August 10, 2016
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.
Several 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.
Shards 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.
Another 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 love genealogy!
In 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 heritage.
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
We 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.
Our 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 community.
Busloads of students from throughout the county and beyond visited the exhibits and learned about them from Latino high school students, whom we trained as docents.
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.
We 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 | Nuevos Capítulos.
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
Thanks 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.
One 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.
Our 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
Susan 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, 2010).
August 09, 2016
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!
August 03, 2016
I had been a patron of the Off Broadway Theatre for more than 15 years before
I learned that the name of the theatre came from the fact that 300 South in
Salt Lake City, just around the corner from our 272 S. Main entrance, was also
named “Broadway.” Okay, now I get it!
Frankly, I had thought the name came from the fact that everything about this theatre is a little bit “off.” The humor is cheesy, the sets are simple, the “special effects” are anything but. I’ve often told people that the only thing classy about the joint is the way we spell “Theatre.”
OBT's original parody, Transformers, runs Fridays, Saturdays, and Mondays, August 5 through September 10.
But what OBT lacks in show biz glamour and big production budgets is
more than made up for by the energy, the attitude, and the feeling of family shared by our cast, our crew, and
our audiences. For this I credit our founders, Eric and Sandy Jensen.
People who enjoy zany, improv-laden, bad-pun-dripping, physical and verbal comedy absolutely love our shows, and come back time and again. And soon, they feel right at home, enveloped in both the madcap humor and the warm welcome of acceptance that permeates the OBT.
Take for example, Andy. (I’ve changed his name, to protect his privacy.) To most of us, Andy was just another kid in our cast—a new friend to joke around with and to spend time with. We didn’t know his back story: all we knew was that he was a dedicated, responsible boy who learned and performed his part well and always seemed happy at rehearsals and performances.
But, after the show closed, we got the following note from his parents:
We first heard about your theater through friends, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience so much we ended up purchasing season tickets! At the end of one of your shows, it was announced that there were open casting calls for all ages at an upcoming performance. My 12 year old son begged if he could audition. With no previous experience, we weren't sure what the chances were of him being cast, but decided it would be a good experience for him.
Last summer he went through some difficult times in his relationship with his non-custodial father. His confidence was shattered, his self-esteem diminished. It was heart wrenching for all of us to work through, and we were concerned how he would further be affected if he did not make the cut.
Long story short, he was cast in an Off Broadway Theatre original parody! His entire demeanor changed and he instantly believed in himself again. Each week he looked forward to every rehearsal, he quickly formed a bond with the cast that was very encouraging and welcoming of him. He would tell others he loved it so much because everyone there was like his family.
We wanted to personally thank you for the opportunity that was provided, and let you know how this experience positively made a difference in the course of our son's life. He is back to himself and seems to have a new perspective on life. He is getting better grades in school and we truly believe this small part he played in the show was the stepping stone he needed to re-build his self-esteem. He has since joined Center Stage Players to continue his development in the art, and is flourishing immensely.
again, we express our deepest gratitude.
Wow! When we got that email, our hearts were touched. The next time I filled out an application for ZAP funds and saw the question “What value does the community receive from your activities?” I thought of Andy, and I shared his story.
OBT plays and our in-house improv comedy troupe, Laughing Stock, are all about fun and comedy and laughter. Our mission is to share that laughter and that zest for life with everyone—those in a great mood having a wonderful week, as well as those who are going through hard times or suffering from being dealt a rotten hand in life.
The stories go on and on: the “wish child” from Make-A-Wish Utah who got to come up onstage and perform in a Laughing Stock skit . . . the artist on disability who thanked us for “allowing” him to help build sets, who has become a valued member of our stage crew . . . the actor in Chicago who recently wrote about the time he played a train in an OBT show, and said that watching the other actors improvise on our stage taught him a sense of freedom that has made him a better performer.
We partner with several local nonprofit organizations that serve children and adults struggling with various challenges, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, YouthCare, HopeKids, Odyssey House, and Student Veterans of America. We provide them with free or discounted tickets for their clients, and have enjoyed hearing the stories of the wonderful time they have at our shows. What a great family to be a part of!
