You know it when you see it, even if someone else might not see the same “it” you do. You know it when it makes you laugh or cry; you know it when you find yourself thinking about it for days and weeks after you first encounter it. It can be tricky and confounding, or it can be disarming in its simplicity. And those who bring it into our lives make it better on a daily basis.
Art has always been the stuff of controversy, and a crest on waves of societal change. In a world that seems ever more uncertain and complex, it also feels more necessary than ever. That’s why City Weekly once again honors some of the finest work by local painters, actors, dancers, comedians, writers, craftspeople, filmmakers and more, in addition to the many people who support that work through their efforts. Our readers voted for their choices in a variety of categories, and City Weekly contributors added their suggestions for can’t-miss people and places that make Utah as magnificent a home for lovers of art as for those who create it.
No winner or nominee can possibly satisfy everyone; such is the elusive nature of art embodied by the jester on our cover. As we’ve said before, these awards aren’t about ending the conversation. We want to start that conversation, and keep Utah talking about—and supporting—art year-round.
Arts & Entertainment editor
BEST GIRL-POWER LOCAL COMIC BOOK
It hasn't always been easy for women to break into the male-dominated world of comic books, whether as creators or as the heroes of their stories. The local tandem of writer Marlene Schmidt and artist Susana Carasa are doing their part with the story of a teen girl named Jenna in a futuristic world where "ultimate thrill" jet-pack flying has become a popular—and illegal—extreme sport. One energetic issue is already complete, and their Patreon campaign is an effort to complete the four- or five-issue series. (SR)
BEST FEST FOR THE REST
Urban Arts Festival
Every art festival in town has its niche, whether it's major artists from around the country or craftsmen from across the state. But the Urban Arts Festival focuses on the genres and disciplines that aren't normally given center stage. The Utah Arts Alliance has worked hard to give local street artists, jewelers, photographers, sculptors, fashion designers, dancers and the indie music community a home where they run the show. It offers a unique showcase for underground art, where alternative artists can display their work for thousands of attendees without getting lost in the shuffle. (GS)
BEST OGDEN LITERARY ADDITION
Booked On 25th
The city of Ogden has gone through many changes the past few years, with long-standing businesses being forced to close their doors and new ones opening up. One of the best additions to the Historic 25th Street is Booked On 25th—a new- and used bookstore focused on getting customers hooked on both amazing classics and newer works. Along with bringing in authors to do book signings and hosting live poetry and reading sessions, the shop is helping revitalize the area with new local blood and good books. (GS)
147 W. 25th Street, Ogden, 801-394-4891, BookedOn25th.com
HARDEST-WORKING DANCE SHOWCASE
Myriad Dance Co.: Creator's Grid
There aren't a lot of chances for the dance community to mingle and mix disciplines. But every few months, Myriad Dance Co. is able to bring together a couple dozen performers and choreographers to create original works for a one-night-only performance at Metro Bar. These shows are a rare opportunity to see ballet dancers mix it up with modern style, or hip-hop-influenced dancers go classical. You might even see talent from various companies, both major and independent, side-by-side moving to music you'd otherwise never see them perform to. There's far more that unites the dance community than you might suspect. (GS)
BEST ALTERNATIVE-POETRY SHOWS
In the wake of the local poetry scene seeing many of its most familiar faces go into retirement, and a corresponding influx of new talent, Wasatch Wordsmiths rose to become the prominent face of the new poetry movement in SLC. The nonprofit has organized monthly events across the valley, opening their impromptu stages to all newcomers and taking their shows into an alternative format. In the process, they've helped dozens of new writers and performers make names for themselves, and brought a distinctive sense of experimentation to the art form. (GS)
BEST FAN INTERACTION
Salt Lake Gaming Con
