October 20, 2015
My name is Tiana Lovett, and I'm from California. I’ve been in Salt Lake City for a year now, and I’ve discovered something: Salt Lake is brimming with art, culture and dance in a way unlike what I’ve experienced in any other city. I am a ballet dancer and have trained in the academies of both Houston Ballet, and Salt Lake’s own Ballet West. Knowing this, you must understand why I was excited to see so many dance companies in Utah.
I have loved seeing shows from different companies and schools. Seeing as many as I have, I've noticed just how unique each company is. I’ve decided to highlight two companies: Repertory Dance Theatre and Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company.
Repertory Dance Theatre
Repertory Dance Theatre is a classical modern dance company located at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center. I had a wonderful time watching them perform. The first time I saw them, the bill was very diverse -- with a mixture of serious and humorous pieces that really pleased the audience. It seemed like everyone fell in love with the company whether they had an artistic background or not.
The next time I watched their performance was at the Utah Arts Festival. This time the bill was targeted toward people with a greater understanding of art and contained fewer humorous pieces. The performance was amazing. It remained diverse in style and energy. They danced classics and explored new techniques. Overall, Repertory Dance Company is a diamond in the heart of Salt Lake, and I will definitely be getting season tickets.
Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company
Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company is a contemporary dance company also located at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center. I've seen the company perform only once, but I definitely plan to go again. The bill contained two works: one from a guest artist and the other from the company’s artistic director Daniel Charon. The first was very unique; I could not even grasp the meaning of it -- which I really appreciated. The second piece was beautiful to watch. The music vibrated, and the dancers performed with so much energy and life.
I saw one of the Ririe-Woodbury dancers perform when Bradley Beaks put on his own show at the Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival. I was incredibly impressed. His movement was so new and creative. Each piece flowed beautifully into the next, ending on an energetic work with dancers from The University of Utah, Repertory Dance Theatre, Ririe-Woodbury and more. I will be sure to look out for Ririe-Woodbury and its dancers in the future; they are capable of fantastic things.
After I compared the companies from the outside, I took a closer look into the everyday life of the dancers. I interviewed one dancer from each company and even sat in on one of Repertory Dance Theater’s rehearsals.
How long have you been with Repertory Dance Theatre?
Tyler: I have been dancing with Repertory Dance Theatre for three years now and just began my fourth season with them this summer.
What do you do everyday at RDT?
Tyler: At RDT we work 9 A.M. to 4 P.M., Monday through Friday. A typical day begins with an hour and a half technique class. Until 1 P.M., we are either learning, rehearsing, or creating new dances. From 1 to 2 P.M., we have lunch, and then we rehearse more from 2 to 4 P.M. On a non-typical day, we will go out to elementary schools and high schools to perform for them and teach them movement-based classes as a part of our Arts in Education mission.
What is your favorite aspect working for this company?
Tyler: My favorite part about working with Repertory Dance Theatre is being given the opportunity to work with so many different choreographers. Each choreographer comes with their own style of movement and teaching which allows us to grow in many different forms of dance. In a single performance, an audience member may get to witness four to five varieties of modern dance before the night ends. As a dancer, it’s very exciting to get to be a part of that experience with the audience.
What choreography are you currently working on?
Tyler: We are currently working with Claire Porter, a comedic and text-based dance choreographer. She is creating a work on RDT that will premiere in our November performance. Our upcoming performance, “Ritual,” is October 1-3 at the Rose Wagner Theater.
What is RDT's mission?
Tyler: Repertory Dance Theatre’s mission is the dedication to the creation, performance, perpetuation, and appreciation of modern dance. RDT is the oldest and most successful repertory dance company in the United States. We preserve America’s historical dance roots while also maintaining a progressive nature with the creation of new and contemporary works. We believe in art that is profound and thrilling and art that also challenges you.
What is special about Repertory Dance Theatre that other companies might not have?
Tyler: There are so many special things I could say about RDT and my personal experience with the company. But if I could only pick one, I would say one of the most unique things about RDT is how we learn historical works. Whether we are learning a piece choreographed by José Limón, Michio Itō, or Merce Cunningham, we almost always work with and learn from someone who has worked directly with the choreographer themselves. We are also very blessed to get to learn so many of our historical works from our very own artistic director, Linda C. Smith, for this very reason. As a dancer, this helps me in ways I can’t measure because of how “close” the information is that is being passed down to us. This way of learning helps us maintain the integrity of any particular style so that when we do perform someone else’s work we honor it by doing our absolute best to perform it as close to the original as we possibly can.
How long have you been with RW?
Yebel: I am currently in my third season with Ririe-Woodbury
What do you do everyday at RW?
