Best of Utah 2021 | Spreading the Love | Best of Utah | Salt Lake City
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    click to enlarge Ballet West’s Swan Lake - COURTESY PHOTO
    • Courtesy Photo
    • Ballet West’s Swan Lake

    ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT | Readers' Picks

    Best Dance Company
    Ballet West

    It was weird for a Christmas season to go by without live performances of Ballet West's Nutcracker, but the company showed its commitment to the community by arranging to broadcast a previous year's recorded production to fill that hole. That was just one of the ways Ballet West remained present and vital throughout the pandemic, including the documentary series In the Balance about its efforts at continuing performances and offering its summer intensive program. As effortless as the dancers make their art look, we're grateful for the hard work they put into providing it for us. Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, No. 200, SLC, 801-869-6900,
    2. Ririe-Woodbury Dance Co.
    3. Repertory Dance Theatre

    Best Movie Theater
    Brewvies Cinema Pub

    For more than a year, the beloved local tradition of enjoying a beer and a movie at Brewvies was denied to us. But the regulars streamed back once the venues in Salt Lake City and Ogden reopened in June, allowing folks to enjoy blockbuster offerings like F9 and No Time to Die not just on a big screen, but accompanied by all your favorite pub fare. And they came back to a re-painted, spruced-up place that was even more inviting. 677 S. 200 West, SLC, 801-322-3891; 2293 Grant Ave., Ogden, 801-392-2012;
    2. Broadway Centre Cinemas
    3. The Tower

    Best Visual Artist
    Cat Palmer

    We offer the disclaimer that Cat Palmer contributed editorial content for this issue, but considering the number of times she's won reader awards in our Best of Utah or Arts issues, we probably could've seen it coming. For years, she's found the sweet spot as both a commercial artist and a creative provocateur with an eye for politically charged compositions. Having a byline doesn't change the esteem in which she is held by the local arts community.
    2. Hannah Lofgreen
    3. Andrew Alba

    Best DJ
    DJ Teo

    DJ Teo knows how to throw it down in party spaces all around SLC. If you've visited The Palace or Echo, you've probably caught his wild mixes. He's also made appearances with music collectives like The Amé House and wicked Halloween parties like The Purge at The Complex. One thing is for certain, no matter where you go, if Teo's at the deck, it'll be a good time. Twitter @MateOWNS,
    2. DJ Juggy
    3. DJ Bangarang

    Best Drag Entertainer
    Jason CoZmo

    The host of one of SLC's finest drag traditions, Viva La DIVA, brings home the gold again in this category, and is rightly deserving! The celebrity impersonation performances CoZmo hosts at Salt Lake's Metro Music Hall bring to life his alter-ego, Dolly Parton, as well as Liza Minnelli, Julie Andrews and Bette Midler and Disney characters to boot. They're a constant source of drag entertainment, in a show where CoZmo has built a grassroots following while appearing regularly at many other local shows. Viva La CoZmo! IG: @mrjasoncozmo,
    2. Gia Bianca Stephens
    3. Sister Molly Mormon

    click to enlarge Khruangbin - JOSH SCHEUERMAN
    • Josh Scheuerman
    • Khruangbin

    Best Concert
    Jason Isbell

    Red Butte Garden's Outdoor Concert Series came roaring back this year, kicking off the 2021 season with a July 30 debut show from Jason Isbell that sold out quickly. A sold-out show because of the charismatic country rocker's popularity, yes, but also because he teamed up with the equally beloved goth mother of Americana, Lucinda Williams.
    2. Post Malone
    3. Garth Brooks

    Best Muralist
    Josh Scheuerman

    If you drive anywhere through the streets of Salt Lake City, you've almost certainly seen the vibrant work created by Josh Scheuerman on Utah walls. His work has honored individuals on a local (Stein Eriksen) and national (Harvey Milk) scale, and he's provided everything from colorful branding for local businesses to a call-to-arms to restore Bears Ears National Monument. For those who wonder if the only walls where great art can be found are in galleries, just check out the buildings graced by Scheuerman's hand.
    2. Shae Petersen
    3. Joseph Toney

    click to enlarge Grouplove - JOSH SCHEUERMAN
    • Josh Scheuerman
    • Grouplove