In the middle of Utah going pop-culture convention-crazy over the past few years, Salt Lake Gaming Con has transformed itself into being more of a fan-oriented convention that gives back to those who attend. Throughout their last convention, they provided amazing opportunities for fans to sit down and game with one another, offering live competitions on PC, console and tabletop. They have cultivated an environment where any gamer can pop in and instantly connect, bringing a greater sense of community and interaction to those who otherwise might only meet at tournaments and game shops. (GS)
BEST NEW PLACE FOR SPIRITED ART
Mountain West Hard Cider
Nestled in the Marmalade district of SLC, Mountain West Hard Cider—founded by Jennifer and Jeff Carlson and cidermaker Joel Goodwille—has taken locally sourced ingredients to create artisanal ciders that have garnered prizes from the cognoscenti. But they've also given exposure to local artists like Tess Cook (pictured), whose paintings meditate on human existence. Great art provides a great accompaniment to an earthy, sweet beverage. (BS)
425 N. 400 West, 801-935-4147, MountainWestHardCider.com
The designs of Shirley Jackson have a way of looking like they're ready to claw their way off the canvas. Incorporating various styles into her illustrations, Jackson can take a wolf and make it be cute and cuddly for your kid's bedroom, or turn wolves into vicious spirits ready to tear asunder whatever might be in their path. Her work has become a hit at galleries across the Wasatch Front, as well a staple of the markets and festival circuit, offering everything from large screen-prints to cozy pillows for your couch. (GS)
BEST VISUAL BESTIARY
The world is full of strange creatures, but not many as strange as those that spring from the imagination of Salt Lake City native Tai Taeoli. His recent works—most of them a mix of ballpoint pen, colored pencil, pastel and watercolor on Mylar sheets—often portray animals transformed by their environments into freakish mutations. "Air Support for Whale in Peril" depicts a whale distorted into a kind of steampunk submarine; "Department of Defense" finds the head of a bald eagle growing from the dead branches of a tree. These surreal visions are as disturbing as they are fascinating. (SR)
BEST NON-CORPORATE FILM FESTIVAL
The Block Film Festival
Nestled in the hills of Cache Valley, The Block Film Festival has given local filmmakers a new platform to get their creations out. Helping fill the void left behind by the SLC Film Fest after it retired, the event incorporates both a local filmmaker presence and a mix of national and international submissions, funded and presented on an accessible level to anyone. No long lines, no monster parties, no major sponsors on every corner—this is the definition of a local film festival. The 2016 iteration takes place October 7-8. (GS)
BEST PARODY PROJECT
Comedians In Cars Eating Vegemite
Jerry Seinfeld might have a hit on the Crackle streaming platform with his latest series, but even one of the greatest stand-up comedians in history isn't above parody. Local comedian Rich Wilson took his car, several GoPro cameras and a $9 jar of Vegemite, and turned out a video series of comedic gold. Trapping several local comedians inside to drive around and eat the Australian "delight," the show has produced some of the best comedic bits from many of Utah's funniest minds as they try not to vomit after eating what tastes like soy sauce-flavored baby food. (GS)
BEST COMEDY PODCAST YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING TO
The Dirtpod Podcast
Local comics Marcus and Guy Seidel are far from being strangers to SLC audiences. Their most recent onstage efforts show the two performing a live musical parody of famous artists to sellout shows. But the duo scored another massive audience by joining Allen Handy (of Mick & Allen fame) to form The Dirtpod Podcast. The show focuses on the trio talking about metal music, or whatever cool topics or life events come to mind, with a fair share of awesome guests popping in. It makes for funny moments with three guys just digging music and comedy. (GS)
BEST SMALL COLLECTION OF LOCAL LEGACY ARTISTS
David Dee Fine Arts
David Dee was formerly director of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts at the University of Utah, and he brought his curatorial expertise to his own gallery two years ago when he established the eponymous space. His collection showcases artists of the West—specifically early Utah artists, peripatetic painters of the Rocky Mountains and Southwest, as well as Regional Modernism. Want to see a Maynard Dixon? He's got some. Japanese woodblock prints and local abstractionists also get their due. (BS)
1709 E. 1300 South, 801-583-8143, DavidDeeFineArts.com
BEST HILLBILLY PRINT-MAKING
Meat & 3 Printing Co.
