SALT LAKE CITY — More than 250 artists, dancers, poets, musicians and storytellers are poised to transform Library Square in what has become a downtown summer tradition.

The 39th annual Utah Arts Festival will return to Salt Lake City for four days beginning June 25 to allow the community to come together and celebrate the arts in a family friendly atmosphere.

“The variety of artistic programs we offer provides opportunities for everyone to engage in the event,” said Lisa Sewell, executive director of the festival. “You can look at visual art, you can listen to music and you can watch the best dancers perform, or catch a short film. It’s a small city of art.”

To assist with the event, the TRAX transportation system will operate for additional hours each day of the festival except Sunday to help accommodate festivalgoers.

Sewell said the festival events will include activities for every member of the family and will combine several genres of art, including visual, performance, literary, music and culinary, to create a memorable, educational and affordable weekend.

Activities for kids and teens

Children of all ages can participate in the Festival for Kids, also called the Art Yard.

“We have something for everyone from toddlers up to teenagers at the Art Yard,” said Teri Mumm, media correspondent for the festival. “There are make-and-take projects from local nonprofits and a whole row of booths where you can just go and make a mess.”

The Art Yard has a different theme each year, and Sewell said the theme this year is "Ancient Egypt.”

“Children will explore a tomb, marvel at a Sphinx and learn to write, draw and create like the Pharaohs did,” Sewell said. “They'll also get to work on a pyramid. Along with these larger projects that encourage children to collaborate and work together, a number of make-and-take areas will engage children in hands-on activities.”

The Festival for Kids will also include an “instrument petting zoo,” sponsored by Summerhays Music, where children can try out a variety of different instruments. The instruments will be cleaned between each use and will range from string to brass to woodwind. All proceeds from the Art Yard will benefit the Visual Art Institute.

For teenagers and young adults, there will be a street and urban arts program including graffiti, DJs and artists who make custom hats for about $25.

“This program really attracts teenagers," Mumm said. "The street theater program does some stage performances and roaming performances around the whole festival.”

Things to touch

For those who want to get engaged in a deeper way, Sewell said, there will be hands-on workshops and labs for people of all ages.

“Over the last five or six years, we have been pushing to have more interactive workshops and learning opportunities at the festival,” Mumm said. “We have interactive workshops in almost every program area, and a lot of them are either cheap or free.”

These workshops will be taught by experienced artists in many fields, including performing, literary and visual arts. While many workshops will be taught by local artists, instructors will also be traveling from around the country and the world to teach at the festival.

“We usually have one large-scale, international spectacle,” Mumm said. “This year, our spectacle is Kurt Wenner, the pioneer behind the famous three-dimensional sidewalk art.”

Wenner will teach interactive workshops and demonstrations every day at 4 and 6 p.m. In addition to his workshops, he will create a 15-by-15-foot chalk art piece at the base of the Salt Lake City and County Building steps. Festivalgoers will be able to interact with this piece of art.

For the second year, the festival will also include an exploration of making art from technology. Participants will be able to take everyday materials and technologies and make them into new objects such as lamps, “magic wands” and other kinds of art.

Things to see

According to Mumm, the Artist Marketplace is the “meat of the festival” and will feature 169 artists presenting and selling their works. The art will be presented in seven categories featuring a variety of mediums, including photography, ceramics, jewelry and wood.

“We had over 600 applicants for the Artist Marketplace this year,” Mumm said. “About 30 percent of the artists are local, and the majority are national and international artists.”

For the past 13 years, the visual art at the festival has also included filmmaking. The "Fear No Film" program will consist of several short films exploring the topic of "impulse." Filmmakers from around the world have participated in this program, which has gotten more popular each year, according to Mumm.

“The film program, in the library auditorium, is really picking up,” Mumm said. “The short films are categorized into blocks, so you can really come and go as you want.”

In addition to the traditional short films will be a children’s version of the film program that will feature films — many made by children — designed to entertain younger tastes.

Things to hear

Beginning on the festival's opening night, six stages will highlight international, local and national headlining artists specializing in a variety of genres.

“A performance that will be a hit is Lena Prima, daughter of Louis Prima, because she will be performing some of her father’s jazz hits with the Salt Lake City Jazz Orchestra,” Mumm said.

More headliners include Micky & The Motorcars; the Kruger Brothers, featuring the Kontras Quartet; and, for more classical tastes, The Vertigo Ensemble from the University of Utah as part of the classical commission.

“Beyond our 19 headliners, we usually get about 69 local bands,” Mumm said. “The local bands get the opportunity to perform the same way the other artists do. They have to apply. We usually try to get the top 10 local groups people are talking about.”

The Big Mouth Stage, located by The Leonardo, will be home to the festival's literary section, which will include competitions and storytelling.

“The literary section is a big deal, and it gets bigger and bigger every year,” Mumm said. “An organization called ‘The Bee’ is new in town. If you want to participate, you put your name in a hat and they draw out 10 names to have five minutes to tell a story. The Indie Slam and the Team Slams are really fast-paced and high-action, and the competition is really diverse.”

The Salt Lake Community College Community Writing Center will offer writing workshops and literary competitions throughout the festival. One of these competitions, called the Wasatch Iron Pen, is a writing contest in which participants receive a prompt at 5 p.m. on Friday and have 24 hours to write and submit their work in either fiction, nonfiction or poetry — or all three genres in the Ultra Iron Pen.

An index and schedule of all artists and locations will be provided at the festival.

Things to taste

Several food vendors from the Salt Lake area will be on-site, as well as a milk and PB&J booth. On Sunday, June 28, at 11 a.m., the Big Deal Brunch will offer behind-the-scenes access to the festival and a brunch buffet for $35. Apart from the variety of vendors, Mumm said, even the food will be considered art.

“We are starting to dip into the culinary arts more this year,” Mumm said. “There will be gourmet chefs making edible art every day.”

'Experience and engage'

Sewell hopes the festival will not only enrich Salt Lake City but also delight everyone who attends.

"Of course, every year is filled with new and different forms of art in all of our program areas," Sewell said. "Our goal is to provide four days filled with opportunities to experience and engage in creativity throughout the festival."

If you go ...

What: 39th annual Utah Arts Festival

When: June 25-28

Where: Library Square, 200 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City

How much: $12 for adults, or $8 if paid in advance online, free for children under 12; 4-day passes are available for $30


Phone: 801-322-2428