Zoo, Arts & Parks Blog
What Makes Us Special, Makes Us Strong!
In the stage production Shrek, The Musical, Pinocchio and his rag-tag fairytale friends sing “Freak Flag.” It's a song that proudly declares, “What makes us special makes us strong.” There is a sense of empowerment in that lyric. At some point in all of our lives, we have felt empowered as we take in the art around us. Art can embody that
phrase, and it helps us become stronger by celebrating our differences.
Picasso said: “Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot, others transform a yellow spot into the sun.” In many ways, we are all artists. We each see the world in a unique way. The arts help us celebrate our differences and can help us to see things from someone else’s perspective. That altered perspective changes us and our lives.
When we watch or participate in something beautiful and artistic, we leave changed. The Austrian journalist, Ernst Fischer, said, “I don’t want life to imitate art, I want life to be art.”
Each of us, whether we are self-declared artists or not, can produce something beautiful. We should look for the art around us. And it doesn’t have to cost a penny. Sometimes we fail to see the beautiful art in our everyday lives, yet each of us has the power to
create something beautiful. We don’t need to be called an “artist.” In its own special way, art can empower and transform our lives, and in turn, make us strong!
What art do you see in your everyday life?
Come see a rowdy cast of “freaks,” a big ugly ogre, a talking donkey and beautiful princess in Cottonwood Heights Arts Council’s production of Shrek, The Musical.
July 25, 27, 30, 31, Aug 1, 3 | 7:30 PM | Butler Middle School | 7530 S. 2700 E. | Cottonwood Heights, UT 84121
Pedersen is the Arts Production Manager for Cottonwood Heights. She has been
involved in art for over 14 years in various community organizations. She
is a passionate and avid supporter of community arts. In addition to art, the
greatest joy in her life is her husband and 6 children.
Meet Vicki Bourns
Our very own Vicki Bourns was recently named a
Utah Cultural Alliance "Pillar of the Community." Other recipients of this award were
Senator Jim Dabakis and
Repertory Dance Theatre. Congratulations, all!
We thought this would be a good time for you to get to know Vicki.
How did Vicki get started?
Victoria’s varied experience in the arts began when she was young. She recounts, “It all started with my Aunt taking my sibs and me to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s children concerts when I was in grade school. I loved those concerts. As we got older, she would play operas for us and we had
competitions to see who could identify the composer first. To this day if someone says, “Hansel and Gretel,” I’m likely to yell – Engelbert Humperdinck! In high school, I continued exploring music theory, art history, dance and applied visual
arts.” After receiving her BFA in Dance from the University of Utah, she earned an MFA in Arts Administration.
What about her career?
Vicki has been involved in art activities and organizations for over 30 years. As a founding member of
Dance Theater Coalition, she produced, directed, choreographed and performed in numerous original dance and theatre works. She even studied electronic music composition from Vladimir Ussachevsky, a pioneer of this unique art form.
Vicki has an excellent reputation for skillful administration and management and has worked for some of Utah's premier cultural organizations:
Repertory Dance Theater,
KUER (FM90)and the
Salt Lake Acting Company. She was treasurer for the Performing Arts Coalition during the planning and implementation of the
Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center. She helped transform the Utah Citizens for the Arts into the
Utah Cultural Alliance and is very proud of its accomplishments.
In 1993, she established her own company, Panella Consulting, to assist cultural organizations and other non-profits with strategic planning, board development and executive searches.
She currently directs the Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts and Parks program, which distributes approximately $14 million dollars annually to over 160 arts and cultural organizations.
(From left: Repertory Dance Theatre (represented by Linda Smith), Vicki Bourns and Senator James Dabakis)
And awards? Well, she has those, too!
Vicki was listed in
Catalyst Magazine's “Agents of Change: Catalysts in our Community" and received the 2000
Utah Arts Festival Mayor's Award for Service to the Arts.
With persistence, skill and humor, Vicki is able to effectively guide organizations and people toward their vision for the future. Congratulations, Vicki!