A little piece of Nashville relocated to Salt Lake City in spring 2016, as Meat & 3 Printing Co. brought its operations west. Proudly purveying what they refer to as "delectable pockets of low-brow culture," the company crafts hand-carved and hand-printed woodcuts, capturing everything from fanciful imaginary product posters to images of down-home Southern living. With a unique style that feels like a period piece as soon as it's made, these works burst with a love of the place from which they emerged. (SR)
BEST DEMENTED POP-CULTURE ICONS
The pop-art movement allowed many of the key images of our culture—corporate logos, comic books, fictional characters, celebrities—to become the stuff of art, often given a twist to undercut these ubiquitous figures. Ogden resident Steve Stones makes collages out of such material, and he's not afraid to court startled responses, whether that means putting a cigarette in Jesus' mouth, or having Elmo sit at a table in front of fellow Muppet Ernie's severed head on a platter. If you've ever felt the urge to watch a pair of cartoon Pilgrims prepare to slice into a Thanksgiving turkey in the form of Donald Trump's smirking head, Stones is your guy. (SR)
Beyond the conventions or random meetups, there aren't a lot of places for the geek community to meet up daily. That all changed late last year when owners Cori Hoekstra and Mike Tuiasoa took over the old Coffee Connection on State Street and transformed it into Watchtower Café. Utah's first comic-book coffee shop offers geek-themed drinks in an environment where people can relax with their favorite graphic novel. The space also features video games, stand-up comedy, an art gallery and weekly events for people to game or just hang and nerd out. (GS)
1588 S. State, 801-477-7671, Watchtower-Cafe.com
Green Loft Co-op
The Green Loft Co-op makes its home inside Consumers Financial Mortgage in Sugar House, a real estate service that specializes in environmentally sustainable properties. The gallery hosts social events like art walks, literary performances and exhibits, usually with Earth-friendly themes. A recent show featured Native American depictions by Jacob Shirley, and the company also feted its 21st anniversary this year with a community celebration. Green Loft makes sustainability fun. (BS)
2834 S. Highland Drive, 801-599-5363, GreenLoftGallery.com
BEST ARCHIVAL COLLAGE PROJECT
Every block of this city has a story, from the randomly named streets on the east side no one can find, to the 1930s buildings that now house multiple residents. The Mapping SLC project has taken storytelling and geography, and melded the two into a community-created document about where we've been. The website features stories about the old Swede Town, the history of Beck Street, collapsing hotels, and the rebranding and gentrification of certain districts. There are even personal stories that describe why you see scrapes on a particular sidewalk. It truly shows that our stories are what make the city amazing, no matter the decade. (GS)
BEST CINEMATIC TIME-TRIP
Punk's Dead: SLC Punk 2
The original SLC: Punk arrived in 1998 with a flurry of mixed emotions about how writer/director James Merendino portrayed the city and its punk scene circa 1985. Seventeen years later, the sequel did the exact same thing with the Internet Age. With a mix of original cast and new additions, filmed entirely along the Wasatch Front, the film pokes fun at Salt Laker stereotypes, all while still maintaining a soul, which is as hard to do as a sequel based on a punk movement. (GS)
BEST HIP-HOP HISTORY LESSON
BBoy Federation: They Reminisce
It's easy for a younger generation to be unaware of the history of hip-hop, especially when pop culture tends to only focus on what's happened in the past decade. In partnership with the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, the BBoy Federation has hosted their annual history showcase, They Reminisce, since 2014. Working with a collection of Utah's most talented dancers and choreographers, the show tells the history of the genre from its roots in the '70s and '80s, to the impact it's had on the culture today. The 2017 showcase returns to the Rose Wagner in mid-July. (GS)
BEST ALTERNATIVE COMEDIAN
It isn't every day you walk into a Utah comedy club and see a performer sporting both a neck and face tattoo. But Shayne Smith isn't your everyday Utah comedian. Covered nearly head-to-toe in ink and carrying around an unapologetic attitude, Smith commands the stage with a mix of offbeat humor and observational jabs about his own life. After a successful run in the Salt City Superstar competition last year and making appearances on nearly every podcast in town, Smith has become a popular spin on more conventional approaches to homegrown comedy. (GS)
