Best of Utah 2020 | The complete list of winners from our readers and staff | Best of Utah | Salt Lake City

Best of Utah 2020 

The complete list of winners from our readers and staff

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Arts & Entertainment | Reader's Picks

Best Public Art
300 West Memorial Portraits

This tumultuous year included public protests around the country drawing attention to police violence against people of color, including right here in Salt Lake City. Among the other efforts to shine a spotlight on those whose lives were lost too soon, anonymous artists crafted a mural at 300 West and 800 South with images of George Floyd, Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal and other victims of police shootings. Though vandals have targeted the murals more than once, they remain a kind of public shrine, where visitors leave flowers, notes and other mementos demonstrating that they won't be forgotten as the work for social change continues. (SR)
2. Spiral Jetty
3. Atlas - Sril Art

Best DJ
Bad Brad Wheeler

Local legends take many forms. For Bad Brad Wheeler, it's mainly as a radio DJ and station program director at KUAA, the station he decamped to after his long tenure as a staple host at KRCL. At KUAA, Wheeler leads a multilingual, broad-genre approach to community radio listening, reflective of his love of all music of the folk and roots varieties. Wheeler is one local music lover who clearly sees the value in all kinds of music and people. Check out his ever-diverse DJ sets. (EM) KUAA 99.9 FM, 663 W. 100 South, SLC, 801-363-2787, kuaafm.org
2. John Florence
3. DJ Juggy

Best Dance Company
Ballet West

For many Utahns, their introduction to professional dance came via Ballet West's annual production of The Nutcracker. But the pandemic has truly demonstrated the company's creativity beyond that stalwart production. Choreographer Nicolo Fonte—who worked on the company's 2016 production of The Rite of Spring—worked virtually with dancers from their residences and other remote locations to re-create the piece with special consideration for the small-screen format in which people would be watching. Videographer Andrea Peterson then combined the recorded dancers with the music of the Utah Symphony for a short selection that captured all the spirit of Stravinsky's bold innovation. See it at youtu.be/_bO0R7SgA6M. (SR) 50 W. 200 South, SLC, 801-869-6900, balletwest.org
2. Ririe-Woodbury Dance Co.
3. Odyssey Dance Theatre

Best Drag Entertainer
Jason CozMo

Jason CozMo has graced City Weekly's cover in his full Dolly Parton regalia, so it's not surprising that he has become a favorite of our readers. After a pandemic hiatus, CozMo's delightful Viva La Diva show has returned to Metro Music Hall, providing plenty of bawdy entertainment with CozMo and his crew of performers bringing celebrity impersonation to new heights, and often with a holiday-themed flavor. It doesn't take a genius to realize that we-e-e will always love yoooooooooou. (SR) thevivaladivashow.com
2. Rose Nylon
3. Sally Cone Slopes

Molly Burch at Kilby Court
  • Molly Burch at Kilby Court

Best All-Ages Venue
Kilby Court

Ah, Kilby Court. It's like the high school of the SLC music scene, especially because, as the premier all-ages venue in town, it's often home to actual high schoolers. With the booking connections of its big sister venue Urban Lounge, it's still home to nationally and sometimes even internationally acclaimed acts, and often to up-and-comers who might later graduate to venues much bigger than the drafty shed-and-patio setup that makes Kilby so distinctive—alongside the stone's throw-away of a bathroom that's next to a motorcycle shop, and the fire pit that's sometimes lit. If there's any venue that at least a few recent generations of SLC music kids have grown up loitering at, it's Kilby Court. (EM) 748 S. Kilby Court, SLC, 800-513-7540, kilbycourt.com
2. Red Butte Garden Concerts
3. The Complex

Best Museum
Natural History Museum of Utah

A museum isn't all about its physical space—but a great physical space doesn't hurt. The beautiful Rio Tinto Center of the Natural History Museum of Utah literally glows above the landscape when the sun hits the copper trim, making it a beacon to those fascinated with the state's landscape, weather, flora, fauna and human history. The facility is open to the public again, with online reservations required and timed ticketing to insure spacing between visiting parties, and the exhibits remain wonderfully engaging and interactive through touch-free stylus technology. (SR) 301 Wakara Way, SLC, 801-581-6927, nhmu.utah.edu
2. Utah Museum of Fine Arts
3. The Leonardo

