It’s tough to get to know a city without a guide—not a tour director, but someone who knows the cool spots and will introduce you to people who’ll make you feel at home. If you’re new to town or just want a place to spend time between your office chair and your bed, these well-connected community members can help you carve out your own spot in Salt Lake City—whether you’re looking for a bar stool next to new like-minded friends, a place to let your geek flag fly, or someone who needs your helping hand.
Salt Lake City’s self-proclaimed dodgeball czar Dave Marquardt grew up in the Avenues, but left the state to attend school and, later, secure a corporate job on the East Coast. “Then I realized the 9-to-5 existence was horrible, at least for me, so I had to find something else to do,” he says. Marquardt soon realized that playing kickball with friends at night was the happiest time of his day, and “over one too many PBRs on a porch after one of these games, me and a friend decided we might have the intellectual capacity to start our own organization.” Soon after that conversation, Marquardt moved back to Salt Lake City, and on the four-day drive back, called everyone he knew and told them to call everyone they knew and invite them to a kickball league.
It was a big hit, partially because, Marquardt says, “the whole thing is engineered to be a resource for people to forget about work, to meet up with friends or to make new friends.” The games soon expanded to flag football and dodgeball, and the leagues started to grow exponentially.
“We’ve really developed this niche among people who are new to Salt Lake,” Marquardt says. “No one wants to be the person going up and tapping people on the shoulders at bars, trying to introduce themselves.”
Beehive Sports organizes leagues year-round; indoor volleyball, cornhole, sand volleyball and skeeball are just a few of the sports that have been added to the lineup since 2011. Leagues typically meet once a week for eight weeks, with the $50 fee going toward T-shirts and special activities. The group also hosts a running club, plus annual events such as WingFest and the Beer Games. And Marquardt’s not resting on his recreational laurels—the first-annual Bacon Fest is planned for 2014. (Rachel Piper)
Geek Show Podcast
Shannon Barnson, who grew up in Salt Lake City, has known his Geek Show Podcast co-hosts for years. They started out sharing their enthusiasm for “nerdy” fare like comics, toys, movies and television on X96’s Radio From Hell morning show. The segment was popular, so starting their own geeky podcast in 2009 seemed natural.
“We are a support system for geeks who have nongeek family and friends,” Barnson says. “I think we also help like-minded people connect through events like our advance movie previews, our monthly movie night at Brewvies, and the weekly pub quiz I co-write and host at Lucky 13 on Wednesday.” Attendance numbers at all of these events have borne out his contention that “Salt Lake is becoming a major center of geekdom.”
Barnson says Geek Show has a lot of things planned for 2014, including something in coordination with Salt Lake Comic Con. (Brian Staker)
Mormons Building Bridges
Kendall Wilcox co-founded Mormons Building Bridges along with Erika Munson and Bianca Morrison Dillard in spring 2012. The all-volunteer organization shows support and acceptance of LGBT people, sponsoring marches and pride parades not only in Utah, but in Arizona and Idaho also.
Volunteers set up booths where they give free hugs and stickers that say, “You’ve been hugged by a Mormon.” It’s “a super-simple portrayal of the ethos we are trying to get out there,” Wilcox says. “Not all Mormons hate people.”
Wilcox says that he has had many problems being both gay and Mormon, and that the growing amount of communication between LGBT people and Mormons has helped him to get through those struggles. Wilcox is also a documentary filmmaker, and is working on a film about Mormonism and same-sex marriage. (Laurie Reiner)
Between its gallery strolls and craft shows, it’s no surprise that Salt Lake City has been named one of the most creative mid-size cities in America. Craft Sabbath, held on the first Sunday of each month at the Salt Lake City Main Library, has been a huge part of the creative community for nearly six years. Now, Rachelle Smith, an Alabama native who moved to Salt Lake City 14 years ago, has been tasked with keeping that community alive.