BEST BACKSTREET TATTOOS
Sailor Taylor Tattoo
Not every great tattoo parlor comes with a giant front window graphic and a fancy light display. Some of the best artists working in SLC come out of tiny shops that few venture to, and those words couldn't be more true to Sailor Taylor Tattoo. Artist and designer Taylor Millet takes special care with every client to ensure his work is precise and unique. Millet's pieces aren't just works of art; they're stories waiting to be told on canvases that will literally last a lifetime. (GS)
215 Edison St., 801-808-4762, SailorTaylorTattoo.com
BEST GALLERY ON A BUDGET
God Hates Robots
Shon Taylor has been a local innovator in several areas, including as co-founder of 24Tix.com and Bottlerocket MFG. A little more than a year ago, Taylor and business partner Ray Childs started God Hates Robots gallery in the same building, across the street north of Pioneer Park. Since then, the gallery has been dedicated to showing exclusively local artists; there isn't enough space for large works, but nothing sells for more than $400, and their commission is only 20 percent. They've exhibited the likes of Sri Whipple and Elmer Presslee, so it's also a sorely needed haven for local art eccentrics. (BS)
314 W. 300 South, Ste. 250, 801-5963370, GodHatesRobots.com
BEST STREAMING GAMER DUO
Twitch streaming has turned average gamers into celebrities overnight, but the community has become so saturated that people are now looking for new things to define them. Local gamer duo Twedesmith has found their own niche being a married gay couple who games together and comments on each other's performance in the process. Their streams not only show their passion for video games and their willingness to kick ass or fail for laughs—but also break stereotypes about who and what a gamer is in the eyes of the common viewer. (GS)
BEST BADASS ARTIST
With a style reminiscent of Bryan Lee O'Malley, and an attitude matching that of Kelly Sue DeConnick, artist Heather Mahler has gone from being rarely seen to SLC's center spotlight in less than a year. Her online comics evoke a rebel spirit that questions what the norm should be, while her stand-alone illustrations of heavily tattooed women being badasses have made her works a sought-after addition for art collectors. That doesn't even count her adaptations of geek culture, which has made her a darling of the festival community. (GS)
BEST CAN'T-KEEP-YOUR-HANDS-OFF SET DESIGN
Dennis Hassan, Streetlight Woodpecker, Salt Lake Acting Co.
You can tell a lot by watching an audience enter a theater space—and for Salt Lake Acting Co.'s world-premiere production of Shawn Fisher's Streetlight Woodpecker, that meant watching how they couldn't keep their hands off Dennis Hassan's set. Depicting the backyard of a home in a run-down Philadelphia neighborhood, the set seemed so authentically weathered that people felt the urge to run their fingers over the brick veneer. For a play that depended on the sense of its environs as a space heavy with the weight of years, Hassan's tremendous work did a lot of thematic heavy lifting. (SR)
BEST DRAMEDY SERIES
Relationships suck sometimes, but even in despair we can find humor. That single idea helped fuel the comedy in this Utah-produced web series. After being kicked out of her boyfriend's house in the middle of the night, Audra (Andrea Peterson) moves in with her ex-boyfriend Zander (Zach Reynolds), complete with the usual hilarious results—but also containing a bit of heart behind the message. It isn't necessarily where we are in life that defines us; it's the people that help us along the way to get us someplace new. Sometimes, that's an old voice reminding you of where you've been. (GS) YouAgainSeries.Tumblr.com
BEST PASSIONATE COMMENTARY
Cult Classics vs. Comedians
From the minds of local comedians and film buffs Ben Fuller and Jamie Maxfield, the series hands local comics and other funny members of the entertainment community the task of dissecting classic films, and others that have reached cult status, to figure out why they're cool. The duo and their guests can take a puzzling film like Eraserhead and put it through the same comedic lens as they would The Rocky Horror Picture Show, giving their own thoughts and perspectives as fans who just love what they love. (GS)
BEST ONE-WOMAN SHOW
Alison Lente, Grounded
Performing on stage is difficult enough. Imagine doing it alone: memorizing an entire script, with no supporting cast to play off of, and an audience not knowing if they are going to be part of the production. In the case of Alison Lente in People Productions' Grounded—portraying a woman wanting to be a good wife, mother and soldier—was made even more complicated by a subplot of military surveillance. That's so much characterization for one person to achieve—and Lente did so with ease. Commanding the stage, she proves sometimes it's OK to go solo. (MB)
