This coming weekend, we start getting knee-deep in festival season; county fairs, music series, and various markets will all be kicking inm esp
ecially now that most every school is out for summer break. The Ogden Arts Festival will take over Historic 25th Street and the Ogden Amphitheater from June 11-12, featuring local and visiting artists and musicians, as well as cool vendors and food, plus kids activities for the wee ones to enjoy. Today we chat with the Festival Director, Amir Jackson, about what this year's events have in store. (All pictures provided courtesy of the OAF.
Hey Amir, first thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am the Founder and Director of a local nonprofit art organization for youth called Nurture the Creative Mind. Our primary focus is to empower young people and help them establish a positive self-image, while developing marketable skills through the arts.
What originally brought you to Utah and what made you decide to stay?
I came to Utah about 15 years ago by way of the United States Air Force. I was a Security Police Officer for almost six years. HUA! (Heard, Understood and Acknowledged.)
What made you decide to take an interest in the local art scene?
When I started the Nurture the Creative Mind Foundation, the local art scene became interconnected with the perceived value of the organization and our overall vision. I made it a point to advocate for the arts outside of our organization, believing that all things art-related, indirectly or directly, affected us.
Prior to the OAF, what other projects had you worked on locally?
The history of Nurture the Creative Mind goes back almost 10 years now, and it is difficult to remember all the many projects, but a few that come to mind are our Blank Page Magazine
, which was Utah's first youth-driven street magazine, our youth radio show on 88.1 FM, the 25th Street Art Market, and the NCM Street Piano Project, which is a project where youth in our organization and other community members paint pianos and place them outside of shops and on corners in Ogden.
For those who aren't aware, tell us the history of the Ogden Arts Festival.
The Ogden Arts Festival was founded by a random collection of community members who all felt Ogden needed our own arts festival. This group then pooled what money they had and, along with some minor grant funding, were able to begin what is now the Ogden Arts Festival. It was truly an organic, community-based solution to what was seen as a problem.
How did you first get involved and eventually become Director of the Fest?
Our organization first became involved with the Ogden Arts Festival about five years ago. We wanted to become more involved in the community, and the Arts Festival seemed like a natural fit. We had our own area that we programmed with interactive art activities, mostly for kids, like a painting and magnet poetry wall, music petting zoo and dance instruction. The Ogden Arts Festival board became a small collection of its founding members, only consisting of four members. For years, these four members carried the burden of planning this large event, and had reached a point that they felt it was time for someone else to take the reins and grow the festival. I without hesitation asked that our organization be
considered, and thankfully they agreed to pass on the Arts Festival to us. This move really does have a multidimensional positive impact for Nurture the Creative Mind, the Ogden Arts Festival, the art community and the larger community as a whole.
What's the process like for you and your staff when picking art, music and other aspects that will be featured?
Let's start here: I do not have a staff. The individuals I work with do so because they all genuinely care about arts and the Ogden community, so to that degree we are all on the same level. Yes, I am the Director, but my voice is no more meaningful than any one other committee member's, and that is how our committee functions when approaching all aspects of the festival. Mutual respect and collaboration are cornerstones of our group, and I believe that the positive outcomes of this type of approach will be evident in this year's festival.
How has it been working with the city and utilizing 25th Street for the festival?
The city is a great supporter of the festival and has been a pleasure to work with. I believe they understand the need of having such an event, and the benefit and importance to the community that it continues to grow.
On the art side of things, who are some of the prominent local artists you plan on showcasing?
That is a difficult question to answer, because there are so many. Let's go with Vanessa and Jasey Colunga, who are a brother and sister duo that people should definitely look out for. Vanessa specializes in pop-culture figures and mixed-media portraits, and Jasey is a jet engine mechanic who moonlights as an airbrush artist. He will be painting one of the Nurture the Creative Mind Foundation's vans, live at the festival. These two definitely have more talent than should be allowed in one family.
Looking at music, who have you got for the lineup that people should check out?
Our music lineup for this year is definitely one of the highlights of this year's festival. There are a lot of people who don't have as much of an intimate connection to visual as they do music. We understood this, and were intentional about making sure our festival appealed to those people as well. We also wanted to make sure that the type of music offered was varied and diverse. It was with this in mind that we booked solo acoustic folk acts like Naomi Harlan, traditional groups like The Chamber Orchestra Ogden, modern rock groups like Candy's River House and Holy Water Buffalo, and ska bands like Show Me Island.
As great as our musical lineup is this year, it is not to out-do
or outshine our other theater and dance performances, including the Municipal Ballet Company, BBoy
Federation, Grassroots Shakespeare Company, and the Ziegfeld Theater.
One of the big items for the festival is always the food area. What have you got coming in this year?
We are featuring eight food vendors, all local Ogden, for this year's festival. They are The Bickering Sisters, Lucky Slice, A Good Life Cafe', Utah Pink Drink, The Junk Lovin' Baker, The Dailey Rise, The Backyard Bistro, and Crepes etc. I can almost guarantee that there will be something good for everyone.
For those who have never attended the festival, what do you best suggest to people to check out first?
The artists booths for sure—and don't just walk by, please stop and talk to the artist. Artists and creatives are eclectic people. Each will have an interesting backstory, and I encourage you to probe them on it. After you have taken in the art, head to our interactive art area and express your inner artist by making your own art.
This year is the 13th annual festival. What are your thoughts going into it and the history it's had so far?
13 years is a long time for anything to stay around, especially these days, right? Impermanence
is like the new cool, and as the Founder of an organization, I have the utmost respect for anyone who has a vision and puts forth the effort to see that vision become successful. The previous Arts Festivals have done a great job managing the festival, doing much with very little funding, support and staff. That being said, I am excited for the future of the festival and the possibilities that future brings for Ogden.
After the fest, what can we expect from you and your staff over the rest of 2016?
The Ogden Arts Festival Committee has decided that we would like to cultivate arts all year. So you can expect many things from us in between this year's arts festival and next year's some of those things include multiple music series and a Taste Of Town food event. We believe or number one priority is to help nurture and grow the arts culture within our community, and the success of a Arts Festival itself will be a natural byproduct of those efforts.