Best Record Shop
Randy's Records

Well, who can pass on the variety and pure history of Randy's Records? It has over 40 years of history at its modest 900 South locale, stewarded for most of that time by Randy Stinson himself. Two years ago, it was taken over by his son Sam Stinson, who has since continued to run the shop through the pandemic. No trial could be enough to taint the good reputation of this shop, with their reliably huge collection of vinyl—both vintage and new. With other large-scale operations like Graywhale stepping back to the suburbs, Randy's is the place of all places to go for pretty much anything you seek. (EM) 157 E. 900 South, SLC, 801-532-4413, randysrecords.com
2. Graywhale
3. Diabolical Records

Best Canceled Music Festival
Ogden Twilight

A cousin to the SLC Twilight Concert Series, Ogden Twilight is a fan favorite in the summertime. Although Salt Lakers usually have a full plate of music and entertainment in the summer, it's a treat to hop a ride on the Frontrunner up to O-Town (it's free with your concert ticket) and visit the outdoor amphitheater and browse the foreign food trucks (Lucky Slice, so different than The Pie). The summer spread also tends to be the most diverse of any summer indie fest, though they feature repeat acts like The Flaming Lips—basically residents at this point. (EM) Ogden Twilight, 343 E. 25th St., Ogden, ogdentwilight.com
2. Das Energi
3. Reggae Rise Up

Best Theater Company
Salt Lake Acting Co.

Many professional theater companies are taking the slow-and-cautious approach to bringing patrons back into their conventional theater spaces, but that doesn't mean that they can't provide folks with engaging entertainment. Salt Lake Acting Company kicked off what would have been its historic 50th season with a lively series of digital shorts, dropping every Friday beginning in September. They then partnered with a New York-based company for the fascinating streaming production American Dreams, a dark satire in which citizenship is decided by an audience-participation game show. While we all want to be in theater seats again soon, SLAC is turning home into a great alternative for the moment. (SR) 168 W. 500 North, SLC, 801-363-7522, saltlakeactingcompany.org
2. Hale Centre Theatre
3. Pioneer Theatre Co.

Best Visual Artist
SRIL Art

Visual artists aren't often known to those who don't venture into gallery spaces, but one Utah artist has created work known to people throughout the valley—even if they don't actually know the artist behind that work. SRIL (the nom de paint of Shae Petersen) has created large-scale murals familiar on buildings from downtown (the 4,000 square foot "Atlas" commission near the North Temple Trax station) to Millcreek (the sea turtle swimming across the Fat Cats building at 3739 S. 900 East). He might not be a famous face himself, but SRIL's commemorations of other famous faces make him a local treasure. (SR) SRILart.com
2. Cat Palmer
3. Jann Haworth

Best Canceled Concert
Post Malone

For being a much-celebrated Utah transplant, rap star Post Malone is still as elusive as a mountain goat in the Wasatch. Even if you're running around in the hopes of seeing him, he just won't show. The one time he was definitely going to take the stage for his Utah fans was at the March 21 Vivint Smart Home Arena show on his Runaway Tour. However, he ended up having to cancel because of—you guessed it—the pandemic. Ah, March, when we thought tours like that could be rescheduled, and we thought we'd see Post Malone in the flesh in his Utah home maybe later in 2020. Big mistake! (EM)
2. Tool
3. Cher

Zac Ivie
  • Zac Ivie

Best Local Band/Group
Zac Ivie

Although it's obvious that Zac Ivie is in fact one person and not a band or a group, he's a welcome addition to Best of Utah as an artist who's been on the local circuit for ages. His win shows that Utah's rap scene is strong, and he's one of its main players. Having opened up for notable rap acts like Ghostface Killah and Talib Kweli, he's also on the forefront of artists who are figuring out how to navigate shows and livelihoods as the pandemic rages on and the music industry continues to be depressed. A man with many talents, he's a music maker we're proud to call our own. (EM) facebook.com/IvieMusic801
2. Royal Bliss
3. Pixie and the Partygrass Boys

Best Live Music Venue
The State Room

A classic place to see the classics, The State Room has such a stately name for a reason. With its comfortable layout of church pews-meets-amphitheater style seating, which still allows for standing near the stage, the venue is a time-tested place to see tour-worn artists across the genre spectrum, though they've got a knack for making their stage home to some of the best Americana, folk and rock 'n' roll acts around. This past year, they supported themselves through the pandemic by creating an auction for posters of shows past, a fitting and valuable memento in today's sadly show-less world. Long live The State Room and their cheeky marquee. (EM) 638 S. State, SLC, 801-596-3560, thestateroompresents.com
2. The Depot
3. Metro Music Hall