Utah Film Center Programmer Tells All
“Don’t you get sick of watching movies?”
It astonishes me how often I am asked that question. Each time I can feel that familiar moment, that beat, when my disdain of small talk and insignificant chatter finds itself from my stomach to my vocal cords with the go-to return of, “Yes, I do, it gets so old.” The truth is I am
hesitant to confess how great my job is and how I absolutely love it. It feels cruel. My job is more than a way to pay for the weekends. I get to spend my time scouring the world for stories. Each summer that search accumulates in July when, for three days, these found
stories become more than mine; they become everyone’s. I get to be the OkCupid, the E-Harmony, the match-maker between filmmakers and audiences. I get to program the
Damn These Heels LGBT film festival.
For over a decade, for 12 years in fact, Damn These Heels (DTH) has been a program of the
Utah Film Center. In 2012 it was named a top-ten LGBT film festival in North America by IndieWire magazine. From humble beginnings, DTH has grown-up and now finds it’s home at The
Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center. Our venue now matches the ambition of the festival. By using both the Jeanné Wagner Theatre and Leona Wagner Black Box we have been able to increase both the potential capacity and numbers of films in the
festival. This year we will have nearly 10,000 seats available for our screenings. With 22 different titles screening over three days, the potential reach is enormous. As LGBT cinema continues to come into it’s own and expand into mainstream, we are confident that even more growth
will soon be necessary. In 1996 Robin Williams gave us Armand Goldman in
, 19 years later, in his final dramatic performance, Robin Williams returns in our closing night film,
. Though different in genre and style, it is easy to see the evolution of LGBT cinema. What was once specialized is now becoming universal, accepted, and embraced.
I am straight.
When I was made a programmer of the Damn These Heels Film Festival and asked to lead the programming committee for the festival, I was the first to doubt my resumé and abilities. How could I, a straight man, fulfill the responsibilities and reputation that is Damn These Heels? How can I relate to and help pick the films
that people will be expecting of our program? A lot of my trepidations eased when I watched the first of over 100 films we would screen as potential films for the festival.
The first film I watched was
The New Man
. This documentary follows Stephania, a trans-gender woman from Nicaragua, as she lives her life and tries to rekindle her lost relationship with her family. After watching this film I knew that hers was not a story I could personally relate to, but her story, the
film, it made me feel very strong feelings of compassion. It was then that I knew that I could help to program this festival. Universals transcend genres, love transforms stereotypes, and stories can reach the heart of anyone, no matter what makes
the butterflies flutter in one’s stomach. Damn These Heels is no longer a festival just for LGBT audiences. It is more a celebration of individuality and the road to which acceptance has found a path. Ally and LGBT audiences now have a forum to not only share unique movie-going
experiences, but also to share in the stories and emotions of this particular world.
We needed help.
One of the main goals and missions of Damn These Heels is to present diversity in both subject matter and experience. To ensure such diversity, it became apparent that we needed to form a screening committee. In the end, the screening committee became a diverse group of 12
members encompassing many segments of our community. We also had representation from each letter of our LGBT festival. Immediately, conversations and differing opinions emerged as the screening process began. Where one film would have one
reviewer fighting back the tears, it would have another fighting the urge to pull out each strand of their hair—we knew we had something. We had a group of 12 people discussing the stories, merits, weaknesses, and opinions, both good and bad, for each film. We had conversation. We knew we could now make this micro group,
We, at Utah Film Center, pride ourselves in making Damn These Heels affordable and accessible for anyone that wants to attend. We are a non-profit so we are able to keep ticket prices low. Single tickets are only $7 and for people purchasing 10-film passes, films can be seen for as little as
$3.50. We understand that even those prices can be a challenge for some patrons so we distribute ticket vouchers to many partner community organizations so that anyone who wants to come see a film is able. We feel we have a responsibility to the community and we take
that responsibility seriously.
“Don’t you get sick of watching movies?”
