Arts and Culture in Utah
Utah's art scene has flourished since the state was first settled. Nearly every city and community has amateur performing companies, art collections, and musical groups. Much of Utah’s art culture is centered in Salt Lake City, but Cedar City is also a nexus, and Park City is home to the world-renownedSundance Film Festival.
Utah is one of the most religiously homogeneous states in the country. Somewhere between 58 percent and 72 percent of Utahns are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the Mormon Church), and this influences Utah’s art and culture tremendously.
Artistic Director Willam F. Christensen founded Ballet West in Salt Lake City in 1963. Christensen is considered a 20th-century ballet pioneer who had a strong association with the works of George Balanchine. He received his early training in Utah and New York City and also gained experience traveling the American Vaudeville circuit. (While a ballet student in San Francisco, he quixotically dropped the second "i" in his first name.)
Christensen is famous for having previously created the first full-length American productions ofCoppélia, Swan Lake, and The Nutcracker. (The latter's first full American performance was staged by Christensen in 1944 while he was director of the San Francisco Ballet, which he also helped found.) Christensen created a uniquely American and theatrical repertoire for Ballet West, which currently has two companies and an academy that trains pre-professional dancers.
The Utah Opera presented its first production, Puccini's La Boheme, in 1978. It performs for an audience of more than 150,000 annually around the intermountain area. The opera operates a training program for aspiring professional singers in which ensemble apprentices study with the opera for 10 intensive months. They also participate in educational and community outreach programs. Apprentice and studio artists are selected through a national audition every year.
The pride of the city of Logan due to its stylish interiors and elegant stage, the Capitol Theatre was built in 1923 and was the main theater venue in Cache Valley for 30 years. In 1988, a campaign to save the historic theater was successful and it re-opened in 1993 as Ellen Eccles Theatre.
The Utah Festival Opera performs at the Ellen Eccles as well as at the Utah Festival Theatre in downtown Logan. Originally called the Roxy, the Festival Theatre is an historic art deco theatre with ornate ceilings. Aptly named, the Festival Opera performs a festival-like line-up, so that attendees can see all the performances over two or three days.
Founded in 1940, the Utah Symphony performs in Maurice Abravanel Hall, which has won awards for its design and excellent acoustics. Additionally, the orchestra plays more than 70 concerts annually in Abravanel Hall and also performs in Wyoming, Nevada, and Idaho. It also participates in the Utah Opera’s four annual productions at Salt Lake's Capitol Theatre. The symphony performs as part of theDeer Valley Music Festival every summer in Park City and for over 55,000 students in Utah schools annually.
The world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir was founded in 1847 just after the Mormon pioneers settled in the Salt Lake Valley. The choir performs a weekly radio broadcast called "Music and the Spoken Word," reputed to be the longest-running national radio program in the world.
Undoubtedly, the Osmonds are one of Utah’s most famous families. All but one of children was born in Ogden, and all are committed members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Osmonds sang music as kids, became teen-music idols, had their own hit television show, and prospered as solo and group performers. Donny and Marie Osmond are the best-known Osmond family members.
Bruce "Utah" Duncan Phillips was a folk singer and concert performer, as well as many other things. Known as the "Golden Voice of the Great Southwest," he attended East High School in Salt Lake City, Utah and belonged to the Industrial Workers of the World. He gave concerts that promoted the IWW and helped organize unions and labor. Something of a statesman for the folk music community, Phillips campaigned to be a senator representing Utah's Peace and Freedom Party in 1968. In 1976, he ran for president of the United States representing the "Do-Nothing Party."
Utah boasts a number of world-class music festivals. The Sego Music, Art, and Film Festival is an annual free festival held in Provo every autumn. The Utah Symphony and Utah Opera spend summers performing in Park City as part of the Deer Valley Music Festival. The festival offers chamber music, classical, opera, and pops.
The University of Utah School of Music offers undergraduate and graduate courses of music study and has been an accredited member of the National Association of Schools of Music since 1952. Performances are given in both David Gardner Hall and Libby Gardner Concert Hall. Celebrated professional artists perform as part of the school's Virtuoso Series and in performances sponsored by the Salt Lake Chamber Music Society.
