SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Arts Festival returns to downtown Salt Lake City on June 20-23 to continue its tradition of celebrating art of all genres. The festival, in its 37th year, will showcase the latest and best in music, visual and performing arts, film, music and culinary arts, to name a few.
Drawing close to 80,000 visitors each June, it is the state’s largest outdoor festival that also celebrates multiple art disciplines. Artists hail from all over the U.S., with more than 155 visual artists and more than 100 performing arts groups set to participate.
With hundreds of activities and events to fill a visit to the Utah Arts Festival, here is a little taste of the variety one can expect.
To see San Francisco-based dance troupe BANDALOOP, don’t bother checking any stage. Instead, look to the glass wall of the library where you will find them performing vertically via climbing rope. Inspired by the crossover between rock climbing and dancing, founder and artistic director Amelia Rudolph created a style of dance that she describes as “movement, floating and freedom” and “flying coming to life.”
The troupe, which has done shows all over the world on buildings and even the occasional mountain, will be performing excerpts from its shows “Harboring” and “Boundless” twice each day. Rudolph said, in regard to the audience, “Lean forward and take it in actively. Look through your eyes and not through your cellphones,” she said. Although it appears dangerous, Rudolph said, “Don’t worry about us. We’re going to be OK. We have done this a few times.”
If you feel like keeping it at eye level, BBoy Federation — a nonprofit group committed to promoting and growing the street dance scene in Utah and helping local dancers develop their skills — will be holding daily workshops. With participants ranging from ages 7 to 34, these workshops are for anyone who wants to learn not only the art of b-boying, but also hip-hop and other urban street dance styles. Following the workshops will be competitions featuring some of the best b-boys in the area. BBoy Federation cofounder Joshua Perkins promises the workshops will be introductory. “We want people to come and participate and be involved,” Perkins said. “Everyone helping is interactive and chill and fun.”
Also being featured daily is a band of five brothers called African Showboyz. Originally from Binaba, a little village in northeast Ghana, the Sabbah brothers create a unique blend of African drums, tribal dance and song that is regularly performed back home for events of all types. Group member Napoleon Sabbah described one of the dances they will be performing as a warrior dance “that we used to treat our enemies, ways to scare them away.” But don’t let that hold you back. African Showboyz are a fun-loving group that performs with passion and heart. “We can’t wait to see everybody,” Sabbah said.
For some good roots rock, check out New Orleans’ The Iguanas. Band member Joe Cabral describes their music as “a Mexican wedding band meets New Orleans.” Formed in 1988, with the most recent member of the group joining in 1992, the Iguanas draw on R&B, funk, Latin, Caribbean and rock and roll garage band influences, with debuts in numerous television shows and films like "Phenomenon," "Varsity Blues" and "Fools Rush In." They recently released a new album, "Sin to Sin," and are excited to come to the festival. “We love our job, getting on stage, playing for people and seeing where the music will take us,” Cabral said. “We look forward to coming back to Salt Lake and seeing some old fans and making some new ones.”
Last, but certainly not an act to miss, is Isaac “Shovelman” Frankle. Why the shovel, you wonder? “I went to bed one night with my farm tools after a long day of work, and when I woke up it had become a guitar overnight,” Frankle explained. And he hasn’t looked back since. Frankle believes people today have too much stuff. Describing his shovel as a musical Swiss Army knife of sorts, Shovelman uses his shovel as a guitar, bass, drum, and the occasional life vest or paddle. “If I could live in my guitar, I would,” Frankle said.
He describes his music as “folktronica” or “shovel rock — the blues music that comes from a time that didn’t quite ever exist.” Of his performance, Frankle hopes that audiences will be inspired to go home and do some tinkering of their own with their extra junk. “And hopefully they’ll just enjoy the music,” he added.
Along with this sampling of performers are hundreds more acts, including Utah’s own Royal Bliss, crooner Jason Isbell, Ryan Innes and more. Activities include, but are not limited to, the Color Me Rad 5K, the Fear No Film Festival for kids and adults alike, the 41st Annual Utah All-State High School Art Show and the Summerhays Music Center Instrument Petting Zoo.
If you go …
What: Utah Arts Festival
Where: Library Square in Salt Lake City
When: June 20-June 23, noon-11 p.m.
Adult admission is $12 at the gate, $10 on Thursday; children (12 and under) are free; seniors (65 and older) are $6. Reduced adult admission is available from noon to 3 p.m. on Thursday and Friday for $6; four-day passes are $35; Y’all come back pass (2-for-1 admission on a return visit) available upon exit; $2 off admission if you ride your bike, with free bike valet service available. Most every event is free with purchase of ticket unless otherwise specified.
For more information, call 801-322-2428, visit uaf.org or download the Utah Arts Festival 2013 app on your smartphone for a list of all events.
Kate Sullivan is an intern for the Deseret News with Mormon Times. She is studying English at Brigham Young University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org