    Best Music Festival
    Ogden Twilight

    This year's festival was jam-packed with Ogden Twilight favorites—from Purity Ring and Portugal. The Man, to Grouplove and The Flaming Lips. The festival featured popular artists from years past alongside newbies like Noah Cyrus and Ant Clemons, plus the ever-present local openers, who included Brother., Josaleigh Pollett and Angel Magic, to name a few. 343 E. 25th St., Ogden,
    2. Country Fan Fest
    3. Das Energi Festival

    Best All-Ages Venue
    Kilby Court

    Salt Lake City's perpetual "little venue that could" has seen untold numbers of incredible pre-fame acts pass through its tiny, tiny stage. Many are the Utah music fans who can tell you their story of seeing "X" band play Kilby right before they broke multi-platinum, and how the act that now fills stadiums once packed into a garage in SLC's Granary district so tight that you could practically strum the guitars yourself. With new development and financial attention descending on the neighborhood, Kilby has only risen to the opportunity, staging new events like the Kilby Court Block Party while maintaining a particularly intimate setting that regularly punches above its weight. 748 W. Kilby Court, SLC,
    2. Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre
    3. The Complex

    Best Museum
    Natural History Museum of Utah

    The architectural jewel that is the Natural History Museum of Utah holds 10 permanent exhibits showcasing the state's gems, minerals, dinosaurs, flora, fauna, Native cultures and more. These installations are worth revisiting time and again, but the special exhibits, such as the "Time of the Pharaohs" are not to be missed, either. The installation is in place through Jan. 2, 2022, and is the next-best thing to being at an excavation site on the Nile. Spotlighting rulers as well as the average citizen, this exhibit is full of unique artifacts and insights into ancient Egyptian life. Even the most sullen of tweens won't be able to, "meh," their way through this exhibit. 301 Wakara Way, SLC, 801-581-6927,
    2. Utah Museum of Contemporary Art
    3. Utah Museum of Fine Art

    Best Theater Company
    Salt Lake Acting Co.

    You were missed, SLAC! The Salt Lake Acting Co. was back in the saddle performing to live audience this past summer with a new and improved musical parody, #SLACabaret. In the tradition of Saturday's Voyeur, which ended its run in 2019, the updated production gleefully skewers Utah culture in a variety-show format. The cast took the audience on a musical tour of the newly renovated airport that incorporated all things Utah, from the 2002 Winter Olympics to a hilarious rendition of the world-class complainer, "Caren" aka Karen. The performance concluded with a musical number featuring the new SLC "housewives." After the past two years, never has a celebration of Utah's quirks been more appreciated. 168 W. 500 North, SLC, 801-363-7522,
    2. Pioneer Theatre Co.
    3. Hale Centre Theatre, Sandy

    Best Local Band/Group
    Pixie and the Partygrass Boys

    This local band earns their namesake over and over again—because they really do bring the party wherever they go. While 2020 put a wrench in their usually busy show schedule, they still managed to make frequent appearances at establishments all over the place. The group also found the time to finally put out a new album, which fans of the band have surely heard already at one of their recent shows.
    2. Royal Bliss
    3. Get It Write

    Best Live Music Venue
    Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre

    This summertime treasure is a no-brainer pick. Not only does Red Butte Garden bring in some of the biggest and best artists to our valley for their summer concert series, but the views that can be had of said valley from the green lawn can't be beat. This past summer, the festival returned with an absolutely stacked lineup, and it felt like a celebration that some things—like their big green lawn filled with people—were back to normal.2155 Red Butte Canyon, SLC, 801-585-0556,
    2. USANA Amphitheatre
    3. The Depot

    Best Vinyl Shop
    Randy's Records

    A winner for the quadrillionth time probably, and it's for good reason. In operation since 1978, Randy's Records has reliably the largest selection of any record store in SLC, and their modest digs on 900 South are a great place to find amazing treasures. Ask any of the knowledgeable staff for help finding the rare record you seek, and/or maybe ask for some recommendations. 157 E. 900 South, SLC, 801- 532-4413,
    2. Raunch Records
    3. Graywhale Entertainment