As one who has performed and teched in countless shows in a variety of theaters, I know how fun being in a play can be. But I also know how unique the Off Broadway Theatre is, and I’m so grateful to be a part of the OBT family. We appreciate Salt Lake County’s Zoo, Arts, and Parks program—and the citizens and taxpayers of Salt Lake County—for supporting our operations. Through OBT and other ZAP-supported organizations, ZAP truly is serving and benefiting families and individuals in our community.
Let me conclude by sharing one more letter from an appreciative parent:
Dear Eric and
Last Saturday my family and I had the opportunity to go and watch the Peter Pan and the Pirates play on the 2:00 pm function thanks to your support. We have never had the chance to take our children to an event like this one, and we weren't sure what to expect. Well, my kids had such a great time, and I laughed out loud so much, that I forgot for couple of hours about our daily routine with the kids (I have two children with spinal muscular atrophy), and we just enjoyed our time there at the OBT! What a great time we had! And all thanks to you!
May God keep blessing you and your family with this enormous talent and hearts, we certainly appreciate it!
So, maybe the Off Broadway Theatre is a little “off.” We go off book. We break the fourth wall. We sometimes get more laughs out of forgetting our lines than from delivering them properly.
But when it comes to what really matters: family, community, service—all the things that ZAP is about—we couldn’t be more “on.”
OBT Fever: Catch it!
Jeff Driggs is on the OBT board, and has had the pleasure of performing in a few of their shows.
August 02, 2016
A winner has been chosen for the free VIP passes to the Wasatch International Food Festival presented by the Utah Cultural Celebration Center (August 19-20)! Thanks for all that participated! We hope you'll still attend this event and check out the variety of foods our community has to offer! Visit the festival website here for more details.
July 27, 2016
“I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.”
I come from a family of immigrants.
My aunts and uncles can tell me what the ports they left from in Calabria, Italy or Colon, Panama or Havana, Cuba smelled like – preserving
details and turning them to folklore is a family pastime. Once they passed
through Ellis Island, they assumed their new “Americanized” last names and took
every path toward assimilation possible – including banning the speaking of any
language other than English for the generations who would be lucky enough to be
born in the new land of promise. Their sacrifices were numerous and have reaped
cumulative rewards. I stand as evidence that their hard work and harder decisions
have a positive impact.
This story is generations old for my family. But, everyday it plays out anew for those who have arrived more recently and are navigating the rigorous landscape of maximizing their experience for the benefit of the generations that will come after. These families comprise a large number of those served by the Salty Cricket Composers Collective’s educational outreach program, GraceNotes.
At Jackson Elementary School
Based at Jackson Elementary
School in the Fairpark community west of downtown Salt Lake City, GraceNotes
uses the El Sistema model to promote positive social change and empowerment
through rigorous, high quality music education. There are several distinctions
about an El Sistema model, which can be found at the El Sistema USA
website – but the main points are that we use the orchestra from the very first day as a microcosm of society in
order to help participants learn the importance of the pursuit of individual
and corporate excellence; we are seeking to create empowered citizens, rather than just skillful performers through
intensive and comprehensive musical and character training; we aim to use music
and its power in communities’ lives to create a richer, more powerful
experience for families and children alike by fostering significant cross
cultural exchange, instead of merely token exchanges. And, after completing our
pilot program, we can affirm wholeheartedly: IT WORKS!
The Story of S
Take for instance the case of a boy we’ll simply call “S.” S had a reputation when his mother signed him up for our program. He had been known to throw classroom furniture when frustrated. His mother’s motivation when she signed him up was simply trying to avoid the many negative possibilities that exist for angry young people with unsupervised hours. His motivation for attending was keeping his parents off his back at home. No matter the case, the first 4.5 months was hard for everyone. S was an obstructionist during our program, his mother was disconnected, and our teaching staff was at their wits' end trying to figure out how to motivate S while meeting the needs of our other students in the classroom.
One day, in a desperate attempt to make this arrangement work, I offered S a position in our advanced ensemble, enumerating the new responsibilities that would come along with that offer. Lo and behold, the offering of something to him that he had not earned, but was being freely given to him eventually proved to be a turning point. S took seriously his responsibility within our program, practiced above and beyond what was expected, improved classroom behavior, and aimed to live up to our programmatic expectations.
