Best of Utah Arts 2016 | Artys | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
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It hasn't always been easy for women to break into the male-dominated world of comic books, whether as creators or as the heroes of their stories. The local tandem of writer Marlene Schmidt and artist Susana Carasa are doing their part with the story of a teen girl named Jenna in a futuristic world where "ultimate thrill" jet-pack flying has become a popular—and illegal—extreme sport. One energetic issue is already complete, and their Patreon campaign is an effort to complete the four- or five-issue series. (SR)

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Urban Arts Festival
Every art festival in town has its niche, whether it's major artists from around the country or craftsmen from across the state. But the Urban Arts Festival focuses on the genres and disciplines that aren't normally given center stage. The Utah Arts Alliance has worked hard to give local street artists, jewelers, photographers, sculptors, fashion designers, dancers and the indie music community a home where they run the show. It offers a unique showcase for underground art, where alternative artists can display their work for thousands of attendees without getting lost in the shuffle. (GS)

Booked On 25th
The city of Ogden has gone through many changes the past few years, with long-standing businesses being forced to close their doors and new ones opening up. One of the best additions to the Historic 25th Street is Booked On 25th—a new- and used bookstore focused on getting customers hooked on both amazing classics and newer works. Along with bringing in authors to do book signings and hosting live poetry and reading sessions, the shop is helping revitalize the area with new local blood and good books. (GS)
147 W. 25th Street, Ogden, 801-394-4891,

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Myriad Dance Co.: Creator's Grid

There aren't a lot of chances for the dance community to mingle and mix disciplines. But every few months, Myriad Dance Co. is able to bring together a couple dozen performers and choreographers to create original works for a one-night-only performance at Metro Bar. These shows are a rare opportunity to see ballet dancers mix it up with modern style, or hip-hop-influenced dancers go classical. You might even see talent from various companies, both major and independent, side-by-side moving to music you'd otherwise never see them perform to. There's far more that unites the dance community than you might suspect. (GS)

Wasatch Wordsmiths

In the wake of the local poetry scene seeing many of its most familiar faces go into retirement, and a corresponding influx of new talent, Wasatch Wordsmiths rose to become the prominent face of the new poetry movement in SLC. The nonprofit has organized monthly events across the valley, opening their impromptu stages to all newcomers and taking their shows into an alternative format. In the process, they've helped dozens of new writers and performers make names for themselves, and brought a distinctive sense of experimentation to the art form. (GS)

Salt Lake Gaming Con

In the middle of Utah going pop-culture convention-crazy over the past few years, Salt Lake Gaming Con has transformed itself into being more of a fan-oriented convention that gives back to those who attend. Throughout their last convention, they provided amazing opportunities for fans to sit down and game with one another, offering live competitions on PC, console and tabletop. They have cultivated an environment where any gamer can pop in and instantly connect, bringing a greater sense of community and interaction to those who otherwise might only meet at tournaments and game shops. (GS)


Mountain West Hard Cider

Nestled in the Marmalade district of SLC, Mountain West Hard Cider—founded by Jennifer and Jeff Carlson and cidermaker Joel Goodwille—has taken locally sourced ingredients to create artisanal ciders that have garnered prizes from the cognoscenti. But they've also given exposure to local artists like Tess Cook (pictured), whose paintings meditate on human existence. Great art provides a great accompaniment to an earthy, sweet beverage. (BS)
425 N. 400 West, 801-935-4147,

Shirley Jackson

The designs of Shirley Jackson have a way of looking like they're ready to claw their way off the canvas. Incorporating various styles into her illustrations, Jackson can take a wolf and make it be cute and cuddly for your kid's bedroom, or turn wolves into vicious spirits ready to tear asunder whatever might be in their path. Her work has become a hit at galleries across the Wasatch Front, as well a staple of the markets and festival circuit, offering everything from large screen-prints to cozy pillows for your couch. (GS)

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Tai Taeoli

The world is full of strange creatures, but not many as strange as those that spring from the imagination of Salt Lake City native Tai Taeoli. His recent works—most of them a mix of ballpoint pen, colored pencil, pastel and watercolor on Mylar sheets—often portray animals transformed by their environments into freakish mutations. "Air Support for Whale in Peril" depicts a whale distorted into a kind of steampunk submarine; "Department of Defense" finds the head of a bald eagle growing from the dead branches of a tree. These surreal visions are as disturbing as they are fascinating. (SR)

