In 1973, Cal Nez left his grandparents and the New Mexico Navajo reservation where he was raised for Utah via the LDS Church’s Indian Placement Program. Once here, he graduated from South High and became an accomplished artist and graphic designer. He’s bloomed where he was planted, bringing cultures together with the annual Native American Celebration in the Park and the Utah Native American Chamber of Commerce, both of which he founded.
Some 30 years ago, it was a revolutionary notion that an audience existed in Utah that might embrace a theater production challenging the views of “the prevailing culture.” Decades later, Salt Lake Acting Company’s Saturday’s Voyeur—cowritten for most of those decades by Nancy Borgenicht and Allen Nevins—thrives as an annual stress-release valve for the state’s oft-frustrated progressives.
While at Brigham Young University, Neil LaBute pushed the envelope with his edgy plays, often casting fellow-student Aaron Eckhart to play lead roles. Their collaboration continued on his films such as In the Company of Men. LaBute’s button pushing at BYU and successful career qualify him as an alternative pioneer.
Since arriving in Utah in 1971, radio icon Tom Barberi has lent his “voice of reason” to tilt at conservative windmills like the Utah Legislature, the LDS Church and other deserving self-righteous twits. His longtime cry to “legalize adulthood in Utah” helped bring about 2009’s normalization of private clubs in Utah.
Plan-B Theatre producing director Jerry Rapier’s greatest gift to Utah theater is most evident in the range of socially conscious plays his company has performed since its inception in 2000. Along with Plan B’s signature annual anti-censorship fund-raiser And The Banned Played On, he’s directed productions of The Laramie Project and the world premiere of Mary Dickson’s Exposed.
He’s been described as “America’s only all-natural politician-composer.” Phillip Bimstein’s work uses the sounds and stories of southern Utah to capture the spirit of Utah’s deserts. The former Springdale mayor directed his efforts to protect Utah’s wilderness as well as unite the citizens to bridge the gaps between community, environment and art.
Brew HaHa (real name: Rebecca Rendon) started the Salt City Derby Girls with a shaky skate-about with a handful of tattooed women in a West Valley parking lot four years ago; now, Salt Lake City’s original rollergirls are members of the national Women’s Flat-Track Derby Association, drawing several hundred fans to monthly summer-season bouts. The SCDG have also spawned three other Utah roller-derby leagues, and defeated Las Vegas WFTDA rivals Sin City Rollergirls twice in the past two years.
Rep. Jackie Biskupski
Watching the state’s moral crusaders swoop down to bully East High students who had decided to form a gay-straight alliance at their high school, Rep. Jackie Biskupski, D-Salt Lake City, realized if no one was going to speak up for the queer community, she would have to do it herself. In 1998, after a receiving ton of hate mail and running a painful campaign, she became Utah’s first openly gay elected official.
Shooting Star Saloon
Utah’s oldest tavern, Huntsville’s Shooting Star Saloon—in operation since 1879—is proof that tolerance and “live and let live” were original pioneer virtues. Maybe it’s the incredible burgers that have won over the hearts and minds of the saloon’s LDS township—who knows? Whatever the reason, we’ll drink a toast to this pioneering watering hole that’s kept the cheer flowing since the territorial days.
Gordon Hanks & Michael MacKay
The GAM Foundation is perhaps best known for 15 years of Jazz at the Sheraton concerts, but the local nonprofit isn’t only a vehicle for performances by world-class artists. Founders Gordon Hanks and Michael MacKay maintain their original vision of enriching the community’s artistic experience (such as by partnering with Excellence in the Community concerts) and by bringing jazz into the lives of those who might otherwise never hear a truly brilliant sax solo.
Hailing from a fourth generation Michigan farming family, Steven Rosenberg, founder and “chief eating officer” of Liberty Heights Fresh, is one of Utah’s most enthusiastic food evangelists. Would we know from fava beans, fingerling potatoes, heirloom tomatoes and farmstead cheeses without him? Not likely. Rosenberg’s catchphrase says it best: Let’s eat!
Salt Lake City’s first community art project—the 337 Building—is gone, demolished as intended, but its spirit lives on in the nonprofit 337’s outreach—including the Art Truck, which delivers groundbreaking art to neighborhoods which might otherwise miss out on engaging in art. Selfless and tireless, Adam Price is slowly doing his part to strengthen not just Salt Lake City’s artistic community but the community at large.
When Lucy Cardenas’ parents, the Mexico-born Ramon and Maria Cardenas, opened the Red Iguana in 1985, they helped introduce Salt Lakers to vibrant flavors and a uniquely colorful ambiance that only the Red Iguana can deliver. The Cardenas’ have spiced up our lives, and Lucy is the new face of her parents’ pioneering cuisine.
Filmmaker Trent Harris is as uniquely Utah as they come. His fascination with Mormon culture and his highly developed sense of the absurd might not be to everyone’s taste. But from the halcyon days of The Beaver Trilogy through to his most recent misunderstood epic, Delightful Water Universe, Harris’ films have shown that great visions on tiny budgets can thrive and blossom in Utah.
Without the efforts of Peruvian-born Tony Yapias, recognition of Utah’s Hispanic community, both legal and undocumented, would have been difficult to achieve. A oneman dynamo, the former director of the Utah Office of Hispanic Affairs, Yapias has allowed neither his Hispanic critics nor personal illness to keep him from advocating for his people through his radio program Pulso Latino and as a spokesman for Latino affairs.