Of course, generally these sorts of changes
don't happen easily. Over spring break, S went missing. His panicked parents
contacted my husband and I at 9 pm, asking for his last known whereabouts and
eagerly accepting our offers to canvas the neighborhood for him. As I walked with S’s mother and another mother
from our program, I learned that S had spent time in Guatemala with an aunt,
waiting for his family to bring him and his 7 brothers to the US. During that
time, he had already been recruited by a cartel – at the age of 8. Since his
arrival in the US, S had been lashing out in anger, refusing to communicate,
and demonstrating a terrifying level of apathy towards his family. His mother
had consulted counselors, teachers, and a variety of professionals, to no
During our 900th lap of the darkened west side streets, S appeared at home. When the search party ran to see him and find out where he had been, we found a defiant young man, unwilling to share any information. I reached out to him, telling him how much his presence means to me and to his peers and that he has a value that cannot be communicated. He shed one tear from each eye, and leaned in to hug me. His mother reports it was the first sign of emotion and connection she had seen from him in 3 years.
Over the final 2 months of
the pilot program, S improved exponentially in all ways possible. He went on to
become a true leader in the program. He would stay late to put away music
stands and instruments. He asked the violin teaching artist for extra time with
her so he could learn quicker. He “won” our first ever “blind audition” for a
solo. He showed up at my house on holidays so he could practice with us. He
reportedly became a more engaged student during the school day – he even earned
honor roll his last quarter.
S is now ready to move on to middle school. He’s already planning his route home, so that he can stop in and participate in any way possible with us at Jackson during the school year. He’s also taken the initiative to start his musical career at his new school during their summer program. His mother called me today to verify that the reason he woke up and got out of the house earlier than anyone else was because he came to our summer program. She keeps me in her phone and knows she’s not alone in her pursuit to help her son build a future for himself.
It is a special and humbling experience to see the power of music impacting lives and helping preserve that most American of dreams: that those who come here seeking an empowered future for generations to come are able to accomplish it. While John Adams envisioned at least 3 generations before music would be on the horizon, we’re skipping ahead a bit. We are using music as a means of helping families – particularly those who have arrived here recently – achieve futures that are empowered and prosperous. And, the story of S is just the tip of the iceberg – we’ve got other stories that pack as much punch. We can’t wait to see how the growth of our program continues to spell the growth of opportunities for these young people, and fulfill the visions of those who sacrifice for them!
Victoria Petro-Eschler is the Executive Director of the Salty Cricket Composers Collective. She is devoted to the ideal of using music as a powerful influence in the life of her community and giving voice to the voiceless – a mission instilled in her by her background in music therapy, musicology, and nonprofit management. Victoria is proud to be a part of the vibrant Salt Lake community and is enthusiastic about the possibilities presented for the future through high quality arts education.
July 26, 2016
A winner has been chosen for this week's giveaway to see CHESS THE MUSICAL, presented by Midvale Arts Council. If you'd still like to attend, check out their website here for ticket details!
July 20, 2016
In March 2016, Salt Lake Acting Company (SLAC), in conjunction with Flying Bobcat Theatrical Laboratory and Red Fred Project, produced a world premiere play unlike any other. CLIMBING WITH TIGERS came to life onstage through the imagination and bravery of Nathan Glad, the creativity and compassion of Dallas Graham and the Red Fred Project, and the collaboration and innovation of Flying Bobcat Theatrical Laboratory and Salt Lake Acting Company. Never before in SLAC’s history has one project brought together so many creative community partners.
About Nathan Glad
Nathan Glad is a 9-year-old firecracker – smart as a whip, total crowd-pleaser, and wise beyond his years. Nathan was born with a disease called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, more commonly known as brittle bones disease. He breaks his bones on average once a month – usually a long bone like a femur or humerus. He has been through a dozen surgeries in his short life to place rods in his legs and arms. Nathan’s biggest goal right now is to walk. He works through physical therapy to get to the point where he can stand and, hopefully, someday take his first steps.