Best Gallery
Urban Arts Gallery

The expression "art gallery" doesn't have to be intimidating—and that's certainly not the case at this beloved spot in The Gateway. Local artists get a showcase throughout the year doing work that appeals across the spectrum, from pop-culture-themed annual shows to the Skate Deck Challenge that invites artists to decorate skateboards. And as calls for representation increased across the country amidst demands for racial justice, Urban Arts Gallery showcased LGBTQ artists and people of color in separate shows. It truly is a place for art by and for everyone. (SR) 116 S. Rio Grande St., SLC, 801-230-0820, urbanartsgallery.org
2. The Leonardo
3. Phillips Gallery

Best Friend of the Arts
Utah Arts Alliance

This local organization has its fingers in so many artistic pies, it's amazing that it gets everything right as often as it does. In addition to the Urban Arts Gallery as a showcase for local artists' works, UAA presents the annual Urban Art Festival, operates the new Dreamscapes space and provides a state-of-the-art recording studio in Counterpoint Studios at rates accessible to many more musicians than conventional studios. Executive director Derek Dyer has given the city, and the state, a place that supports countless creative folks. (SR) 663 W. 100 South, SLC, 801-363-2787, utaharts.org
2. Diane Stewart
3. Cat Palmer

Best Canceled Community Event
Utah Pride Festival

One of the most colorful community events of the summer, maybe even nipping at the heels of the Days of '47, is Pride. A huge event in Salt Lake City, just as it is in many other cities, Pride feels especially exciting since Utah as a whole still is quite conservative. Sixty thousand or more show up for the parade each June as it winds through downtown streets that are usually vacant lots on Sunday mornings. While the parade and festival were canceled in June of 2020, the organization sponsored a "Coming Out" road rally in the fall to help raise funds for Pride Center outreach (which is usually funded by the summer events). Pride will surely come roaring back once the pandemic has ended. And the services that the festival funds also must live on. (EM) Utah Pride Center, 1380 S. Main, SLC, 801-539-8800, utahpridecenter.org
2. Utah Arts Festival
3. Salt Lake City Greek Festival


Angela Brown
  • Angela Brown

Arts & Entertainment | Staff Picks

Best Virtual Festival
Craft Lake City

Craft Lake City is that summer event where you can find all things local: from food trucks to craft artisans to the performers who soundtrack the weekend-long event. Of course, this year, the IRL event was canceled but was replaced by an ambitious virtual take. The replacement online festival still featured access to vendors and innovative links to food trucks around the valley instead of in-festival dining, and there was also music. The festival still hosted the usual huge lineup, with 47 artists or bands participating in online performances. (EM) craftlakecity.com/diy-festival

Best Critter Connection
Hogle Zoo Facebook Field Trips

As the state locked down in the spring, kids were schooling from home. And our state's most beloved institutions were closed to the public. Hogle Zoo sought to address both obstacles with the rapid launch of "Facebook Field Trips," a series of daily virtual livestreams where zoo personnel introduced lessons about their animals to viewers at home. Kids (and their parents) got a chance to learn about how they cut an elephant's toenails, and how the bears savor honey-slathered windows, all with an opportunity to ask questions and participate remotely. It was a much-needed dose of critter cuteness with an educational twist. (SR) facebook.com/hoglezoo

Best New Local Music Program
HUM-TV

The Salt Lake Public Library is no stranger to supporting the arts, with recurrent programs like 12 Minutes Max, their rooftop concert shows in the summer and their collection of local music found in the Hearing Utah Music archive. Now, they're expanding on the latter work (known as HUM) with a public-access TV-styled program called HUM-TV. The video series was developed as a more permanent kind of approach to the virtual concert, one that could outlast the pandemic. It features pre-recorded and edited sets by local artists (who are paid for their time), alongside interviews between those artists and an interviewer chosen from another part of the local music community: music supporters, like those at SLUG Magazine and City Weekly, were already featured in the first "season's" episodes, which were released in October. (EM) hum.slcpl.org

