Zoo, Arts & Parks Blog
Growing a Music Movement: Nerdcore in the C9 Neighborhood
Dance Theatre Coalition (DTC) supports niche artists on the fringe. As DTC’s Artistic Director, I target working with dedicated artists who are creating something unique. I want to find artists who are hard to find. Discovering these individuals requires expertise akin to using a divining rod to pinpoint water underground—it
is equal parts looking, listening, and intuition. This is how I discovered Nerdcore music in my own backyard.
DTC prides itself on supporting artists above all else. The Artist is the main demographic we serve and everything that ripples out from their creative work into the community -- via public events and education -- we consider gravy. It’s an atypical frame of reference for an arts organization to
prioritize artist over audience, but as an artist-run organization, we know first hand that artists get used as commodities far more than they get nurtured in their artistic pursuits or guided along their incredibly challenging career paths. DTC aims to right the balance on this
point by being the one organization that asks artists what they all dream of being asked, which is: “What do you want to achieve next creatively and how can
we help?” It is my great honor to pose this question to the artists DTC works with. I get to see them surge with ideas on the spot and we start hashing out action plans together immediately.
In April 2016 I got to pop this coveted question to local musician David Payne to support his Nerdcore Music Concerts at Blue Copper Coffee Room in Salt Lake’s rapidly growing Central Ninth neighborhood (The C9). I came to know Dave through Joe Greathouse of VCR5—a talented music artist that DTC has produced in the
past. To his credit, Joe has always kept in touch with DTC over the years and we check in on his work periodically. Joe invited me to see him play at Blue Copper, which just happens to be half a block from my new residence in the C9 neighborhood—a previously blighted area on the rapid rise thanks to support
from the RDA and the vision of a wonderfully diverse community. Delighted that I could walk to the gig from my home, I strolled over to see what Joe/VCR5 was up to as part of the evening’s concert line-up for something called “Nerdcore.”
Nerdcore is electronic music performed using a mix of audio samples from vintage video games, movies clips, 80s era technology, modified/invented equipment, laptops, phones, and anything involving old school space ships and the like. Spearheaded by prolific local
musician David Payne of the Red Bennies (he performs Nerdcore as Lord British) and his partner in crime rapper Mark Dago, Nerdcore is a niche music movement that has a huge following in Seattle and within the international Comic-Con community. This music is the wave of the
future, and it is rooted in a Pac-Man past.
Nerdcore isn’t a joke. The music is well designed, layered, and thought out. It is performed by experienced musicians who
take their work seriously. I do experience the pieces as complete compositions that can oscillate from soundscape, to trance, to dance, to avant-garde. As I talk with Dave and Joe more about what Nerdcore means to them, it stretches beyond the music toward a philosophy about
nerdy-ness in general. Dave brings up the term “dignity openness” and we all collectively smile at the notion that outsiders (nerds), young and adult, all need a place to get down with their bad selves by expressing and experimenting. The last Saturday night of every month, geeks convene at Blue Copper to
channel their interests through music they author using whatever bleeps, blips, and space ships are nearby to inspire them.
You’ll notice that Nerdcore devotees have their own aesthetic hence the intentionally homemade clunky graphics on their self-designed poster ads and hilariously gamer-geek language when writing about their free, live coffee-shop concerts. The dedication and enthusiasm these guys have is a thing of beauty, and
DTC is happy to get behind them and support this free all-ages concert
series. Nerdcore is building up a nice
little following here and enhancing the cultural identity of this developing
neighborhood. We hope to see you at Blue Copper Coffee Room this Saturday night August, 27th from 6:00 – 9:00 PM to see Lord British and his cohorts in full form!
AMY CARON is a multidisciplinary artist based in
Salt Lake City. She has served as Dance
Theatre Coalition’s (DTC) Artistic Director since 2005. Under Amy’s guidance, DTC has presented a
wide scope of local, national, and international artists including choreographer
Dana Michel, instrument innovator Author & Punisher, and the unsettling and
gorgeous work of tEEth Performance.