About Red Fred Project
Red Fred Project was started by artist and ‘idea man’ Dallas Graham in 2010. He had created the colorful, adventurous Jolly Troop – a flock of bird friends all formed out of commas and exclamation points from different fonts – but wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. Dallas decided to use these birds to help tell the stories of children with critical illnesses. Nathan Glad was Red Fred Project’s first “creative” (what Dallas calls his young authors) and his story “Climbing With Tigers” was its first published book.
About Flying Bobcat Theatrical Laboratory
Robert Scott Smith and Alexandra Harbold are local actors and directors who share an eye for theatrical imagery and an appetite for performance-based work. Together they formed Flying Bobcat Theatrical Laboratory, dedicated to exploring the possibilities of storytelling in performance through language, movement, technology, and design.
The process of taking 'CLIMBING WITH TIGERS' from the page to the stage
When the brains behind Red Fred Project and Flying Bobcat first hatched the idea of turning Nathan’s book into a play, the playwright that came to mind to adapt it was Troy Deutsch. Troy is an alumnus of the University of Utah’s Actor Training Program and has been living and working as an actor and playwright in New York City for the last ten years. Robert Scott Smith approached him about adapting Nathan’s book for the stage and Troy jumped at the chance.
After a workshop with local actors, Robert Scott, Alexandra, and Dallas approached Salt Lake Acting Company to see if we would be interested in producing this play. SLAC has long been known for taking bold theatrical risks, and recently expanded that to include plays for children. This seemed like the right project at the right time and we enthusiastically said YES!
Not only unique in its creation, CLIMBING WITH TIGERS also came with some exciting theatrical challenges and possibilities. The main character, Blue – a little blackbird who is afraid to fly because he has delicate bones (played by Austin Archer) – starts off as a two-dimensional cartoon character projected onto a screen, but with the help of a magical narrator (played by Robert Scott Smith), he becomes a three-dimensional, real-life character ready to go on an adventure to meet the mystical Thunder Tiger whose tail is known to have magical healing powers. Blue meets up with the famous Jolly Troop – all two-dimensional colorful cartoon birds – and together they take flight.
The creative challenges were how to combine these worlds – one with live actors and one with animated birds. We hired Jarom Neumann, a Story Artist currently studying in the animation program at BYU, to create the animated world of the Jolly Troop. His designs and effects were captivating, and with the help of our incredible technical team, they transformed SLAC’s Chapel Theatre into another world.
Under Alexandra Harbold’s direction, with original music by Kevin Mathie, and the artistic oversight of SLAC Executive Artistic Director Cynthia Fleming, CLIMBING WITH TIGERS was a feast for the eyes, ears, and imagination.
The ripple effects
Our production of CLIMBING WITH TIGERS was seen by nearly 3,000 people including special guests from Nathan Glad’s class, and children and families from Shriner’s Hospital, Ronald McDonald House, Angel’s Hands Foundation, Boys and Girls Club, Asian Association of Utah, and Christmas Box House all free of charge.
American Theatre magazine, the nation’ premier publication dedicated to theatre, visited SLAC for a week to observe the tech rehearsals of CLIMBING WITH TIGERS and wrote an in-depth feature on the production which was published in their May 2016 issue. Check it out here!
Perhaps the most exciting and impactful ripples of this production came in the form of funding for four more Red Fred Project books. One will be funded by a father and daughter from Colorado who saw the show together and decided they would like to fund Dallas’s next project. The daughter has cerebral palsy and was incredibly inspired by the work Red Fred Project is doing. The other donor was a mother who saw the play with her three children and afterward told Dallas she’d like to fund three more books. Each book costs $15,000 to create and publish, and so securing funding for the next four books is a tremendous feat. We could not be more excited for Dallas and Red Fred Project as they continue their vital work.
CLIMBING WITH TIGERS was an incredibly special journey for SLAC. We are proud to work with the most talented artists and to be surrounded by the most generous community. This project would not have been possible without their fearless collaboration and support.
Shannon Musgrave is Associate Artistic Director at Salt Lake Acting Company, where she is involved in season planning and oversees all new play development initiatives. She has her Master’s Degree in Arts Management from American University in Washington D.C. and has acted and directed locally.
July 19, 2016
4 winners have been chosen for our #ZAPTicketTuesday giveaway to the 2016 Craft Lake City DIY Festival. Stay tuned for our next giveaway, and check out the festival at the Gallivan Center August 12-14!
