Growth takes place at the grass roots, and that's ultimately where a state must look for its vitality, its continuity and its future.
That's a premise of the Utah Arts Council, which now counts close to 50 community arts councils functioning within a state whose habitat varies from high mountain grandeur to barren desert, with communities ranging from 165,000 city dwellers to hamlets of five or 10 independent spirits.This week we leave the Wasatch Front to focus on a few of the small arts councils of Utah, and what they accomplish through a combination of their own feisty individuality, courage and persistence, encouraged by nurture from the UAC. Moving away from a hub-and-spokes dependence on the state council, they increasingly aim toward operating concentrically, with regional emphasis and support.
The most effective ones, inspired by their unique locations and assets, have created something that could not quite exist anywhere else. Staffed by dedicated volunteers, they are gradually filling in the chinks and gaps in an arts mosaic that will eventually cover Utah from border to border.
- THE KIGALIA ARTS COUNCIL in Bland-ing has been revived after a three-year hiatus, with Relva Bowring as president. She took on the responsibility because the Legislature had budgeted some grant money for Repertory Dance Theatre to come to Blanding if local support was forthcoming - too good a deal to pass up.
"We will keep the arts council going this time, there's enough interest that we won't drop out," said Bowring, a musician-homemaker whose husband teaches music at the high school."People who move in here are hungry for the arts.
"In 1990-91 we'll have the Repertory Dance Theatre here for three days, with a Monday night community concert and visits to five schools in the area. We'll begin with Francis Lyman's big band and a variety show of local talent. Jim Shupe's band doing old-time fiddling, Michael Bennett and his Patrick Henry show, and the Brough-Wolfe percussion duo add up to five good events. We will honor tickets for the Monticello season, and they will honor ours.
"Our folklore festival, which highlighted our ethnic strains - Hispanics, Utes, Navajos and Anglos - was very successful during last Fourth of July holiday, and we will do it again next year," said Bowring.
The Kigalia Arts Council, with seven members, hopes to raise perhaps $2,500 this year, and would like to participate in the state arts endowment fund, authorized by the Legislature.
Bowring sees as unique to Blanding the wealth of archaeological features and Indian culture and history, with the town's museum at its center. "There is growth here, with emphasis on the Indians, their education, pottery, weaving and other culture," she said.
- TYPICAL OF COUNCILS that build a special attraction upon a unique feature of their area is the Uintah Arts Council in Vernal.
It's led by dynamic Alta Winward, an eight-year veteran of the arts wars whose enthusiasm comes right across the telephone wires to grab you.
"This country out here ran for 50 years on oil," she said. "Then a few years ago the oil quit, and we lost 7,000 to 8,000 people from the valley. This has always been an isolated community - no trains, no Western Union; telephones came late," she said. "I thought our children needed some action."
Winward dug into the area's voluminous history, and the upshot has been the summer Outlaw Trails Festival, whose centerpiece is an original musical.
"About the first of June comes the Josey Shoot, for women, with .22 rifle," said Win-ward. "We open the festival mid-June with the annual shootout and bank robbery, followed by the Outlaw Trail ride. Around July 1 we start playing our original musicals, every weekend the rest of the summer, except for rodeo weekend."
"Our first show was `Star Justice,' then came `Rawhide and Lace,' followed by `Josey Morris' (she knew the Wild Bunch) and last summer we did `West of the Law,' about Maude Davis and Elza Lay, who fell in love, had one child and then parted. In 1991 we will do `Queen Anne,' about Josey's sister, and then we will begin to repeat.
"This year we had seating for 400-450, and we were 100 percent full. Kids on horseback went to the motels and RV camps with fliers. We attract audiences from Duschesne, Uintah and Daggett counties, also from Rangley, Colo. We involve 150 volunteers, with pre-show opportunities for cloggers, fiddlers, singers and poetry reading.
"The first year we did a production it took 10 months to collect $10,000," she said. "With last summer's production I feel we fed about $40,000 into the community. We get help from US WEST, Utah Power, the city and Uintah County. Also we have about 12 sponsors who give about $2,000 in kind every year."
With an annual budget of $30,000, the eight-member council has many other activities, often in association with other agencies. "It helps the kids to see us working all together," said Winward. School programs, special events, an arts workshop ("The Great Art Escape"), an awards dinner, and performance/workshops such as Ballet West's last spring, figure in their plans.
The Uintah Arts Council has no plans to go for state endowment funds. "I said to the UAC, if you would help us put in $40,000, the interest would be of some use to us; anything less wouldn't really help much," said Winward.
- LORI NAY, a musician and wife of a doctor at the Gunnison Valley Hospital, was the founding president of the Gunnison Arts Council in 1987. Gunnison is not the most affluent of communities, and money is hard to come by, she admitted.
"Sometimes the town council can give us funds, $500 to $1,000, sometimes not," said Nay. "In a year we might spend from from $3,600 to $9,700, paid by ticket sales and fund-raisers."