Best Repurposed Costumes
Pioneer Theatre Co.'s 'Costume Collection' Mask Project

On-stage performers weren't the only people impacted by the shutdown of live performances; many technical, creative and support staff also faced the loss of jobs. Pioneer Theatre Co. sought to address both that problem and the need for masks by turning to its massive storehouse of costumes from previous productions. The company was able to put employees of its costume shop to work, converting these unique pieces of production history into protective masks sold to the public, with new limited-edition designs released weekly. (SR) pioneertheatre.org/masks-to-order

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Best Beer Art
Uinta Brewing

Way back before Utah even conceived of a vibrant beer/distillery scene, rocker Rod Stewart sang "Every Picture Tells a Story." That notion is forever true at Uinta Brewing, where every can is colored with a storytelling scene like no other. Beer-can art may be its own genre these days, so many great examples, but the honor of being consistently great, many having distinctly Utah looks, belongs to Uinta Brewing. Our faves: Cutthroat, Golden Spike, Yard Sale, Sea Legs, Croggy and Pit Stop. Suitable for stacking and framing. (MS) 1722 S. Fremont Drive, SLC, 801-467-0909, uintabrewing.com

Best Educational Flashback
S.T.E.A.M.punk Academy's 'Adult Science Fair'

We all know how hard it's been for teachers and students to adjust to the "new normal" of distance learning, as adults got a reminder of what school days were all about. But it wasn't all grim news: Those who were getting stir-crazy could turn their energy to the kind of project that allowed for some creativity. S.T.E.A.M.punk Academy invited adults to participate in a summer-long project of designing and following through on an experiment that could then be shared with their fellow amateur scientists. Remote options were available throughout the process, and at a time when we all need to believe in the importance of science, we could be part of it. (SR) steampunkacademy.org

Best Astrology Author
Christopher Renstrom

A previous winner of Utah's Best Astrologer, Christopher Renstrom just scored another big win: His book, Cosmic Calendar: Using Astrology to Get in Sync With Your Best Life, is hot off the press, published by Penguin Random House imprints, TarcherPerigee. It's no surprise, given Renstrom's grasp of traditional astrology and his engaging writing style, the book is already a bestseller on Amazon.com. Renstrom, a Utah resident, is the driving force behind online astrology site RulingPlanets.com. He also pens daily horoscopes for the San Francisco Chronicle and SFGate.com. Those wishing to learn more can enroll his classes, attend a webinar or lecture, sign up for a private reading or, hey, buy his dang book. It's a fun (and illuminating) read! (JW) RulingPlanets.com.

Best Throwback Cinema
Salt Lake Film Society and Utah Film Center Pop-up Drive-ins
In the heyday of the drive-in movie theater—the pre-metroplex age—Utah had about 30 big, outdoor screens. The Motor-Vu at the top of 3300 South was a local favorite. There, you could smuggle a trunk load of friends past the ticket seller; dress your kids in Dr. Denton pajamas for the latest Disney film; or make out with your boyfriend until the credits rolled or the windows fogged. With indoor theaters shuttered by COVID-19, the Utah Film Society and Salt Lake Film Society responded with pop-up drive-ins in Alta, Sandy, Midvale and Salt Lake City. It was a brilliant, retro moment, especially for those with memories of the Motor-Vu on a summer night. Many of the films screened for free, so no one had to hide in the trunk.(JR/SR) utahfilmcenter.org; saltlakefilmsociety.org

Best Door-to-Door Dance
SB Dance Curbside Theater Pickup
Many performing arts organizations shifted during the early months of the pandemic to virtual performances, as people were forced to stay at home. Stephen Brown, however, has never been one to take the obvious creative path, so he decided instead to bring the show to where the viewers were. Beginning in June, Brown's SB Dance offered pay-what-you-can Curbside Theater, with interested patrons reserving a time for Brown to pull a stage right up to your home and let you watch short dance pieces from a lawn chair. "Artists are cockroaches," Brown said at the time; "We adapt, man." And dance-lovers were all the better for it. (SR) sbdance.com

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Best First Return to Live Performance
Wiseguys Comedy Clubs

It was something of a leap of faith when, in early May, Wiseguys reopened its comedy club venue at The Gateway. We were still figuring out what kinds of gatherings were safe, and many people still weren't sure about going out to live entertainment. Yet the re-opening—with reduced seating capacity for social distancing and enhanced sanitary protocols—has thus far been without incident, as the Ogden and West Jordan venues have also subsequently re-opened. At a time when we all could use a laugh, Wiseguys was able to deliver it—and safely. (SR) Multiple locations, wiseguyscomedy.com