It’s hard to appreciate the beauty of a symphony by glancing at the score. Similarly, plays were not meant to be experienced on paper, but in fully-realized productions. Since 1985, Pioneer Theatre Company (PTC) has been inviting middle and high school students to experience “required reading” brought to life on stage by professional theatre artists at Wednesday student matinees.
An Affordable Intro to Great Theatre
Each season, PTC’s student matinees bring great cultural experiences to thousands of young people in our community at little or no cost. A Salt Lake County student who attends every available matinee during his or her high school career can see 28 Broadway-quality productions for only $2 a show. Title I schools attend for free. After each performance, the students participate in talk-backs with some of the same actors seen in current Broadway smash hits like Hamilton and School of Rock.
Clin Eaton, a theatre teacher at Riverton High School, has been bringing students to PTC’s Wednesday student matinees since the school opened in 1999. He calls the matinee program “an institution.”
“The matinee program broadens students’ horizons,” says Eaton, “They’re able to see classics – like Music Man and Fiddler on the Roof – which they wouldn’t be exposed to otherwise.”
A New Environment - a New Perspective
The funds PTC receives from ZAP are used to underwrite transportation to and from the theatre for all Salt Lake County schools. Bringing students to the controlled environment of the theatre provides them with the opportunity to see a production complete with professional costumes, lighting, and orchestration; and gives them an opportunity to explore not just the material but elements like design and direction.
Rett Neale, a drama and English teacher from West High School explains why support for busing is so important.
“Let me put it this way: it’s like when a visiting teacher comes in – an artist in the classroom or something – and the visiting person says exactly what the teacher has said a hundred times before. But suddenly the students are like, ‘That makes so much sense!’ [Coming to the theatre is important because] changing location changes perspective, and I would say opens perspective.”
Neale says that connecting with peers in the audience and seeing diverse faces on stage has a positive impact on students’ perception of the value of theatre.
“Seeing a show in an audience filled with peers makes what they’re seeing on stage more legitimate. They look around the theatre and see people their own age cheering and applauding at The Count of Monte Cristo and they think, ‘Oh, musicals might be cool.’
“On stage it’s less about seeing someone their own age than someone of the same ethnic background. For example, in Two Dollar Bill seeing a strong African-American character really spoke to the students. Whether or not they agreed with that character’s position, they talked about how they admired the actor and his strong portrayal of the character.”
Forming Their Own Opinions
Middle school teacher Aimee Rohling attended PTC’s student matinees in high school and now brings her upper level theatre students from Summit Academy every year. She says attending a production is “a great culmination” of what her students learn in the classroom, including transferable skills like public speaking, teamwork, communication, and listening. Her students enjoy the post-show talk-backs where they are always interested in what the actors have to say.
Recalling memorable experiences at matinee performances, Rohling remembers her students’ reactions to Deathtrap and the show’s same-sex kiss that caused a local controversy. “My students loved Deathtrap – they had read about it in the media before we saw it – but seeing the show gave them a chance to form their own opinions,” Rohling says.
At the end of the day, that’s exactly what we hope the program will do – help students think critically about what they’ve seen and interpret it for themselves. By attending matinees, students learn that theatre is a creative lens through which to examine performance, history, psychology, and literature. Most of all, we hope the program encourages students to become lifelong patrons of the arts – returning to find new ways to broaden their perspectives, explore the human experience, or just enjoy an evening out.
In Their Own Words
Kaitlin Spas is the Director of Annual Giving for Pioneer Theatre Company. Her interest in theatre was piqued by working in the college scene shop as an undergraduate at Hollins University. She continued to help pay her way through school as a stage hand on the world premiere of Divorce! The Musical while earning her MA in Public Diplomacy from USC. Now she works full time connecting people who create great theatre with those who have the resources to support it. The first show she saw at PTC was the 1994 production of Fiddler on Roof – which was also the opening musical of her first full year working at the theatre. Spooky.
July 12, 2016
2 winners have been chosen to win a pair of tickets good for any show during Salt Lake City Arts Council's 2016 Twilight Concert Series (July 21 - September 1). Check back for our next giveaway!