Locally Amy/DTC has helped artists like Joe Greathouse, Justin
Chouinard, and Andra Harbold develop and present adventurous new works. Amy is a master Field Method Facilitator with
over ten years experience practicing and training others in this unique
artist-to-artist critique form. DTC is
the official host of The Field Method in Salt Lake City and is part of the
National Field Network based in New York City.
Field Workshops are one of DTC’s core ongoing programs. Amy holds her BFA in modern dance from the
University of Utah where she later taught as an Associate Instructor and
created the course The History and Evolution of Dance on Film. Caron’s work has
been commissioned and presented by Performance Space 122 and the Leonardo
Museum. She is a National Performance Network Creation Fund Artist and
completed a residency at Duke University in 2010. In 2016 she was a guest
teacher in the dance department at University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.
A Place to Learn Pacific Islander Arts and Crafts
Approximately 1.5 million Pacific Islanders reside
in the United States. Outside of Hawaii, Utah has the highest percentage of
Pacific Islander with 35,000 Pacific Islander residents, the majority of whom
are Tongan or Samoan. Approximately
70% of those Pacific Islanders live in Salt Lake County. In 2013, acknowledging the growing Pacific
Islander population in Utah, Governor Herbert declared August as Pacific Island
Heritage Month. This was an answer to
NTAS’s annual Friendly Islands Festival to bring awareness to the growing
Pacific Islander population in Utah, promote Pacific Islander arts and crafts
as a means to encourage cultural preservation. It also serves as an avenue for first and second generation PIs to identify ways to integrate
their PI traditions into their new American lifestyle. The Pacific Islander
Heritage Month provided an avenue to proudly share PI arts and crafts, culture
and tradition with the mainstream society.
The National Tongan American Society recognizes
the cross-cultural environment that many of the first and second generation families
are forced to live. Very few opportunities are available for the production or
appreciation of PI arts and crafts. NTAS
seeks to promote and provide opportunities to the PI community and others who
are interested in learning, teaching, and increasing their skills in PI arts
NTAS recognizes that the arts are avenues of
cross-generational interaction and learning within the Pacific Island community
as well as across main stream and other communities. Arts can allow youth to
combine traditional art forms with modern technology and share with the elders
of the community arts through film, graphic arts, fashion design, and quilting similar
to that of the artisans of old.
The art of dance, song, traditional
craftsmanship of wood carving, weaving, tapa-making and oral histories are
ingrained in the Pacific Island culture. Traditionally, daily living required
clothing articles made from weavings and tapa cloth. Today, these items and other crafts are sold
for income and are used for traditional weddings, funerals, decoration and
gifts. Without the elders teaching the next generation, the art of creating
these items will soon disappear.
Music is intertwined into all aspects of PI
culture. Events are not events without music, singing, and/or dancing. Telling
stories and expressing our connections and feelings through the music and the
performing arts are normal traditional practices. The tradition of selfless
giving, the importance of having a strong sense of belonging, bonding with
family and extended family members, with love and respect are taught through
music and dancing.
Promoting PI Arts & Crafts
Through many of
NTAS's events, we have promoted PI arts and crafts. To promote the first year of the PI
Heritage Month, women in the community who were skilled in traditional arts and
crafts came together and held a women’s handicraft expo of PI hand made
clothing, jewelry, quilts, and basket weaving.
In addition, the Miss Pacific Islander Utah
pageant included an Island Creation category to display clothing designed with
traditional materials. All contestants
were also to perform a traditional dance from their island of choice.
NTAS Annual Pohiva Kilisimasi (Nondenominational Church Choir Christmas Concert)
has been ongoing for 15 years, promoting traditional polyphonic singing.
Christian missionaries who came to Polynesia in the 1790 brought written hymns.