    Best Public Art
    Spiral Jetty

    When the late artist Robert Smithson spied the Great Salt Lake's blood red waters and stark, barren northeastern shore, he knew he had found the perfect spot to construct his massive earthwork sculpture. Smithson's Spiral Jetty—which rises from the shore of the Great Salt Lake like a giant fossilized tentacle—has captivated onlookers since 1970. Thanks to the Great Salt Lake's ever-changing shoreline, no two viewings of the Spiral Jetty are alike. Rozel Point, Great Salt Lake via Corinne,
    2. Black Lives Matter murals
    3. Tied: Gilgal Sculpture Garden, Squatters' mural

    Best Gallery
    Urban Arts Gallery

    Every gallery has its own unique personality, but Urban Arts Gallery feels like the kind of place that appeals to everyone, even those who don't think of themselves as "art gallery people." Throughout the year, they showcase local creators in ways that are sometimes fun and playful (like the annual nerd-themed "Heroes and Villains" group show), sometimes socially conscious (like June's showcase of work on queer themes) and always fascinating to experience. 116 S. Rio Grande, SLC, 801-230-0820,
    2. A Gallery
    3. Phillips Gallery

    Best Friend of the Arts
    Utah Arts Alliance

    Even if you aren't familiar with the name "Utah Arts Alliance," you've likely benefitted from all of the programming and support for artists provided by Derek Dyer and his great team. From providing studio space and resources at the Utah Arts Hub to inviting the community to the annual Urban Arts Festival, and even inviting emerging artists to get a chance at gallery showing with the "Connect" pop-up events, UAA keeps Salt Lake City vital and crackling with new, exciting creative work. 801-651-3937,
    2. Eccles Foundation
    3. Gail Miller

    Best Community Event
    Utah Arts Festival

    Utah's annual celebration of all things creative has a little something for everyone. Seasoned art collectors and festival goers who simply wish to stroll through the crowd munching on a ginormous gyro can partake in food, music, dance and visual art galore. With so many options for entertainment and enrichment, it's no wonder that nearly 70,000 people attend the Utah Arts Festival each year. Festival location: Library Square, 200 East 400 South, SLC, 801-322-2428,
    2. Pride Festival
    3. Greek Festival

    click to enlarge The kids are alright: Salt Lake Arts Academy - ANONYMOUS
    • Anonymous
    • The kids are alright: Salt Lake Arts Academy

    ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT | Staff Picks

    Best Youthful Creativity
    Salt Lake Arts Academy

    Salt Lake Arts Academy is a diverse free public charter school in downtown SLC dedicated to "Building Creative Minds." Kids come to SLArts from 29 different ZIP codes to have daily arts experiences in dance, drama, music and visual arts, engage in rigorous academics and learn to navigate our city. Serving grades 5-8, admission is by lottery and open to all students. 844 S. 200 East, SLC, 801-531-1173,

    Best Slam Poet
    Ashley Finley

    She's a lauded birth keeper, a published writer, a keynote speaker, a certified yoga instructor and an educator. Finley's favorite work involves creating a sacred space where collaborators can explore what it means to use their unique talents and abilities to begin the work of decolonization and liberation. She has a published piece in an upcoming anthology by Torrey House Press. This mama is a brilliant badass—through and through. IG: @findafinley,

    Best Music From a Van
    Banyan Collective Van Sessions

    Local podcasters The Banyan Collective have their talkative fingers in every type of podcast pie—they record podcasts on news, events, visiting artists, local creatives, athletics and, of course, live music, all from inside their vintage 1960 Aristocrat "TanVan." Parked inside The Monarch Building in Ogden's Nine Rails Creative District, they host a number of local artists for their Van Sessions series, where artists play and talk and the podcast is recorded live, often with a live audience seated right outside the van. 455 25th St., Ogden,

