Can art be a force for change? A group of Ogdenites has launched a festival that celebrates their city, while focusing on solutions to some of the problems the area faces.
The Moments Art Festival—scheduled for May 5 in conjunction with the city's First Friday Art Stroll, is part of a larger effort involving Ogden City, the nonprofit Ogden First (O1Arts) and Union Creative Agency, to form a creative district connecting downtown Ogden with nearby residential neighborhoods. The event is curated by Eden Buxton (a freelance urban curator for Ogden City and other nonprofit organizations), Jake McIntire (Union Creative Agency) and D. Scott Patria (Ogden First), with support from Weber State University and Ogden City Arts and Community Economic Development.
"We all learned that lighting and evening activity were critical to making the area between downtown and the neighborhoods feel safe and vibrant," Buxton says in an email interview. "Together, we worked to structure Moments in a way that it would not only be interesting, but it would also bring vibrancy to the district, as well."
The creative district, in turn, has been part of larger attempts to redevelop and revitalize the city. Among Ogden's problems are economic inequality and crime. McIntire explains over the phone that 20-plus Moments sites were strategically chosen to "breadcrumb" spectators from some of the more highly trafficked areas into those where they might be less comfortable. "We were looking for ways to activate a part of town that's been dormant," McIntire says, referring to a stretch of 25th Street from Grant to Jefferson. "Moments is a short-term solution that's part of a long-term strategy, requiring infrastructure and funding, to bring light and activity and connect neighborhoods."
"Overall, we hope to present art projects which are not only different from the usual Art Stroll in content, but in presentation as well," Ogden First's Patria adds. "We are treating all of downtown Ogden as a gallery and performance space, which delights, surprises and engages audiences who may not normally think of themselves as art consumers."
Festival activities are designed for fun, as well as to shed light on unique sides of downtown. The Polkadots Community Art Installation, inspired by paintings and installations of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, covers an area on 25th Street between Washington Boulevard and Ogden Avenue. Tic-Tac-Glow is a massive session of the game using illuminated tubes. On the east side of the 455 Building, Molly Morin's "_Catch Me_" projection is an interactive computer program that lets participants construct a generative drawing. Cara Krebs' students at WSU install a fluorescent drawing in the window on 455 25th St. that resembles a jellyfish floating in liquid. At Platforms, Ike Bushman constructs a temporary installation of ice blocks, suspended by ropes and twine; McIntire's WSU 3-D design students create sculptures that incorporate light as a design element.
Live performances include dance, poetry readings and music—with headliners Vincent Draper and the Culls, Escher Case, Sydney Goodwill and Scott Ferrin. "The entire event could be considered participatory," Buxton emphasizes. "Everyone who comes to Moments strolls the galleries, comes to 25th Street for dinner or is wandering the street becomes part of the ephemeral tapestry that will make this event unique. We are even encouraging guests to wear glowing or light-up clothing to bring their own vibrancy."
This snapshot of a "moment" sounds like a metaphor, a collective visualization of their hopes and dreams for their city, full of light and activity. "I believe experimental art is necessary in creating a space for diversity and overall exposure for Ogden," Buxton says. "This city is moving so rapidly toward a more inviting and creative environment, and this encouragement for these types of expression is so incredibly important."
The organizers want Moments to inspire other individuals and groups beyond Ogden and demonstrate that the arts can provide innovative solutions to complex challenges. If you don't get to Ogden often, or don't think of it as an "art town," the festival might dispel stereotypes about a city that is sometimes thought of as a "poor sibling" to the metropolises of Salt Lake City and Provo.
"Moments is not just about showcasing interesting art," Buxton says. "It's also about uniting community, increasing public safety, connecting organizations like Weber State University to downtown, prototyping long-term infrastructure improvements and laying the groundwork for a vibrant creative district."