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what makes us special makes us strong


October 20, 2015

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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.”

shrek musical in parade

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?

cast of shrek

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

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.


meet vicki bourns


October 20, 2015

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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.  

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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.  

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(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


October 20, 2015

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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“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 Horne

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


October 20, 2015

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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!

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It Begins

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.

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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.

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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.

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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


October 20, 2015

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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. 

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Students created the decorations for the Christmas tree at the White House. 

Can Art Appreciation Start Earlier?

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


what happened to our front porch


October 20, 2015

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Patrick Overton, in his book Re-Building the Front Porch of America: Essays on the Art of Community Making states:

“We used to gather together on the front porch – families, friends, and neighbors. Not for any special reason, just to be together, to converse with each other. That was enough. This is where we shared news about our lives, talked about the events going on around us, and caught up with each other as family, friends, neighbors, and community. This was how we shared life and how we made meaning. This was also how we made community. It was intentional. It was spontaneous. It was fun.”

“We are losing our front porch. We are losing our gathering place. It is being replaced with decks in the back yard and contemporary architecture dominated by the garage showcasing the treasured symbol of our mobility and freedom – the automobile. We move fast and we move in a lot of different directions. We learn a lot and we learn it quickly – but we don’t always know what to do with what it is we learn.”

Bringing the Front Porch Back

Midvale City is making a conscious effort to bring front porches back to our community. The arts have a powerful ability to act as front porches. They provide opportunities to gather together and tell our stories, share news, have fun and to be unified. The arts opportunities we provide give a voice to our community.

This summer on our front porch, our community will have the chance to visit with old friends, make new friends, and experience a sense of community pride. Midvale City wants to invite the surrounding community to visit with us on our front porch this summer. Our front porch, located in the Midvale City Park – 455 West 7500 South, will be open every Friday night (and some additional dates) at 7:30 pm for visits. All of our concerts are free and feature many different styles of music and dance.

Gather at Midvale's Front Porch

  • June 12 – Body Logic Dance Company (Enjoy Midvale’s professional dance company.)
  • June 19 – Mama’s Wranglers (Be prepared to tap your toes, clap your hands and sing-a-long with this family band based in Las Vegas.)
  • June 26 – Assembly 6.0(A cover band that plays many of your favorite songs from classic rock to pop across many different eras.)
  • July 3 – 23rd Army Band(Utah’s premier military music unity. This will be a great concert to celebrate the birth of our country!)
  • July 10 – 18 – “Once Upon a Mattress” (A twist on the classic tale of the Princess and the Pea. Nightly except Sunday. Tickets are $7 – general admission, $5 – children & seniors, $25 – family pass. Midvale residents receive a $1 discount/ticket.)
  • July 24 – Rumba Libre (An all-star band the delivers the best Salsa and Latin Jazz in Salt Lake City.)
  • July 31 – Caleb Chapman’s Crescent Super Band (One of the best professional bands in the world that is comprised entirely of young musicians.)

This is our Front Porch:

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-Suzanne Walker, Midvale Arts Council

Suzanne Walker was recently hired as the Executive Director of the Midvale Arts Council where she has been a volunteer for nearly 20 years. She has produced over 40 theatrical productions for the council and has also been privileged to be on stage and behind the scenes directing, choreographing, or costuming many of those productions. She enjoys watching her children play basketball, soccer and football. She also enjoys singing, playing the piano, sewing and cooking. 


dreaming of summer nights


October 20, 2015

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06.03.15 blog post

What a great time it is to emerge from our winter cocoon and see what’s going on with all our Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts and Parks (ZAP) organizations! Performing arts organizations are unveiling their spring programming. Summer concerts are being announced. New exhibits are coming. Indoor and out – we’re all stirring ourselves. As Salt Lake County residents, we’re fortunate to have so many options, and we can take pride that part of our tax contributions go to supporting these same organizations that entertain and teach us.

With all this available, I’m connecting with friends to schedule events over the next few months. Now Playing Utah is a great place to start. It’s a central location to read about upcoming shows and exhibits with links to purchase tickets. I can also browse events that I didn’t even consider but am reading about nevertheless because the information is all right there. Public radio, local newspapers, and posters at my favorite Salt Lake County haunts remind me to scan the lineups of the concert bands coming to town.  Online, I’m also quickly scanning for discounted days and extended summer hours for the zoo, aviary, and the museums so I can share. The quicker it is to look up the information on dates, times, and prices, the easier. And if I can share the info quickly with friends via Facebook or IM on my mobile phone – even better!