The Block Film Festival

Nestled in the hills of Cache Valley, The Block Film Festival has given local filmmakers a new platform to get their creations out. Helping fill the void left behind by the SLC Film Fest after it retired, the event incorporates both a local filmmaker presence and a mix of national and international submissions, funded and presented on an accessible level to anyone. No long lines, no monster parties, no major sponsors on every corner—this is the definition of a local film festival. The 2016 iteration takes place October 7-8. (GS)

Comedians In Cars Eating Vegemite
Jerry Seinfeld might have a hit on the Crackle streaming platform with his latest series, but even one of the greatest stand-up comedians in history isn't above parody. Local comedian Rich Wilson took his car, several GoPro cameras and a $9 jar of Vegemite, and turned out a video series of comedic gold. Trapping several local comedians inside to drive around and eat the Australian "delight," the show has produced some of the best comedic bits from many of Utah's funniest minds as they try not to vomit after eating what tastes like soy sauce-flavored baby food. (GS)

The Dirtpod Podcast
Local comics Marcus and Guy Seidel are far from being strangers to SLC audiences. Their most recent onstage efforts show the two performing a live musical parody of famous artists to sellout shows. But the duo scored another massive audience by joining Allen Handy (of Mick & Allen fame) to form The Dirtpod Podcast. The show focuses on the trio talking about metal music, or whatever cool topics or life events come to mind, with a fair share of awesome guests popping in. It makes for funny moments with three guys just digging music and comedy. (GS)

David Dee Fine Arts

David Dee was formerly director of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts at the University of Utah, and he brought his curatorial expertise to his own gallery two years ago when he established the eponymous space. His collection showcases artists of the West—specifically early Utah artists, peripatetic painters of the Rocky Mountains and Southwest, as well as Regional Modernism. Want to see a Maynard Dixon? He's got some. Japanese woodblock prints and local abstractionists also get their due. (BS)
1709 E. 1300 South, 801-583-8143,


Meat & 3 Printing Co.

A little piece of Nashville relocated to Salt Lake City in spring 2016, as Meat & 3 Printing Co. brought its operations west. Proudly purveying what they refer to as "delectable pockets of low-brow culture," the company crafts hand-carved and hand-printed woodcuts, capturing everything from fanciful imaginary product posters to images of down-home Southern living. With a unique style that feels like a period piece as soon as it's made, these works burst with a love of the place from which they emerged. (SR)

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Steve Stones

The pop-art movement allowed many of the key images of our culture—corporate logos, comic books, fictional characters, celebrities—to become the stuff of art, often given a twist to undercut these ubiquitous figures. Ogden resident Steve Stones makes collages out of such material, and he's not afraid to court startled responses, whether that means putting a cigarette in Jesus' mouth, or having Elmo sit at a table in front of fellow Muppet Ernie's severed head on a platter. If you've ever felt the urge to watch a pair of cartoon Pilgrims prepare to slice into a Thanksgiving turkey in the form of Donald Trump's smirking head, Stones is your guy. (SR)

Watchtower Café

Beyond the conventions or random meetups, there aren't a lot of places for the geek community to meet up daily. That all changed late last year when owners Cori Hoekstra and Mike Tuiasoa took over the old Coffee Connection on State Street and transformed it into Watchtower Café. Utah's first comic-book coffee shop offers geek-themed drinks in an environment where people can relax with their favorite graphic novel. The space also features video games, stand-up comedy, an art gallery and weekly events for people to game or just hang and nerd out. (GS)
1588 S. State, 801-477-7671,

Green Loft Co-op

The Green Loft Co-op makes its home inside Consumers Financial Mortgage in Sugar House, a real estate service that specializes in environmentally sustainable properties. The gallery hosts social events like art walks, literary performances and exhibits, usually with Earth-friendly themes. A recent show featured Native American depictions by Jacob Shirley, and the company also feted its 21st anniversary this year with a community celebration. Green Loft makes sustainability fun. (BS)
2834 S. Highland Drive, 801-599-5363,

