly showcase has helped several filmmakers find a new audience to see their works, and given locals a new source of entertainment—from their own backyard.
Best Stereo You
Wish You Owned
Taking over the former spot of Nobrow Coffee in downtown Salt Lake City, E3 Modern opened its doors with one of the most impressive displays we’ve seen in a long time: a hi-fi vacuum-tube stereo with two large speakers (created by Josh Stippich) that rival the one found in Doc Brown’s garage. The gallery also boasts a fine-furniture collection and art display—created by local artists—that changes ev merging artists, as well as live art performances, all for free. Along with an educational program and daring pinpoint exhibits, they’ve provided a much-needed shock to our system.
Best Use Of 32 Square Feet
Dance Theatre Coalition: Micro-Dance
It’s hard to imagine just what kind of contemporary dance you can fit into a rather small 8-foot-by-4-foot space. Dance Theatre Coalition’s Micro-Dance challenged a number of local choreographers, including Ai Fujii-Nelson, Jerry Gardner, Emily May, Ashley Mott and Kimberly Schmit, to create new work for just such a stage, set in the middle of the Rose Wagner Center Black Box Theatre. The incredible results proved that, sometimes, reining in your boundaries and creating self-limitations is actually a profound way to push the edges of your artistic envelope.
Best Local Film Channel
Utah Film Network
For years, the film community has struggled in its attempts to highlight new works, whether they be short films or extravagant features. The Utah Film Network has made it its mission to give local directors and producers a website to properly display everything they’ve created, as well as help indie directors with their Kickstarter efforts to fund the next great series or movie. It’s only a matter of time before the next big thing will have had its first showing on the Utah Film Network’s website.
Best Local Erotica
It should come as no surprise that Utah has, per capita, the biggest number of porn downloads and erotica-book purchases in the entire United States. So, it only makes sense that one of the busiest erotica novelists is living here in the Salt Lake Valley. Aubrey Brown types her fingers to the bone working with two different publishing companies to crank out steamy fantasy novels. And it doesn’t hurt that she literally lives smack in the middle of her most dedicated fanbase.
Best Big-Screen Dreams
Shannon Hale, Jerusha Hess: Austenland
It doesn’t get much more local than this—a local book turned into a movie by a local director, produced by an (honorary) local, premieres (and sells out) at a local film festival. Best-selling author Shannon Hale’s 2007 novel—a modern-day spoof of/homage to Pride & Prejudice and Jane Austen fans—was adapted for the screen by Hale herself and director Jerusha Hess, with Stephenie Meyer producing, and quickly sold out its Sundance screenings. It’s an unabashedly fun, frothy movie, made by women and starring women—a decidedly (and unfortunately) rare combination. Its level of success on a national scale remains to be seen, but Utah screenings have been mobbed; whether that stems from hometown pride or an unashamed love of romance doesn’t matter. It’s a good thing for female creators, and for movies.
Jennifer A. Nielsen, The Ascendance Trilogy
Perhaps the best mark of success for a local author is when local readers don’t realize they’re reading a local book until they’ve gotten to the breathless final pages and read the author bio. Or maybe that another best-selling local author isn’t a cause for front-page news is simply an indication of just how robust Utah’s young-adult literature scene is. In any event, 2012’s The False Prince—a clever political fantasy adventure about a missing prince and an impersonation plot—garnered starred reviews across the country and hit the New York Times best-seller list; an executive story editor for Game of Thrones will be adapting the series for Paramount. Nielsen’s turny-twisty tale continued in The Runaway King, released in early 2013, and will conclude in March 2014 with The Shadow Throne, teased with the intriguing phrase “War is coming ...” We’re ready.
Best Magical Realism
A former illustrator of children’s books, Miles combines a sense of safety and innocence with underlying spookiness that you might only catch out of the corner of your eye. Somewhat reminiscent of the works of Chris Van Allsburg, his landscapes have soft, rounded edges, and most of his bright, colorful paintings also offer a (usually mysterious) narrative, though in the guise of a traditional European style: Two men arm-wrestle on a wall that’s actually a Penrose triangle; a trinity of a cloaked man with his hand on a skull, a woman holding a heart, and a cat in Renaissance attire stare meaningfully at the viewer; a not-human figure ascends a snowy peak to stand under a glowing moon. The paintings wouldn’t look out of place in a children’s nursery, or the den of a medieval sorcerer.
