VISUAL ARTS

There was no dearth of good art exhibits this past year in Salt Lake City and the surrounding areas.

The year got off to an excellent start with Lee Deffebach's innovative show at Phillips Gallery in January. Thanks to Bevan Chipman, some of the late Danny Baxter's paintings were put on display at Art Access where an outpouring of art community spirit overflowed.

Edie Roberson's astounding trompe l'oeil creations were at Dolores Chase Fine Art in the Spring and Brian Kershisnick's playful "Spoon Tricks" delighted viewers in the fall.

Recent MFA graduate David Linn created a stir with his finely crafted, metaphysical landscapes at the Springville Museum of Art as did the multitalented sculptor Jeannine Young. The Museum also had its annual Spring Salon in April and the 24th Annual National Quilt Exhibit in the summer.

Utahns got a summer treat when the Museum of Art at Brigham Young University exhibited 53 paintings from early 20th century California Impressionists. The museum also displayed Gary Ernest Smith's imposing "Field" paintings for over six months.

The Church Museum of History and Art exhibited "Women of Faith" and "150 Years of Pioneering," which detailed the life of early Utahns through some of the finest works of art created in the state.

Kimball Art Center, Park City, hosted the first Rocky Mountain Invitational that boasted work by many prominent Western artists throughout the country.

Kim Martinez and Ruth Gier had very personal exhibits at Art Access and the Sweet Library. Martinez's socio-political paintings of the homeless struck our conscience while Gier's buoyant black and white photography left us in peace.

All these exhibits and more made for a productive and inventive year in the visual arts.

But perhaps the best, and certainly the most ironic moment in the visual arts in 1997, came when the Rodin exhibit (minus four provocative pieces) opened at the Museum of Art at BYU a week after the Salt Lake Art Center's exhibit, "Making Waves: Controversial Art in Utah" began its run. Some community members cried, "Foul" while others found all the hubbub nothing more than a load of "Balzac."

- Dave Gagon

MUSIC/DANCE

- BATON WAVERS: The Utah Symphony embarked on an extensive search for a new music director that lasted throughout the year. Twelve candidates later, the Symphony board and executive search committee are just weeks away from naming someone to succeed Joseph Silverstein.

Meanwhile, Douglas Kinney-Frost, chorus master for the Utah Opera, was named to the Utah Opera's assistant conductor post in September.

- CHANGING SHOES: Ballet West found a new artistic director to replace retired John Hart. Former Malmo Opera Ballet director Jonas Kage stepped up to the call. Born in Stockholm, Sweden, Kage has been a member of the American Ballet Theatre, the Stuttgart Ballet, the Geneva Ballet and has worked with George Balanchine, Patricia Neary, Gaye Fulton and Eva Evdokimova.

- MORE COSTUME CHANGES: University of Utah modern dance professor Joan Woodbury, co-director of the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company, announced her retirement from the University of Utah after the 1997-98 academic year, as did professor Loa Mangelson-Clawson. And choreographer Ed Groff was among the new faces that stepped onboard the U.'s modern dance department.

- STILL ANOTHER NEW FACE: Margaret Smoot became the Utah Chamber Artists' new president, replacing John Hewlett who had served since 1996. Music professor Lawrence Vincent, an American opera tenor whose "extraordinary contribution to the arts in the field of music" earned him honorary citizenship in Austria, is Brigham Young University's new director of opera.

- NATIONALLY in the dance world, former Repertory Dance Theatre general manager Doug Sonntag was named the National Endowment for the Arts Director of Dance.

- NEW VENUE: The Repertory Dance Theatre found a permanent home when it opened the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center last February.

- FAREWELL TO ARMS: Utah Festival Opera conductor Henry Holt died in October, and Steve Horton, former Ballet West member, also died this year.

- Scott Iwasaki

BOOKS/LITERATURE

The literary milestones of 1997 probably won't be apparent for years. After all, the literary event of 1564 was the birth of William Shakespeare, though his name probably didn't appear on many year-end wrap-ups.

Death, of course, is another deal. And in 1997 the world of letters lost several prominent lights.

Allen Ginsberg, the brilliant mouthpiece of America's sub-culture for half a century, died at age 71. Critics have already begun to see his long-poem "Howl" as the "Leaves of Grass" of the 20th century.

James Michener, king of the king-size historical novel, died at 90. Harold Robbins, William S. Burroughs and V.S. Prichett also passed away.

Locally, David Lee - the literary master who for years has taken pride in being called The Pig Poet of Paragonah - was named Utah's first poet laureate. Lee is already having a major impact.

Maya Angelou, Garrison Keillor and Nobel-Prize winning poet Czeslaw Milosz paid visits, as did former poet laureate of America, Robert Haas.

But the driving force of literature in the state last year was the pioneer sesquicentennial. Histories of Utah's counties were published by the Utah State Historical Society. And the LDS Church and its members produced many devotional and inspirational texts that added elan to all the historical accounts.

Best kept secret among the many? Ed Geary's dry-eyed - yet warm - take on Emery County published by the Historical Society. Historian Kent Powell calls it "a model for all other such books."