Mapping SLC

Every block of this city has a story, from the randomly named streets on the east side no one can find, to the 1930s buildings that now house multiple residents. The Mapping SLC project has taken storytelling and geography, and melded the two into a community-created document about where we've been. The website features stories about the old Swede Town, the history of Beck Street, collapsing hotels, and the rebranding and gentrification of certain districts. There are even personal stories that describe why you see scrapes on a particular sidewalk. It truly shows that our stories are what make the city amazing, no matter the decade. (GS)

Punk's Dead: SLC Punk 2

The original SLC: Punk arrived in 1998 with a flurry of mixed emotions about how writer/director James Merendino portrayed the city and its punk scene circa 1985. Seventeen years later, the sequel did the exact same thing with the Internet Age. With a mix of original cast and new additions, filmed entirely along the Wasatch Front, the film pokes fun at Salt Laker stereotypes, all while still maintaining a soul, which is as hard to do as a sequel based on a punk movement. (GS)

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BBoy Federation: They Reminisce
It's easy for a younger generation to be unaware of the history of hip-hop, especially when pop culture tends to only focus on what's happened in the past decade. In partnership with the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, the BBoy Federation has hosted their annual history showcase, They Reminisce, since 2014. Working with a collection of Utah's most talented dancers and choreographers, the show tells the history of the genre from its roots in the '70s and '80s, to the impact it's had on the culture today. The 2017 showcase returns to the Rose Wagner in mid-July. (GS)

Shayne Smith

It isn't every day you walk into a Utah comedy club and see a performer sporting both a neck and face tattoo. But Shayne Smith isn't your everyday Utah comedian. Covered nearly head-to-toe in ink and carrying around an unapologetic attitude, Smith commands the stage with a mix of offbeat humor and observational jabs about his own life. After a successful run in the Salt City Superstar competition last year and making appearances on nearly every podcast in town, Smith has become a popular spin on more conventional approaches to homegrown comedy. (GS)

Sailor Taylor Tattoo

Not every great tattoo parlor comes with a giant front window graphic and a fancy light display. Some of the best artists working in SLC come out of tiny shops that few venture to, and those words couldn't be more true to Sailor Taylor Tattoo. Artist and designer Taylor Millet takes special care with every client to ensure his work is precise and unique. Millet's pieces aren't just works of art; they're stories waiting to be told on canvases that will literally last a lifetime. (GS)
215 Edison St., 801-808-4762,

God Hates Robots
Shon Taylor has been a local innovator in several areas, including as co-founder of and Bottlerocket MFG. A little more than a year ago, Taylor and business partner Ray Childs started God Hates Robots gallery in the same building, across the street north of Pioneer Park. Since then, the gallery has been dedicated to showing exclusively local artists; there isn't enough space for large works, but nothing sells for more than $400, and their commission is only 20 percent. They've exhibited the likes of Sri Whipple and Elmer Presslee, so it's also a sorely needed haven for local art eccentrics. (BS)
314 W. 300 South, Ste. 250, 801-5963370,


Twitch streaming has turned average gamers into celebrities overnight, but the community has become so saturated that people are now looking for new things to define them. Local gamer duo Twedesmith has found their own niche being a married gay couple who games together and comments on each other's performance in the process. Their streams not only show their passion for video games and their willingness to kick ass or fail for laughs—but also break stereotypes about who and what a gamer is in the eyes of the common viewer. (GS)


Heather Mahler
With a style reminiscent of Bryan Lee O'Malley, and an attitude matching that of Kelly Sue DeConnick, artist Heather Mahler has gone from being rarely seen to SLC's center spotlight in less than a year. Her online comics evoke a rebel spirit that questions what the norm should be, while her stand-alone illustrations of heavily tattooed women being badasses have made her works a sought-after addition for art collectors. That doesn't even count her adaptations of geek culture, which has made her a darling of the festival community. (GS)

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Dennis Hassan, Streetlight Woodpecker, Salt Lake Acting Co.
You can tell a lot by watching an audience enter a theater space—and for Salt Lake Acting Co.'s world-premiere production of Shawn Fisher's Streetlight Woodpecker, that meant watching how they couldn't keep their hands off Dennis Hassan's set. Depicting the backyard of a home in a run-down Philadelphia neighborhood, the set seemed so authentically weathered that people felt the urge to run their fingers over the brick veneer. For a play that depended on the sense of its environs as a space heavy with the weight of years, Hassan's tremendous work did a lot of thematic heavy lifting. (SR)