BEST GOD-COMPLEX TRUMP IMPERSONATION
Justin Ivie, Saturday's Voyeur 2016
Even terrible impersonations of the Republican presidential nominee are hilarious. It doesn't take much to portray the look—awful blonde toupee, dead eyes, scowling mouth—and voice with weird, squawky inflections. Justin Ivie's interpretation of Trump in Salt Lake Acting Co.'s production of Saturday's Voyeur is among the better impersonations. His fantastic imitation was made even more preposterous by this Trump being considered a "higher power"—which, frighteningly, might not be too far from the truth for his supporters. For the rest of us, we'll take the good impersonations—as long as they don't turn into real President Trump depictions. (MB)
BEST ZINE NOT LIVING IN SLC
Pillars of Salt
Pillars of Salt isn't just a random zine that happened to be made outside the friendlier artistic bubble of SLC—it's a stance against the negative attitudes, lack of culture and failure in Utah County to have strong voices for women and the LGBTQ community. Founded by Sara Faulkner and motivated by the suicide rate among members of those communities, it serves as an outlet for unity through art and action. The second issue will be released late 2016. (GS)
BEST VOLUNTEER ORCHESTRA
Salt Lake Symphony
Classical music can often seem inaccessible, part of a rarified realm where ordinary folk can have trouble finding an entry point. But there are plenty of ordinary folk in this community who make it part of their lives just because they love it. Celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2016, the nonprofit Salt Lake Symphony is made up entirely of volunteer musicians—more than 70 of them—who dedicate around 10,000 hours annually to rehearsing and performing around 15 concerts. For the love of music, they provide an inexpensive way to make it feel as though anyone with that same love can be part of this world. (SR)
BEST PUBLIC ART STAMPEDE
Dixie State University "Trailblazer Art in the City" Project
There are many ways that public and private entities can make it clear that they support the work of artists. In St. George, Dixie State University is attempting to partner with local businesses to put that support right in front of the public. Ten white bison statues will be available to purchase or rent for placement in front of businesses, with the statues later able to become "canvases" for selected artists, including a stipend and information about the artist near the completed work. When art becomes a destination for shoppers and visitors, everybody wins. (SR)
BEST RETURN FROM THE ASHES
Utah Film Center
Being a nonprofit organization is challenging enough; now imagine that a disaster takes away all of your physical infrastructure. That was the situation the Utah Film Center faced in March when a fire in the basement of the organization's Main Street office building resulted in the complete loss of the building, along with computers, films and other materials (fortunately, no injuries). After taking just one month off, however, programming resumed, and with the help of a fund-raising campaign and assistance from the likes of the Sundance Film Festival, the Utah Film Center is once again rolling. (SR)
BEST REALISTIC DEPICTION OF BICKERING SIBLINGS
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Raise your hand if you've ever bickered with your sibling(s). If you're not raising your hand, it's because you're an only child. Even siblings who are the best of friends probably fought at some point in their lives. Those in Wasatch Theatre Co.'s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike are the epitome of squabbling brothers and sisters. Jeffrey Owen, Karrie Ann Ogilvie and Cathy Ostler—as the first three title characters—really feel like a family who wants to get along, but are having a really hard time growing up. And who hasn't felt that way? (MB)
Best Local Theater Production
The Count of Monte Cristo, Pioneer Theatre Co.
A theatrical production of this kind—a sweeping romantic drama with a historical component and big musical numbers—faces mountains of challenges. Can you create a staging that provides the necessary sense of epic consequence, while not overwhelming the performances and the emotion at the heart of the story? Director/choreographer Marcia Milgrom Dodge beautifully navigated those challenges in this U.S. premiere of the new Dumas adaptation, incorporating Michael Schweikardt's versatile scenic design into a tale of love, loss and vengeance. And it doesn't hurt when the performances of the songs can be alternately heartbreaking, subtly funny and genuinely stirring.