With headliners like Kim Barnes, the Writers at Work Conference in Park City was a success. Terry Tempest Williams wowed the crowd at the Association of Mormon Letters fund-raiser and the students putting out the journal Runes at Brighton High received national acclaim, along with their instructor, Pat Russell.

On the popular front, Chris Heimerdinger and Lynda Nelson produced best-selling Christmas tales.

- Jerry Johnston

THEATER

Among the highlights (and lowlights) of the past year on Utah's theater front:

- Groundbreakings for both the Hale Centre Theatre's new $7 million facility in West Valley City (with opening scheduled next fall), and for the LDS Church's new 20,000-seat "grand hall" just north of Temple Square. (The latter won't be a theater, per se, but will include an adjacent, 500-seat auditorium to replace the now-closed Promised Valley Playhouse).

- Peery's Egyptian Theatre, an historic Ogden landmark, was reopened following a meticulous renovation project. It's home of the Utah Musical Theater season, plus most of Weber State University's performing arts.

- Salt Lake Acting Company broke new ground, too, artistically, when it became the city's second professional Equity theater.

- Utah theater gained long deserved national attention when the American Theatre Critics Association held its summer convention here, with meetings in Midway, Sundance and Cedar City.

- As 1997 ends, things are looking better for the Rodgers Memorial Theater, where there's a push to broaden its subscription base, and the financially beleagured Tuacahn Center for the Performing Arts near St. George.

Low points during the year: the closing of Promised Valley Playhouse, due to structural problems, plus the demise of the Wooden Dog at Trolley Square (causing TheatreWorks West to go into extended hiatus), Aardvark's Cabaret and the StageStop Theater in Smithfield.

My top five favorite stage productions for the year:

1. "Incorruptible," Michael Hollinger's uproarious satire at Salt Lake Acting Company.

2. "The Rocky Horror Show," an off-Broadway classic, independently produced by gutsy Edward Gryska in the Institute of Terror theater. Funky and fun.

3. "Arcadia," Tom Stoppard's intellectual and intricately structured comedy about life on a British estate during two eras.

4. "The Alientation Effekt," local playwright/actor Tobin Atkinson's provocative drama at Aardvark's Cabaret with the elongated subtitle: "The Events Beginning With a Failed Vote in the United States Senate and Ending With the Successful Suicide of a Sixteen-year Old Girl." (Atkinson has since moved to Florida. A real loss for Utah theater.)

5. "Long Day's Journey Into Night," the Babcock Theatre's stunning production of Eugene O'Neill's dramatic marathon, featuring two of the community's finest actors - Marilyn Holt and Tony Larimer. A rare treat.

Five runners-up: Rodgers Memorial Theatre's beautifully staged "Phantom" (with a remarkable new talent discovery, Josh Christensen); Utah Shakespearean Festival's exceptional staging of the rarely mounted "Pericles"; TheatreWorks West's talent-loaded revue, "Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris" (another rarely staged classic); USF's attention-to-detail "Charley's Aunt," and PTC's "The Diary of Anne Frank."

- Ivan M. Lincoln

MOVIES

The best stand-in in Utah movies and television continues to be the state itself.

In this summer's action "Con Air," Salt Lake City subbed for Oakland and Ogden filled in for Carson City, Nev. And an eastern Indian film, "Ten," was set in Washington, D.C., but its primary U.S. shots took place in Salt Lake City and in southern Utah.

Stranger still was Moab being converted into Mars (under a red filter, of course) for the comedy "RocketMan." Or how about the Wasatch National Forest going back in time for the embattled American Indian action/drama "Wind River?"

To tell the truth, about the only place Utah didn't play was Utah. Kevin Costner's apocalyptic sci/fi-adventure film "The Postman" may open on the Salt Flats, but the scene actually takes place on a soundstage instead of the real thing!

But that was a compassionate act compared to what film directors Paul Verhoeven and Danny Boyle did at the expense of Utah's culture. Verhoeven's splattery interstellar bug invasion flick "Starship Troopers" has a rather involved Mormon joke, while Boyle and his whiny cast for "A Life Less Ordinary" took potshots at the state and its residents after shooting the film here.

"A Life Less Ordinary," which features two unorthodox guardian angels (Holly Hunter and Delroy Lindo), also stood in stark contrast to the more "wholesome" heavenly hosts depicted in the CBS-TV series "Touched By An Angel," which continues to shoot episodes in locations around the Salt Lake Valley and throughout the state.

Overall, it was a busy year for film and television productions. Fourteen feature-length movies were shot in Utah, as were 14 made-for-TV movies, two television pilots, 14 television miniseries and 96 commercials, videos and documentaries. With that much activity, Utah continues to be the sixth most filmed state in the union, due to what officials at the Utah Film Commission call its "diversity of location."

In fact, Leigh von der Esch, executive director for the Utah Film Commission, said the state made more than $125 million by playing host for movie and TV productions.

"Utah is very fortunate to have experienced an almost constant upward spiral of film production activity over the past 10 years," she said. "In addition to the economic impact generated by location work, it has enabled the state to establish a strong indigenous film community."

- Jeff Vice