It naturally merged Polynesian polyphonic singing with church singing,
which is today, a spectacular, important part of PI religious culture. Music is
a characteristic of PI people -- especially at Christmas time. The Pohiva Kilisimasi
is held the 2nd Sunday of each December and rotated among the Tongan Church
denominations. All Pacific Island community's diverse denomination choirs are
invited to perform Christmas and religious songs which promotes unity in the PI
The Annual Friendly Islands Festival
the growth and popularity of PI arts and crafts continue, we find many
individuals, organizations and churches interested in increasing the art and
crafts programs of the annual Friendly Islands Festival.
the 2014 festival, the Discovery Area was a new event organized by the
University of Utah's Pacific Island Student Association. Using storytelling,
poetry, and songs from the rich history of the South Pacific, students worked
with the traditional craftsmen and women to educate festival attendees about
the traditional crafts that were displayed.
Demonstrations illustrated time and history of the arts and crafts
pieces. The Discovery Area will be a place to discover the similarities and the
differences of the Pacific Island countries.
addition to the Friendly Island Festival is the Ukelele, Sing-A-Long Jam
Session area. Festival attendees will be encouraged to bring a uke or guitar
and participate in a play-and-sing-along; or others can come and sit, relax,
and just enjoy the melodies of others.
- To encourage the participation of children in
the arts and crafts, we have a stage that will have non-stop performing arts and
craft activities from all communities. Children will also have
an area where different art or craft activity every hour through out the 2 days
will be offered. Some of the crafts will
be lei-making, tapa stamping, weaving, Tongan language & dance, quilt
squares, and sidewalk art.
addition, the Utah Pacific Island Arts Council will host a film festival of
Pacific Islander documentaries and/or films during Pacific Island Heritage
We would like to add to Pacific Island Heritage month an event to include
the men's kava clubs. All clubs will be given a proverb or a theme and
each club composes a song with that specific theme in mind. They will also choreographic a tau’olunga
(traditional Tongan dance) where young ladies will perform the tau’olunga dance
to the clubs original music piece.
The Importance of PI Arts & Crafts
In the United States, some of these art forms
are dwindling, often times frowned upon as ‘old’ tradition and not worthy to
pass along. Often, as families assimilate to the American culture, traditional
PI arts are not being handed down to the next generation. Unfortunately, many
PIs have the thought that westernization is modernization.
ZAP funding these events, foster acceptance, understanding, and
appreciation of cultural differences within and outside of the Pacific Island
communities. Through participating and demonstrations of the Pacific Island
arts and crafts, we seek for culture sensitivity across all Salt Lake
communities and the understanding of PI communities that you don’t have to
westernize to modernize. That
understanding and accepting our cultural differences and working productively
together, can make Salt Lake City, the state of Utah, and our great country the
best place to live, eat, work, play and do business for all -- regardless of
race, religion, sexual preference, ability, and culture -- harmoniously!
Ivoni Nash is the Program Director for the National Tongan American Society whose mission is to "Strengthen the Pacific Islander Family by promoting health, education, cultural preservation and civic engagement."
A Shakespearean Ticket Tuesday Giveaway from Utah Children's Theatre
Winners have been chosen for this week's giveaway to the Utah Children's Theatre Shakespeare Festival (August 20 - October 1). Stay tuned for future Ticket Tuesday contest opportunities!
On what connects us: Mexico and Utah
and Mexico have a long connection going back many millennia. And one thing
that appears to connect us seems to be our mutual love of chocolate.
years ago, U of U researchers discovered cacao in an ancient pot near Blanding,
Utah. Cacao does not grow in Utah. This indicates that the peoples of what is now
is Utah traded, interacted, maybe enjoyed a cup of Aztec hot chocolate with the
peoples of what is now Mexico and perhaps Central America.