Smith—owner of Hook’d crochet and a Craft Sabbath exhibitor since 2009—took over as director of the event in October 2013. She’s a big supporter of new talent and wants to ensure that there’s a place at Craft Sabbath for everyone—especially first-timers. As long as artists need a place to showcase their work, Smith promises, Craft Sabbath will be an integral part of the community. (Trevor Hale)
Hannah Wheelwright is double-majoring in women’s studies and political science at Brigham Young University—and she’s also a spokeswoman for the group Ordain Women, which advocates for Mormon women to be given the priesthood in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Members of Ordain Women believe that the LDS Church has an antiquated and unequal gender model “in both domestic and ecclesiastical realms,” and hope to put themselves in the public eye to raise awareness of what they believe is a woman’s right—holding the priesthood.
Wheelwright, who was raised in Virginia, is also a very active member of the LDS Church. When she’s not at school, she plans events for her local ward. (Ivy Smith)
Atheists of Utah
Shortly after a close friend came out as gay, Dan Ellis decided it was time to come out as an atheist. It wasn’t easy for the Utah-born Mormon. Doors closed and friends turned their backs. He felt alone, but not for long.
By the time Ellis embraced his true non-religious self in the early 1990s, there were already two atheist organizations in the state: the Salt Lake Atheists and Atheists of Utah. Ellis became active in both, first as a participant and then as a board member, and eventually moved into the role of board president, where he oversaw the merger of the two groups into one, the current Atheists of Utah.
Providing a social and charitable outlet for those who don’t attend church, and serving as a support group for those who have recently left their faiths, Atheists of Utah has an endless list of gatherings, events, coffee meetings, camping trips and volunteer activities. (Katherine Pioli)
The Downtown Alliance
Jason Mathis has always lived within a mile of downtown Salt Lake City. The executive vice president of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce and executive director of the Downtown Alliance, Mathis says he loves his job and feels lucky to do things like brainstorm how to better care for homeless people as a city, as well as help with fun events like the Downtown Farmers Market.
The Downtown Alliance is also responsible for community programming—such as the New Year’s Eve three-night event EVE SLC and the yearly Dine O’Round, which offers discounted meals and special menus at local restaurants—and community advocacy. That includes recruiting and supporting downtown businesses and building strong relationships with community organizations.
Mathis says the Downtown Alliance is important because people have an emotional connection to the downtown area of their city—it directly relates to how they feel about their communities and themselves. (Nicole McDonald)
175 E. 400 South, Suite 600, 801-359-5118, DowntownSLC.org
In 2005, inspired by the Iraq War and the Bush era, Jeremiah Roth decided to start the Salt Lake City chapter of Drinking Liberally. The national organization allows left-leaning folks to come together to discuss current events and related issues with like-minded peers.
Though politics is discussed, Drinking Liberally is not an activist or political group, Roth says. Rather, it’s a casual social outlet where people can kick back and have a good time. “Go out and campaign for your cause, then come back and have a drink,” Roth says.
The Salt Lake City chapter aims to have a speaker about once a month, and in the past has hosted well-known locals such as Salt Lake Tribune columnist Paul Rolly, former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson and activist Tim DeChristopher. (Nicole McDonald)
Meets every Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Piper Down, 1492 S. State, DrinkingLiberallySLC.org
In late 2004, the Central Utah Art Center in Ephraim was on the verge of closing due to lack of funds. CUAC founder Kathleen Peterson asked sculptor Adam Bateman, who was returning to Utah from studying at New York’s Pratt Institute, to take over as director. Bateman quickly grew CUAC’s prestige; he exhibited a number of Utah natives who hadn’t shown in the state, and their challenging works helped CUAC stand out as an art destination.
And when CUAC was evicted by the city of Ephraim in 2012, Bateman was equally adept at finding a space in downtown Salt Lake City and presenting some of the most progressive and provocative shows of 2013, featuring nationally and internationally renowned artists. In December 2013, CUAC’s 200 South location celebrated its first anniversary.