The Utah Shakespearean Festival in Cedar City won a Tony Award for "Outstanding Regional Theater" in 2000. The festival offers Shakespeare and contemporary productions. Its famous "Greenshow" features free presentations that allow visitors to experience relevant music and dance. TheSummer Festival includes six plays in the outdoor Adams Shakespearean Theatre and the indoor Randall L. Jones Theatre. The Fall Festival offers three plays, as well as free seminars, backstage tours, and public play discussions.
The Neil Simon Festival takes place at the Heritage Center Theatre in Cedar City. The festival runs from mid-July to mid-August every year and features the world's first professional theater company dedicated to playwright Neil Simon.
Hale Centre Theatre got its start in 1985 in West Valley City. It was located on South Main Street until 1997 when it became a nonprofit and moved to its current location on South Decker Lake Drive. Over 230,000 people attend performances annually. It produces seven productions per year that are cast with local actors.
The Sundance Film Festival is held every January in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden, and at the Sundance Resort. It is the largest independent cinema festival in America and it a vital platform for new independent films from all over the world. Actor Robert Redford, a longtime resident of Utah, helped found the festival in 1978 along with then-governor Scott Matheson. Many successful independent filmmakers got big break at Sundance, including Paul Thomas Anderson, Steven Soderbergh, Edward Burns, and Jim Jarmusch. The festival brings wider attention to small-budget films that might not otherwise find distribution.
The director of Being There, The Last Detail, and Harold and Maude, among others, filmmaker Hal Ashby was born in Ogden. Actor James Woods, the star of The Onion Field, Salvador, and Ghosts of Mississippi, was born in Vernal.
The "Donny & Marie Show" and "The Osmond Family Show," featuring the aforementioned Osmond clan, were both filmed almost entirely at the Osmond Studios in Orem in the 1970s before the family decided to sell the studio.
Film shot all or in part in Utah include Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the first three High School Musical movies, Footloose, Jeremiah Johnson, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The San Rafael Swell in south-central Utah stood in for the planet Vulcan in the 2009 Star Trek movie.
Many successful Utah authors write for the young adult and juvenile market. These include Delacorte Award–winners Louise Plummer and Ann Edwards Cannon, Olive Woolley Burt, and John D. Fitzgerald, who writes the "Great Brain" series. A lot of published work in the state serves the Mormon market. Signature Books in Salt Lake City, for example, publishes Mormon history and a small amount of fiction and poetry.
The Utah Arts Council has held an annual writing contest with cash prizes since 1958. The Utah Original Writing Competition includes readings, conferences, and workshops all over Utah. There are also professional development seminars for writers.
Additionally, the Writers at Work annual conference in Park City attracts artists from all over the country.
Wallace Stegner (1909–1993) was an American historian, writer, and environmentalist who won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1972 for his book Angle of Repose. Stegner spent part of his childhood in Utah and attended the University of Utah. In 2009, Utah Governor Jon Huntsman declared February 18 Wallace Stegner Day.
Other famous Utah writers include Terry Tempest Williams, an American author, naturalist, and environmental activist. She was born in 1955 in Salt Lake City and is a fifth-generation Mormon, both of which impact her writing. She writes about ecology and natural preservation, feminism, health/cancer issues, and the Mormon culture. Stephen Covey was born in Salt Lake City in 1932. He is author of the phenomenally successful self-help book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, along with its sequels.
Utah’s state-owned art collection began in 1899. When Alice Merrill Horne was elected to the state legislature, she made good on her promise to support the arts. She sponsored a bill to create a state arts organization and to establish a state collection of artwork. Her actions resulted in the first state funded arts council in the U.S. The collection was named the "Alice Art Collection" in her honor. Currently, the Collection Acquisition Committee purchases artwork by Utah artists using money donated by patrons of the arts.
The State Fine Art Collection has grown exponentially since then and is an impressive chronicle of the history of Utah art. The collection is on display in the Governor’s Mansion, the Glendinning Home, the State Capitol building, the Scott Matheson Courthouse, and in various state buildings. The Alice Gallery features objects from the State Fine Art Collection. It is located in both the Glendinning Home and the Division of Arts and Museums in Salt Lake City.
