A weekday early afternoon at the Utah Arts Festival is a strange beast. As crowds gather and wander through the 90 degree heat, much of the festival isn’t yet ready to kick into gear. Most of the performance stages are empty, with events not beginning until after 3 p.m. At a time of day when plenty of folks would just as soon park in the shade, there’s your only real choice is to stroll through the artists’ marketplace.
Fortunately, that’s still a terrifically satisfying way to spend an afternoon. While a few Salt Lake City art-scene regulars occupy some of the stalls—Marcee Blackerby, Leia Bell, Cat Palmer, Justin Wheatley—most are visitors to the environs of downtown. That offers a unique opportunity to see work like the intricately-carved gourds by Riverton’s Marilyn Sunderland, or the 3-D “interactive folk art” pieces by Dave Borba.
It’s also intriguing watching other people watch art. You get a sense for what grabs the attention of average strollers and their families by seeing where crowds gather in masses: the remarkable trompe l’oeil drawings of Westminster, Colo. resident JD Hillberry, or the whimsical metal sculptures by Salt Lake City’s Fred Conlon, or breathtaking photographs of rural China by Bothell, Washington’s King Wu.
Still, Library-based activities including the Fear No Film Festival start earlier in the afternoon, and there is day-long entertainment under the canopy at the Plaza Stage for those who need a break from the heat. Not that the Friday afternoon set by veteran Salt Lake City band Hello Amsterdam wasn’t blistering in its own way—but when it comes to enjoying the city’s biggest showcase for art in its many forms, you’ve got to know how to pace yourself.