Bateman believes that a big part of CUAC’s mission is helping local artists participate in an international dialogue. “I see CUAC as an important catalyst and pioneer and connector,” he says. (Brian Staker)
175 E. 200 South, 385-215-6768, CUArtCenter.org
Salt Lake Comic Con
When Dan Farr attended comic-book conventions around the country as a vender for DAZ 3D, a 3-D imaging company that he co-founded, he realized that Utah should have its own. “There’s something magical about it,” Farr says. “When I went to different comic cons, I just sensed that energy and that power that was there, and it was something that I wanted to see here in Utah.”
The 2013 Salt Lake Comic Con, which Farr organized, was the biggest first-time comic con ever, with about 75,000 people attending. “I have this theory that we have the best fans in the world, and the fans proved it,” Farr says.
April 2014 will see a new event called the FanXperience, which Farr says will be different from Comic Con because it focuses on the general fan experience instead of just comic books. The full Salt Lake Comic Con is set for September 2014. (Laurie Reiner)
Inclusion Center for Community & Justice
The Inclusion Center, dedicated to advocating for social justice, helps people understand and deconstruct issues such as racism, homophobia and classism. The center hosts retreats like Anytown, which helps teens learn conflict-resolution skills, and the Inclusion Summit, a retreat for adults that facilitates the exploration of social justice issues.
Saundra Stokes has been involved with the Inclusion Center since the mid ’90s, when she was a teenager and first started volunteering on retreats. She’s been employed by the center since 2003. Although the Inclusion Center has a staff of only three, it has more than 200 volunteers and manages to reach more than 10,000 youth each year. (Nicole McDonald)
14 Heritage Center, 801-587-0825, InclusionCenter.org
Fourth Street Clinic
Visiting the dentist. Scheduling a doctor’s visit. Those tasks aren’t fun for anyone. But being able to rely on such health-care services is certainly a privilege, one that many in this city do not have. Kristy Chambers, chief executive of the Fourth Street Clinic, and her staff work every day to make sure that those who need care receive it. Chambers came to Fourth Street, a nonprofit health-care center for homeless and underserved communities, 2 1/2 years ago after more than a decade bringing health care to low-income populations.
These days, Chambers says, exciting changes are afoot at the clinic. Thanks to a substantial grant received in May 2012, the clinic has been able to expand its services and its facility; a new common area has made room for group sessions and workshops ranging from Zen meditation to diabetes education. American Linen Supply Company recently donated a dentist and his salary for five years, plus uniforms.
As a nonprofit, Fourth Street Clinic relies on the good will of the community and accepts donations of money, time and expertise—especially from neurologists, optometrists and other medical professionals, who help keep the clinic running. (Katherine Pioli)
409 W. 400 South, 801-364-0058, FourthStreetClinic.org
For those who thought Peaceful Uprising was just Tim DeChristopher’s pet climate-activism project, it’s time to take a closer look. According to “Peace Up” organizer and former director Henia Belalia, while the group primarily focuses on environmental degradation, it also recognizes that the price of environmental crises is greatest where there are racial and social inequities.
Belalia, who joined the group as a volunteer about three years ago, around the time of DeChristopher’s federal prosecution, moved quickly into leadership roles. Under her guidance, the organization broadened its scope to include working with indigenous people to stop oil development, with undocumented immigrants facing deportation, and with low-income communities impacted by refineries to fight for cleaner air.
The organization hosts free monthly meetings that are open to the public and those interested in learning about Peace Up’s structure and needs. Peace Up recently reorganized to be entirely community-run, so that there are no directorial positions. The group also hosts fun events, such as a monthly documentary night, and training sessions to get activists ready to hit the streets. (Katherine Pioli)
Best Friends Animal Society
It was while watching an episode of National Geographic’s television program Dog Town that Trielle Gritton first learned of Best Friends Animal Society, a no-kill pet rescue and shelter that started in Kanab, Utah. Gritton instantly fell in love with the animals and the group’s mission. In early 2012, she started working with the shelter, first at the pet-adoption center in Trolley Square, and then as the senior manager of adoptions and outreach. Now, Gritton oversees the Sugar House Pet Adoption Center, the kitten nursery and partner programs with Salt Lake County Animal Services, which recently began operating as a no-kill facility.