Best 24/7 Gallery
Mod A-Go-Go breaks away from the cluttered consignment-shop norm by providing an almost sparse setting to showcase the mid-century furniture and décor; the space looks like a ready-to-move-into home from the 1960s. And in a prominent space on South Temple, Eric Morley and Marcus Gibby’s gallery/consignment shop will make you look twice—day and, especially, night, when the interior remains fully lit and the building’s glass front allows for an almost voyeuristic look into the gorgeous gallery. It’s like peeking into the window of a beautiful house and imagining the cultured life that must go on inside. And, if you return in the daytime, that life can be yours, from the carefully selected furniture to the local art showcased on the walls.
242 E. South Temple, Salt Lake City, 801-355-3334, ModAGoGo.com
Best State-Spanning Dance Experience
Odyssey Dance’s Thriller
It’s no secret that Utah loves Halloween, with the professional spook houses, home haunts and big families trick-or-treating. And Odyssey Dance has developed one of the state’s most popular October traditions with Thriller, now well into its second decade. And when we say “the state’s,” that’s no hyperbole; the production manages to hit seven different venues, from Logan and Ogden down to the Tuacahn in Ivins, plus the lengthy stopover at Kingsbury Hall. And they even manage to sneak one performance into New Mexico, exporting a Utah Halloween spirit that may one day sweep the nation.
Best Local Art Scene Development
The Granary District
It’s been building for a few years, with the Pickle Factory holding occasional art shows, Captain Captain art studios as the site of some of the freshest artistic creations and, of course, Kilby Court continuing its decade-long dominance as an all-ages music venue. But the stage put in place on 700 South between 300 and 400 West provided an anchor for events like the third-annual district Block Party and weekend events featuring a beer garden, food trucks, pop-up retail shops and buskers. Support from non-profit group Kentlands Initiative—plus the Salt Lake City Council and Redevelopment Agency—for community-based planning has helped transform the neighborhood into one of the most vibrant local areas for the arts and small businesses.
Best Reading of the West
Torrey House Press
Torrey House Press is a small independent publisher that aims to carry on the tradition of East Coast transcendentalists like Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson while tilting, environmentally and regionally, toward writers like Wallace Stegner and Edward Abbey. With authors as diverse as Maximilian Werner (Crooked Creek), Steven L. Peck (The Scholar of Moab) and David Kranes (The Legend’s Daughter), this socially conscious press is determined to deliver thought-provoking and intelligent literature that tackles modern issues such as the environment and sustainable stewardship of Western lands.
Best Alternative use of Bike Parts
Kimball Art Center’s SRAM pART Project
Bicycles are beautiful. And this year, they became actual works of art when the company SRAM provided 25 artists with a box of 100 identical cycling components to create unique sculptures, all with the aim to turn “parts into art into aid.” The result was a lot of kinetic sculpture—including hands-on and mobile-type designs—that were ultimately sold to raise funds for global aid and to help keep the Kimball Art Center’s various programs free for all participants.
638 Park Ave., Park City, 435-649-8882, KimballArtCenter.org
Best Idaho Travelogue
David Kranes: The Legend’s Daughter
The very first story in David Kranes’ newest collection of shorts, The Legend’s Daughter, begins somewhere in the realm of the acclaimed novelist Jim Harrison, with two East Coasters heading to the backwoods of Idaho to enjoy the solitary nature of some backcountry fly-fishing. The fact that it ends with the duo in drag takes it somewhere altogether different. Kranes uses Idaho as a backdrop for every one of these tales to explore the complex emotions of his characters, who are often a bit sad and lost while seeking some kind of inner solace in the modern world.