of pottery also create a path of migration from ancient sites in our state to
Paquime, the "Mesa Verde of Mexico," in what is now the state of
Chihuahua, near the Mormon Colonies there. Today local artists in the town of
Mata Ortiz, Chihuahua, and Moab, Utah, create pottery that reflects the
traditions of the Ancient Pueblans of our region and those of Paquime.
tradition reflecting this history has become extremely popular in our
state: Day of the Dead, a celebration of
ancestors that grew out of ancient traditions of Mexico then melded with
Catholic All Souls' Day, has been embraced throughout our state as a way to
celebrate our departed family members. What a better holiday for Utahans who
2010, I founded Artes de México en Utah along with local artists who were
inspired by an exhibit of Mexican art at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. I had assisted
in a companion exhibit of the works of Pablo O'Higgins, a Utah artist who
became a Mexican muralist. I had seen the delight and pride in the faces of
young Latinos who visited the exhibit. I had raised my daughter, whose father
is Mexican, to be bilingual and bicultural at a time when there was little
available in the community to inspire young Latinos to be proud of their
had no trouble gathering a group of artists and designers who wanted the same, and
with the blessing of the UMFA, we poached some of their staff for our advisory
board! We connected with the Mexican Consulate, and they welcomed our
started off with a bang: an exhibit about Frida Kahlo produced in Mexico, which
was seen by almost 20,000 people at the Salt Lake City Public Library.
next project, also in collaboration with the Mexican Consulate, were
photographs of the Mexican Revolution from the legendary Casasola Archive in
Hidalgo, Mexico. We spread that exhibit across the valley in seven venues and
partnered it with photographs of Mexico today, created by members of the
of students from throughout the county and beyond visited the exhibits and
learned about them from Latino high school students, whom we trained as
Photo by Edgar Gomez, courtesy of the Utah Natural History Museum
each of our exhibits, Latinos shared gratitude that "Utah cares about my
history." Many others expressed their appreciation as to how Latino
cultures enrich our state.
came to see how this deeper history of Utah, its history as part of Mexico, is
something our entire state can be proud of. So two years later, Artes de México
launched a project called New Chapters |
spent a year taking the oral histories of local Mexican artists, curators and
collectors. It culminated in an exhibit at Mestizo Gallery that showcased the
works and lives of artists Veronica Pérez, Ruby Chacón, and Jorge Rojas, dancer/choreographer
Jessica Salazar, and Tina Misrachi Martin, whose father was Diego Rivera's art
to ZAP and our other funders, as well as fabulous community partners, we have
been able to expand our programming to include ongoing free classes in the
community on Mexican art and cultures, the state's only prize for original
literature in Spanish (the Sor Juana Prize), a yearly Mexican film tour, and
many other activities that spread the beauty of Mexican art and cultures
through the community.
feel that embracing the deeper history of Utah, including our Native American
history and our history as part of New Spain and Mexico, honors the
contributions not only of people who originated in Utah, but of all people who
have found their way to our state.
of the most humbling experiences I have had was when Artes taught a class about
Mexican art and history at Horizonte school to more than 70 students, most of
whom were refugees or immigrants from outside of Latin America. After eight classes
learning about Mexico, the students shared their "take away" message
from the class: That here in the U.S. we can overcome the challenges of racism
and discrimination and create a just society that respects people's religions,
values and cultures.
class, we realized, was not just about Mexico but about a story that is common
to all those who make up our history: those who lived off the land in ancient
times before there were borders, those who arrived on foot in 1847, when Utah
was Mexico, and those who have come here in recent times, also in search of a
better life: It is the story of Perseverance.
Ruby Chacon, Perseverance
Vogel is the co-founder of Artes de México in Utah and a member of its Advisory
Board. She is author of Pablo O'Higgins:
How an Anglo-American from Utah Became a Mexican Muralist (Pince-Nez Press,
Ticket Tuesday Giveaway to Tracy Aviary
Thanks to everyone that participated this week!
2 winners have been chosen for the free tickets to Tracy Aviary.
Stay tuned for our next giveaway!