You Again
Relationships suck sometimes, but even in despair we can find humor. That single idea helped fuel the comedy in this Utah-produced web series. After being kicked out of her boyfriend's house in the middle of the night, Audra (Andrea Peterson) moves in with her ex-boyfriend Zander (Zach Reynolds), complete with the usual hilarious results—but also containing a bit of heart behind the message. It isn't necessarily where we are in life that defines us; it's the people that help us along the way to get us someplace new. Sometimes, that's an old voice reminding you of where you've been. (GS)

Cult Classics vs. Comedians
From the minds of local comedians and film buffs Ben Fuller and Jamie Maxfield, the series hands local comics and other funny members of the entertainment community the task of dissecting classic films, and others that have reached cult status, to figure out why they're cool. The duo and their guests can take a puzzling film like Eraserhead and put it through the same comedic lens as they would The Rocky Horror Picture Show, giving their own thoughts and perspectives as fans who just love what they love. (GS)

Alison Lente, Grounded

Performing on stage is difficult enough. Imagine doing it alone: memorizing an entire script, with no supporting cast to play off of, and an audience not knowing if they are going to be part of the production. In the case of Alison Lente in People Productions' Grounded—portraying a woman wanting to be a good wife, mother and soldier—was made even more complicated by a subplot of military surveillance. That's so much characterization for one person to achieve—and Lente did so with ease. Commanding the stage, she proves sometimes it's OK to go solo. (MB)

Justin Ivie, Saturday's Voyeur 2016
Even terrible impersonations of the Republican presidential nominee are hilarious. It doesn't take much to portray the look—awful blonde toupee, dead eyes, scowling mouth—and voice with weird, squawky inflections. Justin Ivie's interpretation of Trump in Salt Lake Acting Co.'s production of Saturday's Voyeur is among the better impersonations. His fantastic imitation was made even more preposterous by this Trump being considered a "higher power"—which, frighteningly, might not be too far from the truth for his supporters. For the rest of us, we'll take the good impersonations—as long as they don't turn into real President Trump depictions. (MB)

Pillars of Salt
Pillars of Salt isn't just a random zine that happened to be made outside the friendlier artistic bubble of SLC—it's a stance against the negative attitudes, lack of culture and failure in Utah County to have strong voices for women and the LGBTQ community. Founded by Sara Faulkner and motivated by the suicide rate among members of those communities, it serves as an outlet for unity through art and action. The second issue will be released late 2016. (GS)

Salt Lake Symphony
Classical music can often seem inaccessible, part of a rarified realm where ordinary folk can have trouble finding an entry point. But there are plenty of ordinary folk in this community who make it part of their lives just because they love it. Celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2016, the nonprofit Salt Lake Symphony is made up entirely of volunteer musicians—more than 70 of them—who dedicate around 10,000 hours annually to rehearsing and performing around 15 concerts. For the love of music, they provide an inexpensive way to make it feel as though anyone with that same love can be part of this world. (SR)


Dixie State University "Trailblazer Art in the City" Project
There are many ways that public and private entities can make it clear that they support the work of artists. In St. George, Dixie State University is attempting to partner with local businesses to put that support right in front of the public. Ten white bison statues will be available to purchase or rent for placement in front of businesses, with the statues later able to become "canvases" for selected artists, including a stipend and information about the artist near the completed work. When art becomes a destination for shoppers and visitors, everybody wins. (SR)

Utah Film Center
Being a nonprofit organization is challenging enough; now imagine that a disaster takes away all of your physical infrastructure. That was the situation the Utah Film Center faced in March when a fire in the basement of the organization's Main Street office building resulted in the complete loss of the building, along with computers, films and other materials (fortunately, no injuries). After taking just one month off, however, programming resumed, and with the help of a fund-raising campaign and assistance from the likes of the Sundance Film Festival, the Utah Film Center is once again rolling. (SR)

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Raise your hand if you've ever bickered with your sibling(s). If you're not raising your hand, it's because you're an only child. Even siblings who are the best of friends probably fought at some point in their lives. Those in Wasatch Theatre Co.'s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike are the epitome of squabbling brothers and sisters. Jeffrey Owen, Karrie Ann Ogilvie and Cathy Ostler—as the first three title characters—really feel like a family who wants to get along, but are having a really hard time growing up. And who hasn't felt that way? (MB)

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