Best Original Play
Elaine Jarvik, Based on a True Story, Plan-B Theatre
Genre fiction has long been one of the best ways to construct allegories about the human condition, and Elaine Jarvik took a wild leap into time travel for her funky comedy-drama. Following the plight of a "time taxi" driver whose malfunctioning vehicle has left her stranded 30 years in the future from her own life, Based on a True Story explores coping mechanisms we all tend to use when confronted with loss, including telling ourselves (and others) stories that help ease the pain. Throw in a deft sense of humor that finds room for jokes with a local twist, and you've got a play that reaches across the fabric of space and time to help us understand ourselves.
Best Dance Production
The Nijinsky Revolution Ballet West
Each season, Ballet West takes a break from its regular lineup of fairytale ballets with a full two-week run of modern works. This past season, The Nijinsky Revolution focused on the early 20th-century dancer/choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky (1890-1950), whose work, though not contemporary, has retained a sense of modernity that continues to inspire choreographers today. The evening of works presented three interpretations of Nijinsky ballets: Helen Pickett's Games, Jerome Robbins' Afternoon of a Faun and Nicolo Fonte's The Rite of Spring. The production reminded us that the best works of art remain potent, relevant and inspiring, despite the passing of time.
Best Individual Dancer
Lorin Hansen, Samba Fogo
Lorin Hansen discovered Brazilian samba in perhaps the most unlikely of places: her hometown of Salt Lake City. It was samba drumming that first piqued her interest, but being a born dancer, Hansen—who was at the time studying modern dance at the University of Utah—quickly gravitated toward the energetic dance form. Even after forming Samba Fogo, becoming the company's artistic director, and leading regular community dance classes and workshops, Hansen continues to perform. Whether in the classroom or on stage, Hansen's dancing is powerful. Each samba step, no matter how big or small, is an expression of her passion.
Best Dance Choreography
Daniel Charon, Together Alone Ririe-Woodbury Dance Co.
Daniel Charon—artistic director for Ririe-Woodbury Dance Co. and sometime choreographer—has a lot to say about the current state of humanity, and he's able to say it with very few words. None, actually. Together Alone, Charon's two-part work which might someday become a trilogy, contemplates our modern inability to connect emotionally with those around us, and the ironic experience of feeling isolated while being surrounded by people. Dark, even a little frightening, his work clearly points to our technology addiction as one source of this problem, and challenges us to contemplate how we might be complicit in this modern dilemma.
Best Theater Performance
April Fossen, Stage Kiss Wasatch Theatre Co.
April Fossen is one of those names to get excited about when you see her listed in a local play's program. She nails every character she portrays—like another masterful turn this season in Blackberry Winter—but truly took command in Stage Kiss. As a mother and married actress, she tries to make her way back to the spotlight, only to get caught up in life imitating art when she plays opposite an old lover. While the character might not be as wholesome as she appears, Fossen makes her endearing, likeable and entertaining. It's something most actors strive for, and Fossen pulls it off with ease.
Best Non-Fiction Book
The Three-Year Swim Club, by Julie Checkoway
Underdog sports stories become some of our most beloved cultural tales, so it's somewhat amazing that a story this remarkable remained hidden for so long. But Checkoway—recently relocated from SLC to Sacramento—gave it a terrific showcase as she unfolded the tale of Soichi Sakamoto, who somehow took a group of impoverished Japanese-American kids in 1930s Hawaii and prepared them to be world-class swimmers with a shot at the Olympics—this despite the fact that they had to practice in irrigation ditches, and that Sakamoto had no training as a swimmer himself. Through anti-Japanese xenophobia and canceled Olympic Games of the World War II years, the story becomes an exhilarating study of determination.
Best Fiction Book
Hour of the Bees, by Lindsay Eagar
In the desert of New Mexico, 12-year-old Carol travels with her family to help transition the grandfather she has never known from the family ranch into a care facility as he slips deeper into dementia. What could have been a simple story of family ties becomes something much deeper in Lindsay Eagar's richly emotional novel, incorporating elements of magical realism into Carol's journey toward a better understanding of her roots. The stark, isolated setting becomes a perfect backdrop for the family connections that can be re-established when separated from contemporary distractions, as Eagar combines the lyrical mystery of her flashbacks with a simple but utterly unique coming-of-age tale.