Yebel: Our typical work day is eight hours. We start with a contemporary technique class from 9 to 10:30 A.M. We then take a short break and move on to rehearsals. This is when we are either preparing for an upcoming tour, or a local performance. We take an hour for lunch at 1 P.M. After lunch, we often begin, or continue to work on, a creative process for a new piece by the artistic director Daniel Charon. However, two or three times a year, when a commissioned choreographer is in town setting a new work on the company, we dedicate full days solely to that artist-in-residence.
What is your favorite aspect working for this company?
Yebel: Ririe-Woodbury is really a gem among professional dance companies around the nation. It is one of the last few companies that continue to offer full-time contracts with health benefits to their dancers. RW also commissions at least two choreographers a year to set new work on the company. It is very exciting to be part of a company that maintains such a high level of professionalism and works with choreographers that are sought out for in places like Chicago, New York, and California.
What choreography are you currently working on?
Yebel: We recently finished working with Adam Barruch. He was with us for two weeks setting a new piece titled Prima Materia, which will premiere this September as a part of our fall season performance. Now we will be putting together an evening of Nikoli works that will be performed for an eight-run season at the Joyce Theatre this coming February.
What is RW's mission?
Yebel: Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company is committed to furthering contemporary dance as an accessible and valued art form through performance and dance education that raise the standards, deepen the understanding and promote personal connections with dance.
If you've worked with other companies, what is special about RW that you haven't experienced with another company?
Yebel: I worked with a professional dance company in Mexico for five years and it was a wonderful experience. Being in Ririe-Woodbury however, has expanded my knowledge and experience in dance education. Outreach, and taking dance to small communities, to places where children would not see live dance otherwise, has definitely made a mark on me. I realize now how important it is to continue dance education and share the same love that the company's founders shared with us dancers -- in getting dance out there and making it an accessible art form to everyone.
Both companies put on beautiful performances that are inspiring and mesmerizing. If you'd like to see their upcoming shows, you can find further information below.
Repertory Dance Theatre: Ritual, October 1-3, 2015
Ririe-Woodbury: Fall season, September 17-19, 2015
Tiana Lovett has trained in the academies of Houston Ballet and Ballet West. She was fortunate to train under Claudio Munoz director of Houston Ballet 2, Jeff Rodgers former principal dancer with Ballet West, and more. Tiana is also a grand prize winner of the Spotlight Awards at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, in the ballet category.
October 20, 2015
The City of South Jordan’s museum, Gale Center of History & Culture, was originated by several long-time residents to create a place to learn about, appreciate and experience the rich history of South Jordan City.
In 1859, the first homesteaders found land in the southern end of the Salt Lake Valley for their crops and animals. Families came here to build a life together in a new place, start traditions and build memories that could be passed down to future generations. Today, our resources still include a rich environment and enthusiasm of hardworking citizens. As a result, our City boasts comfortable homes, thriving commercial development, modern manufacturing, varied cultural and academic opportunities, and beautiful open space for recreation.
A Walk Through the Museum
Visitors to the Gale Center of History & Culture enjoy; explore; learn; and discover the history and story behind the development of South Jordan. We reach families with children, retirees with grandchildren, school groups, scout troops, activity day girls, visitors and tourists to South Jordan, and the art community.
A lot of our museum visitors are drawn to the interactive areas and enjoy playing in the schoolhouse. They sit at the original teacher's desk and ring the school bell. They move on to a replica house and pretend to be an early South Jordan pioneer while wearing old time bonnets and aprons, cooking dinner, setting the table and hanging clothes on the line. And what is more fun than shopping at the old H&E store? Children pick up their baskets and shop for their fruit, vegetables and canned goods. They can even take them to the scale and cash register.
The Gale Center of History & Culture also offers a monthly Terrific Tuesday program, which is family friendly and includes fun activities like arts and crafts, guest speakers, movies, games, demonstrations and storytellers.
The Gale Center of History & Culture offers art programming and a monthly Resident on Display program that spotlights an artist or photographer from South Jordan. We love to show off the amazing talent of the residents of South Jordan! The Gale Center also features, annually, a gingerbread house contest and an art show.
The Gale Center of History & Culture will celebrate its ten year anniversary on July 1, 2016. Planning for exciting, celebration activities is already underway.
We invite you to visit the Gale Center of History & Culture and experience Grandma’s House; the Schoolhouse; our farm equipment; the Dugout; and much more.
The Gale Center of History & Culture has 32 full-time, volunteer docents that allow us to be open Tuesday – Friday, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., with one full-time Museum Coordinator. For more information, or questions, please feel free to contact me at 801-254-3742.
Candy Ponzurick is the Gale Center of History and Culture Museum Coordinator. Candy is a member of the American Association for State and Local History, and the Western Museums Association. Candy is originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but has worked for South Jordan City for 20 years and greatly appreciates the museum sharing the history and story behind the development of South Jordan.