Best Drive-in Shakespeare
SONDERimmersive's Through Yonder Window

If you're a theater company, what do you do when you can't have audiences in a theater? If you're a film organization, you can show things at a drive-in, but that couldn't work for a play ... could it? Graham Brown and SONDERimmersive proved that the answer is "yes" with their production of Through Yonder Window, a take on Romeo & Juliet offered at The Gateway's parking structure with patrons remaining in their vehicles. The result was a one-of-a-kind experience that offered a new perspective on a story about people separated through no fault of their own. (SR) sonderimmersive.com

Best Drive-by Installation
UMOCA/ Granary Arts Lawn Gnomes 2020

A gallery isn't just an indoor physical space; it's a place where people can encounter art. With those indoor physical spaces shut down, the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art and Granary Arts in Ephraim collaborated on a project encouraging local artists to create pieces that they would then put out in their front yards, providing multiple locations in the state for those who were interested to drive by and view safely. Jared Steffensen and Cara Krebs were among those who responded to the call, giving us all a jolt of new visual excitement that didn't require staring at a screen. (SR) utahmoca.org/lawn-gnomes-2020

Best Virtual Dose of a Summer Institution
Utah Arts Festival 'Festival Vibes'

We've all missed out on a lot this year, and the local arts community certainly missed the annual four-day celebration of the Utah Arts Festival. In an attempt to keep people connected to the festival's work and the artists it supports, UAF created "Festival Vibes," a weekly mini-showcase hosted on its website. In addition to a festival marketplace for accepted visual artists, "Festival Vibes" provided a curated selection of short films, music performances, poetry readings and even a virtual "Art Yard" for kids' craft projects. It was a reminder of everything we'll be looking forward to again in 2021. (SR) uaf.org

Best Pandemic Commissions
Utah Symphony World Premieres

Art doesn't stop in times of crisis; if anything, challenging times inspire creative people to some of their best work. Utah Symphony maestro Thierry Fischer reached out to composers Andrea Read Thomas and Dai Fujikura in May, inviting them to create new works for a full orchestra to play remotely and bring together via video and audio editing. Thomas' Fanfare of Hope and Solidarity and Fujikura's Longing from Afar allowed fans of orchestral music to recall the beauty of symphonic music, and the way it can capture the emotions of the most tumultuous times. (SR) utahsymphony.org

Best Stories From Around the World
Virtual Timpanogos Storytelling Festival

Timpanogos Storytelling Festival director Jennifer Nelson applied all the skills she learned doing customer service for WordPerfect to the unique challenge of connecting storytellers from all over to viewers for the 2020 virtual incarnation of the annual Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. The adaptation allowed gifted raconteurs from all over to bring their gifts to viewers, at a time when many of these storytellers have had no other way to draw income from their skills. For a bargain price, families were able to remain safely at home and enjoy amazing tales on both live-stream and pre-recorded formats. (SR) timpfest.org

Best Entertainment District
The Gateway

Just as soon as it seemed the up and down then up again Gateway Mall was gaining steam as Salt Lake's premier, all-inclusive entertainment center, its legs were cut from underneath their building momentum. Like all businesses, they were forced to pivot. No more mass gatherings on the plaza, but not all was lost—it just meant they had to be more creative. The draw of Goat Yoga, HallPass, Clark Planetarium and a giant footprint to stroll remain. With a renewed focus on the arts, it's also easy to enjoy the murals, lights and ambiance that make The Gateway a must visit. (MS) 400 W. 200 South, SLC, 801-456-0000, shopthegateway.com

Best Arts Expansion During a Pandemic
Urban Arts Fest Elements

It felt inevitable that scheduled arts events would either disappear or contract noticeably throughout the summer; it was a rare bold step for Derek Dyer to make the annual Urban Arts Fest bigger, and even more accessible. The typically single-weekend September event became a month-long celebration of live painting and the creations of artists and artisans, employing outdoor marketplaces and storefront displays at the Gateway. Throw in the annual Skate Deck Challenge, and you have an event that found a creative way to keep the buzz of festival energy going. (SR) utaharts.org


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