    Best Backyard Music Staple
    Carolyn's Summer Garden Music Series

    This underground invitation-only garden is magical. And if you have been one of the lucky ones to be in the know, well, then you know. Everyone from Tiny Home to Michelle Moonshine to Pixie & the Partygrass Boys has played in this gorgeous garden. Folks bring a dish to share and pull up a chair to quietly listen to the talent unfold. This music series is not to be missed. Visit their Facebook page for updates. 1443 E. Kensington Ave., SLC, 801-694-7417,

    Best Hybrid Shows
    Excellence Concert Series

    The downtown tradition that opened up the Gallivan Center stage for free entertainment and swing dancing on warm summer nights faced challenges during the pandemic, which they were able to overcome with live-stream shows. Excellence Concert Series amassed millions of views while regularly streaming and posting shows on YouTube, a practice which they've held onto even as they returned to live programming this summer. Gallivan Center, 239 S. Main, SLC, 801-718-3862,

    Best Utah Arts Community
    Helper, Utah

    Our favorite Utah destination is an old mining town less than two hours from Salt Lake. Thirty years ago, David Johnson, Tom Williams, David Dornan and Marilou Kundmueller started the art scene in Helper. It blossomed over the past decade thanks to a focused effort to achieve sustainability—a combination of art, history and natural assets. Local artist Kate Kilpatrick-Miller and Mayor Lenise Peterman have helped nurture this growth. A sampling of artists/galleries to grace Main Street include: Helper Art Space; Tim J. Morse Studio; Kathleen Royster Ceramics; 3 on the Tree; Beg, Borrow & Steele, Steven Lee Adams Fine Art; Boxcar Gallery; K2 Gallery; AMJWorks; Scott Yelonek Gallery and Canvas Alchemy Artist Collective. IG: @helperfirstfridays,

    Best Voice of an Angel
    Michelle Moonshine

    It only takes hearing Michelle Moonshine's voice one time to be won over. She's a local must-see. You may have heard her on The Voice or have seen her opening for Mason Jennings, Lake Street Dive, Wayne "The Train" Hancock, Lukas Nelson, Judy Collins or other badasses. She's about to release her newest album with bandmates John Davis and Bronk Onion, and her fans could not be more excited. Look for her performances with husband, Andrew Wiscombe, with their band Turtle Dovin'. IG: @michellemoonshine,

    Best Music Man
    Randy Barton

    As executive director of the Egyptian Theatre Co. in Park City, Randy Barton is by now the most seasoned talent booker of them all in the Utah music scene. His pedigree goes back decades, so you can count on
    him to deliver the very best to Utah audiences. His Egyptian Theatre lineup this season covers the gamut of hip, modern, alternative, country, blues, bluegrass including 10,000 Maniacs, Del McCoury, and Tinsley Ellis but also oldies like Family Stone, Peter Yarrow, Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits and at the end 2021, the three punch of the Coasters, the Drifters and the Platters. Toss in some classic plays and musicals, and it's another home run for Randy Barton. Egyptian Theatre Co., 328 Main St., Park City, 855-745-SHOW,

    Best Whale Watching
    "Out of the Blue" by Stephen Kesler
    Not since the relocation of Coffee Garden has Salt Lake's 9th and 9th neighborhood been so divided, but whether you're a whale watcher or whale whiner, Stephen Kesler's whale statue is coming to a roundabout near you. As of press time, the exact unveiling date is TBD, but it is confirmed that local artist and longtime 9th & 9th resident Mike Murdock will paint the inaugural mural—an abstract interpretation of the neighborhood's sunrises and sunsets. 900 South and 1100 East, SLC

    Best Busting Out of a COVID Cocoon
    SLC Busker Fest

    Being cooped up for over a year left the majority of us feeling more socially awkward than ever. When and how to re-enter society feels somehow daunting. Then came the all-ages, fun and quirky outdoor SLC Busker Fest. Thanks to the acrobatics, sword jugglers, magicians, live music and mimes, hitting the streets again wasn't so scary after all.

    click to enlarge A night of beer necessities at - Hogle Zoo - VISIT SALT LAKE_AUSTENDIAMONDPHOTOGRAPHY
    • Visit Salt Lake_AustenDiamondPhotography
    • A night of beer necessities at Hogle Zoo