Best Touring Theater Production
Newsies, Broadway Across America-Utah
Newsies features some of the catchiest songs in a modern musical. So it's no surprise that the 1992 Disney movie was such a hit and is still pleasing audiences nearly 25 years later on stage. The Broadway Across America touring production performed all the songs you know and love—"Seize the Day" and "King of New York"—just without Christian Bale or Bill Pullman. It's light-hearted fun with an underlying message of fighting for what you believe is right, even if it's selling newspapers under the guise of child labor laws.
Best classical/opera performance or production
Aida, Utah Opera
Many of the classic works in the operatic canon would draw crowds even if a company put on merely a lackluster production. But Utah Opera put together a murderer's row of talent—including this year's Best of Utah Arts award-winner Daniel Charon for the choreography, and set designer Michael Yeargan—to capture Verdi's beloved romantic triangle involving an enslaved Ethiopian princess in Egypt. Jennifer Check, Katherine Goeldner and Marc Heller brought genuine power to the three central roles, providing the emotional core to match the beauty of the physical production.
Best Improv Comedy Troupe
Quick Wits Comedy
Cranking out improv comedy on a weekly basis for 22 years is no easy task—to which the performers behind Quick Wits can attest, as their ever-changing roster has been killing it since 1994. In that time, they've been continually producing PG-13-appropriate shows revolving completely around what the audience chooses, even if those suggestions seem crazy at the time. The troupe currently calls the Midvale Performing Arts Center their home, where they're still working hard to give fans of the genre a show that leaves audiences wondering how you can generate so much laughter without a script.
Best Poetry Book
Flight, by Katharine Coles
The University of Utah faculty member and one-time Utah state poet laureate has had such a remarkable career that it's easy to overlook the vital work she continues to create. Flight collects poems spanning a wide variety of subjects, from travels around the world to the poet's own pet dogs, finding essential observations in tight, punchy stanzas full of enjambment. Whether celebrating the natural beauty of a butterfly or a flower, or offering insight into the concept of pockets, Coles offers an intensity of focus that makes every word count.
Best Illustrated Book/Graphic Novel
The Princess in Black series, by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
In 2015, the husband-and-wife team of Shannon and Dean Hale introduced readers to Princess Magnolia, who abandons her "ladylike" dresses when danger arises, and puts on a mask that allows her to be the one who saves the day, not just the one who gets saved. The series continued to charming effect in 2016 with The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party and The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde, and the ongoing adventures are perfect tales to let little girls know that when a monster alarm rings, they're just as capable of being the ones to fight for the happily-ever-after ending.
Best Painting Exhibition
On the Border: Thailand and Myanmar Art Access Gallery
The perspectives on a place can vary greatly, depending on whether the observer is intimately familiar with the location, or an outsider. From March-April 2016, Art Access Gallery offered a fascinating mix of those perspectives in a group show featuring works depicting a troubled region of Southeast Asia by local artist Hadley Rampton and Myanmar-born refugee artists Maung Maung Tinn and Nyan Soe. Rampton's watercolors convey his impressions of visiting and working at a refugee camp for Karenni ethnic minorities on the Thai/Myanmar border, while the paintings by Tinn and Soe brought their own personal experience to show Utah audiences a struggle they likely never knew existed. AccessArt.org
A street artist who made a name creating graffiti art in Utah before a recent move to Las Vegas, SRIL has left behind a body of intricate works that rivals some of the best artists currently sitting in galleries. His moniker—pronounced "surreal"—is a fitting tribute to the artist who inspired his works, Salvador Dalí, and it shines in the murals you can find all across Salt Lake City. He might not be tagging up every abandoned building or shipping container; instead, his amazing designs can be found in the most pristine of business locations, giving life to concrete walls that would have been ignored otherwise.
Best Tattoo Artist
Sarah de Azevedo, Oni Tattoo
de Azevedo is no stranger to this category, having won it six times over the past decade for being one of SLC's most respected tattoo artists. Aside from being a badass in her field who can make any design pop on human skin, the fact that she's made herself a private artist by appointment only to an exclusive list of clients has made her one of the most sought-after tattoo artists in the state. If you happen to snag an appointment with her as she opens her new studio, Locust Tattoo, consider yourself one of the lucky few to be inked by a star.