No. Small talk has never been a strong suit of mine. In fact, conversation and communal mores have always been slightly out of my reach of understanding. If societal customs are like a muscle, and need to be worked to build strength, then I need to up my game. I want to tell our city that they need to come
to our festival. I want to spread the word so each of the 22 films in the lineup has the opportunity to impact. But, alas, that is not my strength. My hope is that these films will be seen. They speak for themselves in a way that I
cannot. If all the work and effort put in by our festival staff and screening committee expose a single moment of clarity, compassion, or understanding for a festival-goer, then we have succeeded. Sometimes all it takes is that one character, and that one decision they make, in that one movie to
resonate so intensively that a life is changed. All we can do is exhibit these voices and stories. It is my pleasure to do the searching. All I would ask in return is that people come and enjoy these beautiful stories from around the world. They are important.
Jeff is the Development and Programming Manager at Utah Film Center. He puts together the film lineup for the Damn These Heels LGBT film festival. The festival runs this weekend.
Utah Film Center Teen Committee Member Reflects on TILTSHIFT
Utah Film Center’s inaugural 2015 TiltShift Festival was a blast. I had a fantastic experience as a teen committee member, and I know I won't forget it anytime soon. As a teenager, it was quite challenging. Sometimes it was overwhelming to help organize and market the festival. But, mostly, it was exciting!
It all began on a late night. As a teenager, most nights I’m up late -- far past the point of even bothering to try to get some sleep. It was during one of these sleepless nights that I happened to come across a retweeted message from the Utah Film Center Twitter account. The tweet jumped out at me: “Hey are you a
teen that enjoys film and wants to be more involved with the film community? Click the link for an opportunity to be involved.” There I am -- well past midnight -- and I thought, “Awesome!” I followed the link and found out that resumés were due that day. I submitted mine and around noon I received a message to
schedule an interview. The next day I got a call; I had been accepted for the opportunity. It all happened so fast, and it was great.
I soon realized, after talking with Utah Film Center mentors, that because of my passion for social media, I was a good fit for the marketing team. A job that requires me to be on social media sounded great; I already spend more time on Twitter than I should. After all, that’s
how I found out about the job in the first place.
Marketing the Festival
On the marketing team, our role was to publicize the festival by means of social media, handing out fliers, doing interviews or helping place ads in local, hip newspapers. And I managed the Twitter account. I found it hilarious when I realized just how hard it is to actually manage a social media account for a
festival. On my personal account, I could easily tweet the whole day away with generic teen thoughts. But when you're managing an account for a festival, it's different. I occasionally had no idea what to post, but (luckily) I had Dana Hernandez, the PR & Communications Coordinator for the Utah Film Center, to
guide me when I needed help. Once I got the hang of it, managing the account seemed fairly easy. It was always interesting to interact with people, both local and from around the world, excited about the festival and featured filmmakers. We teenagers constantly complain about not being able to go on adventures
across the world. At the festival, the world came to me.
How the Challenge Changed Me
Now that the festival is over, I’ve realized what an intense learning experience it was. I gained real-world experience. Teenagers typically learn the value of money and hard work in a restaurant for minimum wage. Yes, I've had those jobs. At first they're great, but after a month or two you need something more. Teens
crave a challenge.
I learned that if you want something to be successfully accomplished, then you need to get stuff done; in the real world, there is no procrastinating. The most important thing I learned is consistency. You need to be consistent, at least with yourself, to do a good job. I’ll admit it was overwhelming at times,
but it was a level of stress that I find acceptable and healthy. I am overjoyed with the attendance at the festival, and I loved all of it collectively. I really enjoyed being treated and respected as an adult under the mentorship of the Utah Film Center.
The Festival and Beyond
Deciding on my favorite part of the festival is hard. I’m not sure that I can place one aspect of the festival above the rest. I can say that the best feelings came over me as I saw the many faces, youthful and not-so-youthful, rejoicing in the film
experience. My personal admiration and respect for independent films and documentaries is why I took part in the 2015 inaugural TiltShift Festival, yet my real motivations came from knowing that there are tons more teenagers, similar to myself, that were missing out on this opportunity.