    Best Wetting Your Whistle With Wildlife
    Zoo Brews

    Utah's Hogle Zoo knows that even the most kid-friendly activities are often more enjoyable without kids. Case in point, the adults-only Zoo Brews fundraisers. Clear your evening and spend it strolling among monkeys, giraffes and polar bears sans strollers while sipping on beer, wine or seltzer. You can even ride the train or take a spin on the carousel without having to fight off a 5-year-old for dibs on the lion, not to mention proceeds go toward animal rescue. 2600 Sunnyside Ave., SLC, 801-584-1700,

    Best New Theater
    SLFS Studio Backlot Motor Cinema

    When COVID-19 shut down virtually all businesses, and particularly arts and entertainment venues, fans of the big-screen film experience were able to find a social-distancing friendly outlet with the expansion of the Salt Lake Film Society to a third location at the Redman Movies & Stories backlot. Over two years, Redman and SLFS have created a unique filmgoing experience that somehow marries the best elements of a drive-in and art-house theater experience—and on the west side, no less—screening a range of classic and cult favorites. 1075 S. 700 West, SLC, 801-321-0310,

    Best Innovators
    Social Antidote

    Another disciple of the hybrid model, Social Antidote, started bringing music back to fans early in the pandemic, pioneering a model of professional, high-quality productions for live-streaming that highlighted local artists. Then, they shifted back to live, albeit in a socially distanced outdoor setting during events like downtown's Open Streets on Main Street, with neon-lit build-outs like "The Cube."

    Best Street Art
    South Salt Lake Mural Festival

    Want to appreciate art from the comfort of your car? South Salt Lake's Creative Industries Zone is home to the largest collection of street art in Utah. 2021 artists included: Bill Louis, Brooklyn Ottens & Matt Monsoon, Emily Ding, George Baker, Hayley Barry, Himed and HOKZYN, Joseph Toney, Miles Toland, Roots Art Kollective and Traci O'Very Covey. 2250 S. West Temple (area), SLC,

    Best DIY Space
    The Beehive

    One build-back-better success story is that of The Beehive, which, after floating through the pandemic on Patreon funds earned by putting on virtual shows on that platform, came back better than ever with a renovated space and a strong mix of touring and local acts alike. Real-life SLC punks find their homes here and play their loud-ass music. 666 S. State, SLC, 385-645-3116,

    Best Ogden Cultural Pollinator
    The Monarch

    Why does Ogden get to have all the fun? Not only does their nightlife boast historic 25th Street but now their arts scene can lay claim to the Monarch arts center, housed in an industrial parking garage from the 1920s. After updating its vintage architecture in 2019, developers opened this cultural hub of artist studios and exhibit spaces, shops, various event and performance venues and a date-night dining spot, thereby becoming the heart of the Nine Rails neighborhood, a dedicated area in Ogden for arts and culture to thrive. Ogden obviously knows how to celebrate its history, rather than tear it down to make way for mediocre urban dwellings. 455 25th St., Ogden, 801-893-6605,

    Best Lunch-Break IG Scroll
    Urban Sketching With Surbhi

    Having a rotten day and need to hit the reset button? The phenomenal sketch art by this artist is the perfect lunch-break Instagram scroll to get your mind back in good-vibes mode. The mixed media of sketch and watercolor bring new life to our local landscape. We're particularly fond of the sunset sky in a post from Little Cottonwood Canyon that can restore your calm whenever necessary. IG: @surbhi_urbansketcher

    Best Intro to Utah Comedians
    Wiseguys' Lake City Showcase

    Wiseguys comedy clubs have long been a premier destination to see some of the best-known touring comedians in the world, but it's also where a lot of local comedians can get their start at open mic nights. Between the rookies and the veterans is a place where rising Utah comedy stars can take center stage. The semi-regular Lake City Showcases generally feature a roster of five funny locals, including a Spotlight headliner getting a chance to be at the top of the bill. Check out all the laughs that are coming from our own backyard. Multiple locations,

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