Backstage at the 2024 Utah Arts Festival: Emerging Artists will be at Wordfest, The Round,Festival Stages; Artist Marketplace; Fear No Film program

For the third year in a row, the Utah Arts Festival is highlighting its Emerging Artists program, which has institutionalized broadly the experiences of newcomers to UAF and how their presence is adding to and reshaping the next chapters of Utah’s arts and cultural evolution. This year’s representative artists are in the Artist Marketplace, dance, Wordfest and The Round Stages for the literary arts program and the Fear No Film program. As noted in The Utah Review feature about this year’s slate for its Fear No Film program, given the large proportion of films (48%) from student or first-time filmmakers, this year’s screening slate in the City Library Auditorium includes an Emerging Artists series of three narrative blocks (June 28 and 29, 6 p.m. and June 30, 4 p.m.) and one documentary program (June 30, 2 p.m.).

Fem Dance Company (June 30, 5:45 p.m., Festival Stage) is a Salt Lake City based collective that strives to represent and empower women in dance. Led by Alicia Ross, the company has performed in various settings, including the Repertory Dance Theatre’s Link Series. The Utah Review has covered several Fem Dance Company productions. Among them was the November 2023 premiere of an evening length work Hear Her. Regarding the work, The Utah Review concluded, “This work exemplified a thriving sector of creative work in Utah’s dance community about the holistic benefits and therapeutic value of dance movement, particularly for those who are seeking ways to overcome their anguish and grief, while also securing their own identity. Hear Her demonstrated that these types of works enrich a distinguished and diversified culture of dance in Utah. A diverse assortment of music cued the emotional shifts in the work’s journey as well.” In 2022, the company presented State of Flux, featuring two dance compositions as well as two dance films. In 2021, the company performed at the Great Salt Lake Fringe festival, with home bass, a short work for five dance artists that explored in three movements the primal power of the bass rhythm that is ubiquitous in the human lifetime. It is the pulsing bass rhythms that gird our true sense of being at home, even before we are born, when in the womb we respond to the heartbeat of our mother. 

Hear Her, Alicia Ross, Fem Dance Company. Photo Credit: Katie Bruce Sorenson.

Amy Geis (June 28, 1:15 p.m., The Round) is a pop singer-songwriter who has performed across the country. Creating brutally honest lyrics about life experiences with catchy pop production, she has caught the attention of thousands of listeners. One of her recent singles, ‚ÄúAnxiety‚Äù was featured on iHeartRadio and Utah’s 97.1 ZHT-FM as well as Good Things Utah. Her music has grown extensively, reaching 77,285 listeners with almost 230,000 streams in 2023 alone. 

Craig Cazier, from Sandy, Utah (Booth 42, Artist Marketplace), is a sculptor who will be in the Artist Marketplace. According to his artistic statement: “I believe our presence matters. While navigating my own grief I came to understand our lives are works of art and should be celebrated as such, which led me to begin creating memorial pieces in addition to the other sculptures I find myself creating. I think what I love most about carving in stone is how much humility and courage it demands of me, and how the stone knows the way as long as I step aside.”

Performing on the Wordfest Stage, Elizabeth Allen Berry (June 29, 1:15 p.m., The Round), from Las Vegas, is a transgender, neurodivergent, queer poet and multidimensional artist. Author of Becoming the Void Walker, their performance is a unique blend of spoken word poetry and electric violin. 

Griffin Peralta (June 30, 1:15 p.m., The Round) wrote, “Growing up, I spent summers in Salt Lake with my extended family. Because of this, visiting Utah has always been a joyous experience. I am thrilled to share my art with this place that has been foundational for me. In previous years, when attending the festival, I have been thrilled and delighted by the artists and performers. I count myself lucky to be among them this year.” Based in Reno,  he has hosted multiple shows on 97.7 KWNK, including Spoken Views Radio Hour, The People’s Mic and Curtain Call.

Griffin Peralta.

Jesus Cuevas, from Farr West, Utah, is a wood-carving artist. He writes, “My experience in wood carving was acquired in my early teens. The tools: chisels, axes were always present. I represent the third generation of my family in this art. I want to share my Art with the community, especially in Utah. I would also like to continue and preserve this legacy for future generations.”

Lyra Zoe Smith, of West Valley City, (Booth 121, Artist Marketplace) has a bachelor of fine arts degree in painting and sculpture from The University of Utah She writes about her work: “My nature works focusing on insects, fungi, plants, and animals are driven with a goal of bringing a smaller world to light. I have created tiny works my whole life and I never tire of creating artwork that can fit into the palm of your hand. Maintaining fine details and character when creating something small is very important to me as I believe the integrity of a piece should not be compromised with size. My work is described most by others as ‘whimsical’ and I love that description.”

Shiya Zeng, Offerings (2023): Glazed pottery, acrylic on wood.

Samantha Andersen, a jewelry artist from Park City (Booth 55, Artist Marketplace) is a high school student and she creates her pieces from gold wire and resin. 

Shane Pooler is a self-taught traditional oil painter from Clinton, Utah (Booth 185, Artist Marketplace). He focuses on creating modern work inspired by elements of Baroque Era realism.  

Shiya Zeng, a Salt Lake City ceramic artist (Booth 55, Artist Marketplace), is a Taishanese multi-disciplinary artist who came to Utah with her parents from China in the early 2000s and has been living in Salt Lake City ever since. Currently, she specializes in pottery and digital illustration by incorporating traditional Chinese and Asian techniques. Her current body of ceramic sculpture work captures cherished moments and tangible memories from her childhood as a Chinese immigrant, along with shared staples of the Asian immigrant experience, such as her parent’s Chinese restaurant dishes and favorite childhood snacks. By recreating fleeting scenes and nostalgic objects that once made her feel at home, Zeng aims to preserve her cultural traditions and share the stories of her family and community.

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