265 E. 900 South, 801-870-9273, OniTattooGallery.com
Best Mixed Media/Sculpture/Interactive Exhibition
David Brothers: Rolithica, Utah Museum of Contemporary Art
In the digital world, stagecraft—actually building the backdrop against which cinematic action is set—seems like a dying art. David Brothers, an artistic polymath who plys multiple media, has worked as an artist and set designer for numerous local productions including Trent Harris' Plan Ten From Outer Space, and also creates his own artistic environments. The result at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art earlier this year was Rolithica, an art installation made up on tunnels and caverns built into the wall of the museum, as though inhabited by some kind of itinerant scavengers; a veritable imaginative excavation that was alternately disturbing and wondrous.
Best Photography Exhibition
Laurel Caryn: History of Photography, Alice Gallery
Photography—though initially thought to be a novel technology that would displace painting's role in depicting the world—in the grand design always seems to be looking back, perhaps because it appears to freeze time. Laurel Caryn, assistant professor at the University of Utah art department, has used archaic photographic techniques like cyanotype, and references to images by great photographers throughout history, along with silhouettes of viewers, to remind us that the history of photography is only rendered complete by us looking at photographs, which echoes the photographer looking at us.
Best Touring/Non-Local Art Exhibition
The British Passion for Landscape, Utah Museum of Fine Arts
There's no one like the British for taking on the grand sweep of history in their art, and the National Museum Wales' traveling exhibit The British Passion for Landscape was one of the most awe-inspiring and breathtaking shows the Utah Museum of Fine Arts at the University of Utah has ever mounted. As if it wasn't enough to be able to view works by Constable, Gainsborough and J.M.W. Turner—and even Monet capturing his travels to Britain—to have them placed in historical context from the 17th century to the postmodern, and be able to see how landscape beckons to us today, was nothing less than sublime.
Best Fashion Design
With a pedigree of training from the Fashion Institute of Technology, and an eye for what women would like to wear that won't cost a pretty penny, Marié has managed to make a good career out of creating flashy designs that are simplistic at their core. Her work had graced dozens of runways, but she still calls Utah home, working to expand and support our local fashion scene into one that could compete with any major city. Keep an eye out for her new collections, which will debut at Utah Fashion Week 2017.
Best Local Instagram feed
Park City's Scott Filipiak is a photographer you might not know by name, but after working as a freelance photog for years and winning multiple awards, he has done more than enough to earn a reputation of being one of the finest photographers in the state. Recently, his work on Instagram has taken his skills to a new audience, as he shows off beautiful landscapes found all across Utah. The shots this man is able to get display stunning views of the best of what our state has to offer, while also showing how gifted he is behind the camera.
Best Stand-up Comedian
A staple of the Utah comedy scene for years, Velluto has been delighting audiences both on the local independent circuit and on the main stage of Wiseguys. The man takes self-deprecation to new levels by poking fun at everything from his own relationships (or lack thereof) to history (the Declaration of Independence as a "break-up text"). Once a week you can hear Velluto on the Happy Valley Podcast, where he talks film, comedy, TV and other pop-culture items with his friends, further pushing out comedy everywhere he can to the lonely souls who can laugh along with him about being alone.
Best Jewelry Design
Tif Blue, PeachTreats
It's a rarity these days for any jewelry designer to maintain popularity without the trends passing them by, but Tif Blue has made sure that PeachTreats stays ahead of the curve both in design and in materials. Developing extravagant designs that are works of art on their own, Blue is able to create fantastic pieces that don't require large gauges, while also working with a variety of materials that might work better for people who are allergic to metals. A constantly evolving product line continues to make people wonder if there's anything she can't create.
Best Short Film
B+A, by Connor Rickman
The formulas of romantic comedy are so deeply ingrained in our culture that it's always bracing when a work of art skewers them. Local playwright Matthew Ivan Bennett provided the delightfully caustic script for director Connor Rickman's tale of a married couple (Daniel Beecher and Melanie Nelson) who can't stop treating one another like garbage, but who might still be perfect for one another after eight years (or is it nine?). It might not be a pretty picture of what it takes for people to finally admit that they love one another, but it's certainly a funny one.