The Rio Gallery in the historic Rio Grande building in Salt Lake sponsors a statewide annual exhibition, as well as the fellowship exhibition, the Design Arts exhibition, and various artist exhibitions. The Utah Arts Festival has been held annually since 1977 and boasts around 80,000 attendees every year. There are approximately 130 booths and five performance venues at the festival.
The College of Performing and Visual Arts in Cedar City awards undergraduate degrees in the departments of Art and Design, Music, and Theatre Arts and Dance. It also has a comprehensive MFA graduate degree in Arts Administration. The curriculum and the faculty are affiliated with the Utah Shakespearean Festival, the Braithwaite Fine Arts Gallery, the Halversen String Quartet, and the American Folk Ballet.
Before the transcontinental railroad arrived in Utah in 1869, architecture in the Great Basin region was simple and homogenous. By 1893, Utah began experiencing America’s architectural trends. TheVictorian style became popular in Utah at the turn of the 19th century.
The Queen Anne style, along with other sub-styles—Eastlake, Stick Style, and Shingle Style—were popular in the early19th century. Later, the Prairie Style of Frank Lloyd Wright was adopted in Utah. Native Utahn Taylor Woolley worked in Frank Lloyd Wright’s studio and influenced its popularity in his home state. After World War II, the California Ranch style was adopted in Utah in the 1950s and early 1960s. Split-level home designs flourished in the 1960s and 1970s.
The University of Utah College of Architecture + Planning educates 200 architecture students and 140 city and metropolitan planning students annually. Since 1951, it has been the only architecture school in Utah, and it offers the only NAAB-accredited Masters of Architecture degree in the state. The Masters of City and Metropolitan Planning is also the only professional urban planning degree program in Utah.
HANDICRAFT AND FOLK ART
The Chase Home Museum of Utah Folk Arts is a unique museum whose mission is to display a state-owned collection of contemporary folk art. No other state-owned folk arts museum exists in the U.S. The Chase museum displays objects made by living Utah artists from the state’s American Indian, rural, occupational, and ethnic communities, and it offers a picture of the state’s contemporary culture and heritage.
Utah's Folk Arts Collection was established in 1976. The collection of works made by Utah artists includes paintings and sculpture, handmade rugs, woodcarving, needlework, and baskets. The collection ranges from handcrafted saddles and American Indian beadwork to many kinds of traditional crafts from Utah’s Asian, Latino, and Polynesian population.
Co-sponsored by the Salt Lake Arts Council, the Living Traditions Festival is a free festival held every May offering folk and traditional music and dance performances, crafts and cooking demonstrations, a workshop stage, a crafts market, and ethnic food.
Every year, the Utah State Fair exhibits Utah’s best crafts on the first Saturday it's held. Master artists demonstrate saddle making, American Indian crafts, rug making, woodcarving and many ethnic art forms. The state’s top traditional dancers and folk musicians perform on the special day as well.
The Greek Festival, held the weekend after Labor Day at the downtown Greek Orthodox Church in Salt Lake City, celebrates Utah's Greek heritage. The three-day event includes Greek music, crafts, and dance groups. Over 35,000 people attend every year.
HISTORIC ART MOVEMENTS
Earthworks, also known as the Land Art Movement, involves art that is created in nature and uses natural materials such as stones, leaves, or soil. A major figure of the movement, Robert Smithsontook the term "Earthworks" from a 1965 science-fiction novel of that name, which reflected his ideas about deterioration and environmental devastation.
The Earthworks movement began in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Artists in the movement created art that was intertwined with the landscape. Most of the artworks were out in the open and left to fall apart under natural conditions. Most of the early works created in Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona no longer exist.
Smithson created his seminal work Spiral Jetty on the northeastern shore of the Great Salt Lake at Rozel Point, Utah, in 1970. The artwork is an actual jetty made out of mud, salt crystals, and basalt rock. He chose the location very carefully because he wanted the artwork to be experienced in a quiet area with minimal distractions.
-World Trade Press