The annual Utah Arts Festival, now considered the state's "premier" arts event, begins its five-day run next week, June 22-26 at the Triad Center. Since 1977, the festival has gone from a "street fair" mentality in a cordoned-off Main Street to a much more expansive event that traditionally draws more than 75,000 visitors.
This year's events include a broad mix of art - performing, visual and literary - designed to encourage interest in fine art itself. There will be a variety of the best Utah artists and their contemporaries worldwide - but most interesting in recent years are the commissions, competitions and public participation.The festival is a unique public celebration of art that has indeed come of age in Utah. For instance, for the third year, the festival and the Salt Lake City mayor's office have collaborated to honor three outstanding artists in the community. They are Joe Pitti, Elaine Harding and Katherine Coles.
Pitti, a student of the late Marcel Marceau, is Utah's resident professional mime artist. Whether he's teaching his open classroom first graders at Washington Elementary School or capturing an audience with his hilarious one-man "Nutcracker," Pitti uniformly retains a reputation for excellence.
Harding, project director of "Kids Against Violence," and art instructor at Lincoln Elementary, has also made an invaluable contribution to the contemporary art of the 20th century. She has been showing her work to consistent acclaim in galleries and exhibits throughout Utah for 20 years.
Coles, a poet and fiction writer of note, has received awards for her writing from numerous arts councils and commissions. As an English professor and director of the Westminster College Poetry Series, she successfully works with senior citizens, homeless children, prisoners and various community organizations interested in creative writing.
The Mayor's Artists Awards will be presented to the winners during the festival's opening night ceremony, Wednesday, June 22, at 8:45 on the Ampitheater Stage.
One of the overall goals of the festival is to provide a forum for new work and provide recognition for local artists. This has led to the development of various festival-sponsored commissions, such as the annual Composer Commission and art in Public Places projects; and awards programs such as the annual Mayor's Artists Awards and the Short-Short Story literary contest.
A fifth co-commission project is "Dreamkeepers," a contemporary opera being written for the Utah Opera's Centennial Project. The project, which began in 1992, lets festivalgoers view segments of the opera each year as it progresses from paper to its final performance in 1996. Portions of the music and storyline will be presented at the 1994 festival.
This year, the annual composer commission was presented to Utah artist Ricklen Nobis for the original composition, "Wishbone," to be performed by the Utah Symphony under the direction of Robert Henderson on Wednesday, June 22, at 8 p.m. on the Amphitheater Stage.
Nobis, a familiar local name and voice, is the afternoon classical host on KUER FM90, and is a popular pianist and keyboard player with the Utah Symphony. He describes his composition as "a highly dramatic toccatalike piece that offers a view of the nature and substance of desire."
Throughout the festival run, more than 120 performing-arts groups will offer round-the-clock entertainment on three outdoor stages. Performances by local companies include the Utah Symphony, Ballet West, Utah Opera Company - and several smaller groups, such as Maggie Beers and Julie Mark, Joe Pitti, the Saliva Sisters, the Salt Lake Vocal Ensemble, Orquesta Pachanga, Cowdaddies and Utah Brass.
The seven national headliners will offer a kaleidoscope of music styles, lead by David Sanborn, best-known for his appearances on "Late Show with David Letterman." Sanborn, an alto saxophonist of remarkable diversity, has had a 27-year career, rewarded by the Grammy Award five times. Turtle Island String Quartet delves into all facets of this country's music, from jazz to bluegrass to rock and pop - and has appeared on TV's CBS Sunday Morning and the Today Show.
Loose Ties, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Tom Gurainik, Youssou N'Dour and Doug Varone and Dancers round out the featured performers.
Ninety percent of the 44 groups performing on the four stages at the festival are from Utah. They range from stirring ensembles and authentic salsa musicians to driving blues and captivating folk artists. There will be seven different groups classified as street performers who will weave in and out of the crowd playing eclectic acoustics, horns, bagpipes - or singing barbershop.
Nearly 90 visual artists from all over the country will set up outdoor shops along South Temple during the five days. These artists represent a wide variety of media, including fiber, bookmaking, ceramics, mixed media, basketry, furniture, woodworking, glass, leather, metal, paper, photography, toys, sculpture and various styles of painting.
Artist David Sucec, who has been curating the festival's Fine Art Exhibition at the Union Pacific Depot gallery since 1988, will have an exhibition of contemporary representational art titled "Exhibition 1994: Real Art." Sucec has chosen 19 Utah artists, who, through various methods and blends of representational art, offer their own artistic view on reality.
Sucec will present an introduction to the exhibit in the "Conversations With" area followed by a tour on Thursday, June 23, at 4 p.m. Brent Gehring will discuss the history of representational art on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
In fact, visitors are welcome to engage in other conversations with diverse artists - to chat with composers, ponder the prevention of writer's block, or discuss ways to empower at-risk children through art.
The Literary Arts booth, located on the Delta Center's north plaza, will have a different theme each day, and patrons may browse through books, listen to readings, visit with authors, and participate in calligraphy and cookbook demonstrations.
The Artists At Work book gives festivalgoers a chance to have a hands-on experience in the art process. Each day from 1 to 3 p.m., artists will demonstrate their crafts, answer questions from the audience and involve volunteers in art projects. This includes ceramics, weaving, make-up and magic, stone carving, silver engraving, textile sculpture and wood turning.
The Children's Art Yard continues to be a traditional favorite - this year a Jurassic Auto Park, including Toyotas tangling with a tyrannosaurus rex, Buicks brushing by a brontosaurus and Chevies revving up alongside a stegosaurus. Children and willing adults can explore what happens when the prehistoric meets the 20th century roadways. Festivalgoers can play at building auto and dinosaur combinations out of papier-mache, fabric, cardboard and paints.
No one should forget about the culinary arts. Twenty-five food vendors will offer a variety of ethnic and specialty foods, including Israel's staple falafel, Kabobs and middle Eastern salads, Greek hytod, pilsgi, dolmathes, Thai noodles, bratwurst, Italian sausage and blackened chicken, and fresh roasted almonds.
Schedule of events - Triad Center
Wednesday, June 22 through Saturday, June 25, Noon to Midnight
Sunday, June 26, Noon to 10 p.m.
Adults - $5
Kids (under 2) - Free
Kids 2-12 - $1
Seniors 62 plus - $2
Lunchtime Special - $1
Wed. thru Fri. Noon to 3 p.m. - Family Pass - $11
(2 adults and up to 4 children)