I love the summer music scene in Salt Lake County – whether it’s the Red Butte Series, the Twilight Concert series, or Sandy Amphitheater. Last year, Lauryn Hill kicked off the Twilight Concert series, and there were thousands of people milling around, grooving to pre-headliners well before sunset. Owing to the support of the Salt Lake County ZAP program, the accessible price points of $5 per concert and $35 for the entire concert series allow a broad cross-section of us Salt Lake County residents to attend. It’s a great chance to see friends I haven’t seen since last summer, and the buzz of recognition is what makes Salt Lake awesome – large enough to attract great artistic talent and small enough to bump into people you recognize. Some people come early to pick their ideal picnic spot and be close enough to the stage without finding themselves in the middle of the dancing.  Some flitter from booth to booth to check out the local artwork and vendors. My friends and I choose a spot a few rows just in front of stage left – a little cozy I admit – but perfect to see the musicians up close. No one minds the bumping as people move in and out of the crowd. The thin drizzle of rain that began as Ms. Hill took the stage, and continued through her entire set, didn’t keep us from dancing. A couple of hours later, there were enough of us still there at the end to ensure a well-echoed encore plea to Ms. Hill.

If Lauryn Hill isn’t your vibe, there’s a good chance one or more of the acts coming to Red Butte, Twilight, or Sandy this year will be. I love the broad programming that goes into each of these venues, whether jazz, big band, pop, rock or country.  On a lovely summer evening I can be moving my feet or thrumming my fingers to the beat. I’m already looking forward to this year’s musicians.

 So what are you and your friends planning for in the next few months?

- Grace Lin, ZAP Tier I Advisory Board Member


local arts agencies get a boost in salt lake county


October 20, 2015

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The Salt Lake County Council approved funding for the first four arts councils funded through the ZAP Local Arts Agency Advancement Initiative.  The Tier II Advisory Board reviewed 4 applications in February and noted they all deserved funding.  This initiative supports the County’s goals to ...
  1. Enhance Salt Lake County qualify of Life
  2. Facilitate collaborative partnerships
  3. Deliver excellent customer service

Local Arts Agencies hold a special function within the disciplines that the ZAP program funds.  They understand and serve their community through the arts.  They are quite active in their communities, with a clear focus on public programming.  They use the arts (all disciplines) to enhance the quality of life for all who live in as well as visit their community.  Cottonwood Heights Arts Council, Holladay Arts Council, Midvale Arts Council and the South Salt Lake Arts Council will each receive up to $10,000 a year for three years to hire part-time staff. 

Most local arts agencies are all volunteer organizations.  Because public programs and events are labor-intensive, these volunteer-based arts councils are very busy.  The arts councils with staffing resources can provide more and enhanced services to their communities.  While revenues are increasing after a long recession, the ZAP program wants all local arts agencies to have the opportunity to grow and better serve their constituents.  It is very difficult to move from an all-volunteer organization to one with paid staff.  This initiative assists with this transition, providing training for the professional staff members as well as matching start-up funds.  The growth in ZAP revenues will be used to fund LAAA while continuing the Tier II funding process.


a sense of place celebrating a successful partnership


October 20, 2015

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Wednesday, March 26th the Holladay Arts Council presented Repertory Dance Theatre (RDT) at Olympus High School of the Performing Arts.  This collaboration allowed RDT to mentor students at Olympus High School (OHS) in dance and stage management.   Danell Hathaway, director of dance at OHS, indicated her students rehearsed at 6:00 a.m. to prepare for their role in “Dancing the Green Map”.  Students also learned from RDT’s technical staff how to prepare for and run a professional dance concert.  After the performance, I watched them take the dance floor off and was impressed with their swift and focused work.  

Kudos to Holladay Arts for spearheading this collaborative effort between the Granite School District, Holladay City and RDT for the "Sense of Place" dance concert.  The performance was wonderful.  I enjoyed seeing Olympus High School dance students performing with RDT.  Holladay Mayor Rob Dahle provided a warm welcome and acknowledged Audrey Kenyon for all her efforts to pull off such an accomplishment!   The entire evening created a “sense of place”.  Everyone involved deserves credit for a job well done.

Holladay Arts Council and Repertory Dance Theatre are grant recipients of Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts and Parks.  This collaboration demonstrates the community values of ZAP!

​-Vicki Bourns, ZAP Program Director


brown bag series make over


October 20, 2015

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Familiar with the saying “Two heads are better than one?”  We are.  

ZAP is thrilled to be giving our Brown Bag Series a make-over and partnering with Utah Cultural Alliance (UCA) in 2014.  

Why the change?  Simply put: 
1. Many of our participants overlap 
2. We are looking for ways to maximize resources, while minimizing duplication of effort and 
3. We hope to create even more “off the hook” opportunities for networking!