October 20, 2015
The Zoo, Arts and Parks (ZAP) Program is excited about its new-this-year partnership with the Salt Lake County Fair. We invited ZAP grantees to participate in the festivities at the fair. We're pleased to announce that the following groups will join the fun:
- Craft Lake City
- Oquirrh Mountain Symphony
- HawkWatch International
- Murray Concert Band (will perform Saturday at 11 AM)
We are thrilled to see you at the fair. If you want to learn more about the events at the Salt Lake County Fair, visit their website. Admission is free and parking is $10. We're excited to see this partnership develop!
We at the South Salt Lake Arts Council and City Hall are brimming with excitement as we see the progress that is being made on a mosaic mural project for our Central Park Community Center, located at 2830 South 200 East in South Salt Lake. Central Park is one of the nine South Salt Lake Neighborhood Centers, located in schools and community-based locations, that serve South Salt Lake’s children, youth, families, seniors, and people who work in South Salt Lake through academic, arts-based, physical fitness/recreation, social, and cultural programs at no or low cost. The centers improve quality of life and also provide a place for community involvement, volunteerism, and networking.
South Salt Lake and SSL Arts Council have been working with mural artist, Roger Whiting, on creating a mural that represents the diverse interests and cultures of youth who attend our Central Park Community Center. Roger has an impressive background in creating fabulous works of art for communities, businesses, and individuals alike. You can learn more about his work by visiting his website, rogerwhiting.com.
His passion lies in working with disadvantaged youth and helping their talents and expression find their way into the designs of his murals. Roger spent time working with the youth of South Salt Lake’s Promise After School Program in creating the ideas for the Central Park mural and how they wanted these ideas to be represented.
According to Roger, “the youth at Central Park are so creative. This project reflects the joy and enthusiasm they have for life.”
With Roger’s help, boxes of porcelain tile were smashed into small pieces, and then carefully arranged and adhered on sheets of mesh that will eventually be hung on the walls of the entrance to Central Park. The Arts Council wishes to thank the Sorenson Legacy Foundation for generously providing a portion of the funding to make this mural possible.
The photos below show the concepts the youth developed for the mural. The youth will be involved with creating the colorful mural, while Roger will work further on the black, white, and red Central Park sign, also done in mosaic, that will be placed above the mural. We are looking forward to seeing how this mural will add vibrancy to our building, but especially seeing the youth excited about their contributions to this permanent art installation. Many thanks and a shout out to the staff of Promise South Salt Lake and the Central Park After School Program for their support in allowing this project to take place.
Stop by and see the progress next time you are in the area. And we hope that this will be the first of many mosaic projects in South Salt Lake, so stay tuned!
Lesly Allen is the Arts Council Coordinator for South Salt Lake. She has a Masters degree in Community Leadership with an emphasis in Arts Administration from Westminster College. Lesly also serves on the Board of Directors for Utah Arts Alliance and Splore. Lesly has a passion for public art and using art as a way to unite and revitalize communities. Lesly is a native of Salt Lake City, has four beautiful daughters, and enjoys skiing, cycling, and riding her motorcycle.
October 20, 2015
I considered tweeting this entire post over a day or so. How would you like that flooding your feed? #NotSoMuch #IThoughtSo.
A big part of my job is wrapped up in posting and tweeting.
I love promoting all the events, performances, classes and opportunities that ZAP-funded organizations offer. I enjoy seeing the good work these organizations are doing. Mostly, I relish in connecting with the public – the people of Salt Lake County.
But I have a confession to make. I hate Facebook. Seriously. (Kind of).
Facebook and I have a love/hate relationship. I’ve dumped it… twice. My most recent return to Facebook was prompted by a need to, yet again, familiarize myself with the ever-changing medium due to a surprise-addition to a past job description. Now, with my new job (which is the best job ever!) at Salt Lake County, I’ll probably be keeping it for good.
I’m not too sad about it now. I’m ready to commit.
I’m putting down roots because of the potential, I think.
Yes, I believe in the power of social media as a marketing tool. But, even more, I believe in the power of social media as a tool for connection. In a world where people identify lack of time as the most common barrier to attending the arts ( NEA Barriers to Arts Attendance), what better way to connect with our audiences than to meet them on their phone while they’re on the go?
But how can we connect with our audiences in a more meaningful way? Social media marketing the way we currently do it works, but is it best? Does promotion, promotion, promotion ever get tiring? These are all real questions I’ve been asking. And they’re questions I don’t necessarily have the answer to. Do you?
I recently read a blog post entitled “ Bringing Backstage Onstage with Social Media.” It’s from 2013. In the break-neck world of social media, it could have been written a hundred years ago. But, honestly, I think arts organizations are still figuring this one out. I recommend you take a peek, if you haven’t already.