Best “Mother Of The Year” Performance Combo
If you’re sitting down to a local theater production and you see April Fossen’s name in the cast list, you can be confident you’re about to see something terrific. This year, her typically exceptional work included performances as two very different kinds of Mormon moms. In The Righteous & Very Real Housewives of Utah County, she played a contemporary woman with firm moral principles but her own weaknesses, allowing Fossen to play hilariously tipsy. And in Suffrage, she played a 19th-century sister-wife—fighting to hold her family together during the crackdown against polygamy—with a ferocious intensity. That’s one mother of a one-two punch.
BEST ART MULTIPLICATION
The Sugar Space expansion
The Sugar Space is a unique art center located in the heart of Sugar House designed specifically to fill Salt Lake City’s need for a more intimate, yet curated, performing-arts venue. With its recent expansion into the River District, just west of downtown, the innovative arts organization has significantly multiplied its available space. The new digs include a 1,200-square-foot rehearsal room, a “healing arts” room for private sessions such as art therapy or massage, and a gallery space. And the outside lot, with its covered patio and small stage, could easily be used for pop-up markets or small festivals. The Sugar Space is raising funds for Phase 2 of the project, which will include a theater, gallery, dressing rooms and more.
616 Wilmington Ave. (2190 South), Salt Lake City; 130 S. 800 West, Salt Lake City, 385-202-5504, TheSugarSpace.com
Best Wordless Wonder
Mark Pett, The Boy and the Airplane
Cartoonist Mark Pett can have a way with words when he wants to, as he shows in his comic strip Lucky Cow. There’s something uniquely striking and lovely, however, about his wordless picture book The Boy and the Airplane, which follows the simple story of a youngster whose toy plane winds up out of reach, and thwarting his creative efforts to retrieve it. It also becomes a lump-in-the-throat look at what our beloved childhood toys come to mean to us, and to the generations we want to pass them on to. For a gifted artist, sometimes it’s possible to say so much without actually saying so much.
Best Behind-the-Scenes Musical Theater MVPs
Kevin Mathie and David Evanoff
Every year, Salt Lake Acting Company’s Saturday’s Voyeur delights local audiences with songs skewering Utah’s culture. But what would that all satire sound like without its music? Kevin Mathie has spent nine years as part of the Voyeur house band, following in the footsteps of the talented David Evanoff—this year back on drums—as the show’s musical director. And beyond backing up the Voyeur cast, both have contributed to countless other wonderful musical productions over the years, including Evanoff’s work on Hedwig & the Angry Inch and 2012’s Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, and Mathie’s efforts as musical director at the Grand Theatre.
Best Work With a Spray Can
Over the past year, West Valley City-based graffiti artist and 2010 Artys award winner Kier Defstar has been honing his craft, inspiring other young artists and, most importantly, adding a few coats of paint to Salt Lake City’s otherwise drab streets. It’s difficult to pin down where Defstar’s style falls. His vivid art installments are constantly evolving and span everything from detailed Marvel superheroes and elephant totem spirits to pissed-off rock & roll skeletons. Known for creating a handful of SLC’s best murals—like the giant Canyon Inn parking-lot mural, multiple installations at the 337 Project and a recent piece at the Ensoul warehouse—Defstar is one the city’s premier graffiti artists.
Best Zine’ster Showcase
Alt Press Fest
The Salt Lake City Main Library has long been home to one of the few curated zine collections in the country, launched by Julie Bartel, the librarian who literally wrote the book on giving such materials respect as legitimate literature. Five years ago, that respect helped launch the Alt Press Fest, an annual gathering of DIY creators and their fans for workshops, discussions and a general celebration of this vital art form. It’s a powerful reminder that a creator’s labor of love can jumpstart an entire community.
Salt Lake City residents walking the downtown area are sure to have seen Vestal’s kinetic sculptures—free-moving mobiles driven by natural forces. His new works, shown in the Phillips Gallery’s basement Dibble Gallery in early 2013, have a refined quality. Each polished piece sat atop a pedestal or hung from the ceiling, turning with currents of air. The fanciful, whimsical, beautifully crafted forms became lifelike, much as clouds assume recognizable shapes.
Phillips Gallery, 444 E. 200 South, Salt Lake City, 801-365-8284, Phillips-Gallery.com
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.