Each adoption, says Gritton, saves two lives: the animal that finds a home and the animal that takes its place at the shelter. Since the organization was founded 14 years ago, the number of pets killed in Utah shelters has fallen by 50 percent, thanks in large part to Best Friends’ work with other rescue groups, municipal shelters, local governments and veterinarians.
This year, Best Friends will be collecting donations for its new Pet Food Pantry, and always needs volunteers at its adoption center, the kitten nursery and at special events. (Katherine Pioli)
SLCC Community Writing Center
Andrea Malouf has always enjoyed writing and working with writers. During her career, she’s been an information designer, journalist and
editor-in-chief of Salt Lake Magazine. She is currently a professor in the English department at Salt Lake Community College and the director of the SLCC Community Writing Center.
The Community Writing Center is based on the notion that everybody can write and that writing is a collaborative act. Malouf says that she feels people are told how to fix their writing, but often don’t learn how to honor their own writing process. Rather than a place where professionals edit writing, the center is a place for writers and mentors to make decisions together and enhance writing abilities through such programs as Writing
Coaching , Writing Workshops, the DiverseCity Writing Series, Salt Lake Teens Write and Community Writing Partners. The Community Writing Center also runs programs with various community groups such as refugees, homeless youth and prisoners. (Nicole McDonald)
210 E. 400 South, Suite 8, 801-957-2192, SLCC.edu/CWC
Jorge Rojas studied painting and sculpture at the University of Utah and in Mexico, then lived in Brooklyn until 2010. Since returning to the state, he has organized numerous exhibits, including Low Lives at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts and SuperHuman at CUAC.
Rojas teaches art history at East High School as part of the Clemente Course in the Humanities, a humanities course for high-school sophomores who hope to be the first in their families to attend college. His own work is on display throughout the year at various galleries
But the most satisfying work for him, he says, is being artist-in-residence at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. “This is the first time I’ve worked in a hospital environment, and it has been inspiring for me both as an artist and as an educator,” he says.
He also serves on the boards of Mestizo Institute of Culture and Arts, Artes de Mexico de Utah and the Utah Cultural Alliance. (Brian Staker)
Utah Backcountry Hunters & Anglers
John Pollard knows that even if you’re a hunter, driving a Subaru to a community meeting in Southern Utah and advocating for wilderness means that not many people will listen to you. A hunter who wants roadless areas? A fisherman who wants more wilderness? It might seem like a strange line to walk, but it’s the mission that guides and connects the members of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.
Pollard started hunting in Utah more than 30 years ago, but it was only seven years ago, while reading the magazine Traditional Bowhunter, that he first heard of the national Backcountry Hunters & Anglers organization. Pollard signed up on the spot, only to learn he was Utah’s sole member. From there, Pollard began building the Utah chapter.
These days, the organization has its eye on the Book Cliffs in central Utah, one of the last places a person can go out with a horse and feel like Butch Cassidy riding through the Wild West. Backcountry’s members, alongside other wilderness organizations, are working to keep this pristine area—which is threatened by energy development—roadless and free. (Katherine Pioli)
The Shred Shed
The Shred Shed isn’t exactly new—the current venue, located at 60 W. Exchange Place (360 South), is more like Shred Shed 2.0. The original Shred Shed was founded by Jesse Cassar and fellow members of his local band, Loom, in 2010. But their makeshift art space, located in a warehouse, eventually had to be shut down. Following the closing of the original Shred Shed, Cassar found himself frustrated by the lack of venues in Salt Lake City—specifically the lack of all-ages ones. After nearly a year spent acquiring the necessary permits, Cassar re-opened The Shred Shed in the heart of SLC, and the entirely volunteer-run venue has thrived since. (Ivy Smith)
60 W. Exchange Place, Salt Lake City, 801-410-0661, ShredShedSLC
• Welcome to the Neighborhood(s)!
• The 16 Utahns You Need to Meet
• Dive Into the Art Scene
• Browsing & Buying
• How to Get Here, There & Everywhere
• No Skis, No Problem
• Resort Report
• Local Live Music Spots
• SLC Bars & Clubs
• Meatless Meals
• Nosh Around the Clock