The author describes a few scenarios. A playwright writes a play in a storefront window while the document is projected on a screen to passersby in real time. A man creates a virtual choir – gathering voices from across the planet. A museum uses Pinterest for internal communication about museum design and programming – and all of this is pin-able and accessible to the public. What do all of these projects have in common? They proudly display the work of creating. And they invite the public to be a part of the work, too.
Social media isn’t going away. At least not any time soon. Why don’t I see more invitations like this?
We’re protective of our craft.
I understand that. There are copyrights and personal protections to consider. I get it. But, for me at least, I didn’t fall in love with theatre because I saw a play. I fell in love with theatre when I was in my first show. To me, the process was much more magical than the performance could ever be. Knowing the process helped me appreciate and love the product so much more. Is it that way for you?
Maybe it’s about vulnerability. Are we nervous about sharing the unfinished, unpolished work we do? It’s a vulnerable position to be in. A position that is displaying what is not yet done. Not yet perfected. A position that is learning. But, in my experience, it’s the vulnerable moments that make life worth living. And isn’t that what art does best? It pokes at all our vulnerable spots to show us (and remind us) we’re human.
Sorry, I’m philosophizing. Let me get back to the point. How can we share the work we do (the good, the bad and ugly) on social media? How can we remind our audiences that we’re human and it’s hard work to create and be vulnerable? How can we build real audience relationships over social media? How can we invite people to join us in the process?
And then, at some point, we will need to make connections in real life.
We will need to speak face-to-face. We will need to experience something together in real time, in person. But might social media be the impetus for this meeting? And how much more meaningful will that experience be if we’ve already built something together?
I don’t think social media is the answer to all our audience development problems. But, if we start thinking creatively (which is what we do best) about it, it could be one of the answers.
So, now I want to hear from you.
There are a lot of questions in this post. It’s pretty much full of questions. If you’re part of an arts organization, what do you think? What ideas do you have to make social media more meaningful? How are you inviting audiences to be a part of your work? If you’re a member of the public, how would you like arts organizations to relate to you on social media?
Let’s hear it. Post a comment below!
October 20, 2015
As rain splattered on the dark sidewalks between skyscrapers, I sat in a room on the twelfth floor of a hotel shrouded in blankets and ideas. I waded through everything I’d soaked in earlier that day. I was at my first Americans for the Arts Conference (#AFTAcon). Like the lightning outside, the conference theme, “Art Empowers us All,” flashed through my mind. All day long, quick strikes of inspiration lit up my mind. And I want to share seven of those thoughts -- those flashes of light -- with you. Come along on a trip through my mind -- and Chicago:
1. Artists are more powerful than we remember.
Theaster Gates, Urban Planner/Potter/Artist/Community Organizer, gave the keynote address. This thought is from him. After saying, "Artists are more powerful than we remember," he added, "but we can't do it alone. Check out his Ted Talk. He's an inspiring speaker.
2. Having power is having purpose.
This is another thought from Mr. Gates' keynote address. In response to a question about how artists can obtain the power to make real change, he stated that he doesn't know power as anything different from purpose. Purpose, in itself, is powerful.
3. Community engagement cannot be done at a desk.
I went to a lot of sessions on community engagement. Real community engagement is about empowering a community to be change makers in their place. This can't be done at a desk. It has to be done out and about. It has to be done through listening. It has to be done through building a relationship.
4. Arts were created to inspire humanity.
If we remember that the arts were created to inspire humanity, then how does this inform our discussions about equity in the arts?
5. Do the arts matter?
Nobody at the conference was arguing that the arts don't matter, but there were a lot of conversations about relevance. How does your organization stay relevant to the community? Or, in other words, why does your art matter to the community?
Hideo Mabuchi, physicist/potter and MacArthur Fellow, talked about the arts being a way to continue searching. He said that searching is good for your soul and your art. In what ways are you constantly searching?
7. Find one small thing.
We may not be able to move from A to Z all at once, but we can move from A to B. So, what's one small thing you can do?
It was an enlightening conference for me. I'm curious about what lights up for you? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments.
FYI: Did you know that Americans for the Arts will be in Salt Lake City this fall? Join us at the National Arts Marketing Project Conference!
Megan is the ZAP Grant and Communications Program Coordinator. She's the voice behind ZAP's Facebook and Twitter pages. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Community Leadership, with an emphasis in Arts & Cultural Leadership, from Westminster College. She collects children's books and loves teaching children's theatre.
October 20, 2015
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
Kimberly 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.
October 20, 2015
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!
With persistence, skill and humor, Vicki is able to effectively guide organizations and people toward their vision for the future. Congratulations, Vicki!
October 20, 2015
“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 The Birdcage , 19 years later, in his final dramatic performance, Robin Williams returns in our closing night film, BOULEVARD . 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, macro.
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.
October 20, 2015
The 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.