As a Marketing Teen Committee Member, I now understand what that title carries—something I wouldn’t have known had I not participated. I am excited to see what will happen next year. I hope that the TiltShift Festival will be known as the place to go if you're a local filmmaker or film lover.
-Alexis Hernandez Avila
Alex is 17 and attends American Preparatory Academy. He worked on
marketing duties and managed the TiltShift Twitter account. He hopes TiltShift
becomes a respected and well-known festival.
Great Nations Deserve Great Art
I have heard that great nations deserve great art. But, as an art educator, I often wonder if people really understand the importance of the arts. There is a great emphasis on science and math education; art programs are often seen as the filler. But should they be? Art requires the use of our senses and emotions
to react to what we see, what we hear, or what we feel in our hearts. Art engages us with the world at a visceral level. Art teaches us about humanity.
It’s Left to Teachers
In lower-income communities, access to art museums can be difficult. For a family of five, the museum may be too expensive, too far away or unknown due to lack of promotion in certain areas. So, the task of learning about, and understanding, art is often left to teachers – teachers with large class sizes and limited resources.
Field trips to create access to the arts are coveted by art teachers. But even with one field trip per year, access is limited. Lucky teachers (like me) have close to 300 students each semester. With two semesters, that’s a total of 600 students. But buses can only fit 40 students. So, out of 600, only 40 students
get to enjoy an art-related field trip – that is not enough. Learning the remarkableness of art from books alone is like learning to grow a garden from drawing daisies on paper.
Students created the decorations for the Christmas tree at the White House.
Can Art Appreciation
People value, respect and understand art by feeling comfortable with it from an early age. Instead of being something for fancy and sophisticated people, art can be understood as something that makes our environment more beautiful. It is something that brings joy or excitement to
our soul. In places like Mexico City, where art is everywhere, art access is a right and matter of pride. Art is national patrimony; it belongs to the people. Once a week, people have free access to art museums and culture in general. Art appreciation and enjoyment is the cheapest activity; on the weekend, in
multiple places around the city, complete families go to museums, galleries, parks and plazas to enjoy all kinds of art – for free. In cities like ours, however, art education and public art events sometimes feel like something for the elite.
Art Education in my Classroom
With lack of easy access to art for residents of some areas of our county, teachers like me do virtual tours and research – hoping that technology can give us a little bit of that much needed art exposure. Just this last semester, in preparation for our own self-portrait sculpting project, my
students completed a “Portrait throughout History” research paper. At the end of the paper, I request that the students write a conclusion. To my amazement, one of my students wrote the following:
“The importance of sculpture in the history of human kind is immense. What we can create with our bare hands and with the help of tools is astonishing. We can learn so much about people from sculptures of the past in the sense that what they created are like books today. We can read into them
and discover the artist and what things were like during that period. With sculpture we can create things from our imagination and mind. It helps creativity flow and erupt from within. The importance of art is knowledge, within sculpture and art comes the need to discover even more about ourselves,
what came before us and discover more about what is within us. We find out things that are new and exciting and gain new knowledge about humanity” (J.C. Kearns High student, 2015).
When I read a conclusion like this, I realize that art is something that makes all of us not only understand each other better, but we appreciate the similarities of our greatness – no matter where we are from. Organizations like ZAP are incredibly valuable to our community because they expand the access we have to that
greatness. ZAP board members work really hard to expand the appreciation of the arts, to promote the riches of our Salt Lake County community. Through ZAP, we show that we value the arts and the opinions of all of our residents. ZAP is a great asset to Salt Lake County art educators and Utah’s lifelong learning.
- Noemi Verónica Hernández Balcázar, ZAP Tier II Board Member
Noemi is a ZAP Tier II Advisory Board Member and art teacher
at Kearns High School.