The town utilizes the Utah Performing Arts Tour programs, underwritten by UAC. "Last year we had the Imago masque show, the Repertory Dance Theatre, Kismet Middle Eastern Dance, and Jazz Through the Ages, also the Utah Classical Guitar Society," she said.
"We have received UAC grants for many projects, we couldn't function without them," she said. "People love the programs, we can't put a dollar value on their worth, and we want to keep prices low enough so no one will fail to come because of the cost. Our chief aim is to improve the quality of life here. Arts add a dimension we couldn't get in any other way, and we bring everything through the school system so every child gets a taste of these wonderful things."
This year, the council projects a children's theater, with all aspects of production for and by children, to raise money to improve lighting and sound at the high school - a dire need, said Nay.
"We will also have the Loren Kahn Puppet Theater, and a big holiday fund-raising dinner dance Thanksgiving weekend with Joe Muscolino's band. Over the years our holiday extravaganza has become very popular - a glamourous night out, and that's art to us, especially since we bill it as a festival, and during the intermission we highlight a local artist, performing or visual."
Another council goal is an outdoor theater, with a summer concert season. "We do have beautiful summer evenings here," Nay said, "and if we can raise $2,500 for a match, we would participate in the state endowment fund."
- AFTER MANY YEARS engaged in the ups and downs, ins and outs of the arts in central Utah, Pam Williams of Richfield is in a position to assess the area's arts needs objectively and plan for a broader, more comprehensive future there.
She helped found the Tri-County Music Guild, a going concern that sponsors professional concerts in Sevier, Piute and Wayne counties. She's worked in community theater, writing and directing plays, and with the Commissioners Art Show, a Richfield spring highlight.
"The girl who came in to do publicity for the art show said, isn't it amazing this has gone on for nine years," said Williams. "As we talked, I found the idea for a countywide arts council developing in my mind.
"Commissioner Merlin Ashman (a closet painter) invited me to the council meeting to talk it over. I went expecting to sell ideas, but Merlin handed out a resolution to form the Sevier County Arts Alliance, with my name on it as president. I was hornswaggled! I reluctantly accepted as president pro tem.
"At a well-attended planning meeting in June, we had a wonderfully stimulating discussion about our needs, our weaknesses and strengths, our facilities and what we need," she said.
Through its economic development committee, the Richfield Chamber of Commerce had applied through state economic development for funds to build an arts facility. "I was sick when I learned that we had been among the last five under consideration. We would have had a much better shot at a $5 million facility if we had had an arts council in place," Williams said. "We need one badly. All these years we've been in the tabernacle, which is a lovely old building, but it's just not a theater and never will be.
"Sevier County has 17,000 residents, which we should think of as one community," she said. "Why not? You can drive from one end to the other in 30 to 40 minutes, with Salina on the north, Richfield in the center, Monroe in the south. A person in Salina can get on the freeway and go to the concert hall in Joseph in 20 minutes. (If you haven't heard a concert in the Joseph Concert Hall, you haven't heard music!) People in the south Salt Lake Valley travel far more than 20 minutes to the U. of U. or Symphony Hall, with high parking costs and ticket prices."
Williams foresees the need for a paid part-time director to oversee an umbrella organization, and work especially with the Tri-County Music Guild in bringing in professional entertainment. Finances, business, telephoning, promotion, directing volunteers, careful calendaring, compiling a county resource list - all fall under her plans.
"Right now we have no money, just promises from the commission and area communities; no season planned, just a lot of people from all over the county who are devoted to this cause," she said. "If we can get our act together, recognize the advantages we have right here, the opportunities for growth that can ripple into this budding arts community, with the spinoffs of economic development and tourism, we will really have something going."
- NOT TO BE NOTED ONLY for its red-rock country and parks, Moab has long been an oasis of culture in southern Utah, and its thriving Canyonlands Arts Council proves how well supported arts have been by an enlightened local citizenry.
There's been an arts council in Moab ever since 1972, off and on, but the present incarnation was incorporated in 1987, and Peter Haney, who was a professional potter and now works as a nurse, serves as president.
The council is alert to community needs. For example, 20 members of the council pay $10 a year for services such as receiving grant notifications. "We have 150 people on our mailing list, including many writers, painters and photographers who do art in Moab; it's getting to be an arts colony," said Haney.
This year for the first time the council is offering a subscription concert series. For $20 you can see "Oedipus Rex" at the Double Arch in Arches National Park, the Repertory Dance Theatre, the BYU Chamber Orchestra and the Utah Ballet.
Last year the council helped the local school district and other agencies bring in the Utah Ballet for residencies, the Missoula Children's Theatre, The Bunkhouse Orchestra, the Patrick Henry project, and Nobis-Jensen-Woodbury ensemble, reaching a total audience of 4,900.
During the past summer the council sponsored the Canyonlands Conservatory, for strings and piano, assisted by the UAC. "Next year we hope to add woodwinds, brass, voice and percussion," Haney said. "The workshops had 25 students, and we had concerts here during the summer, also at the Powell Museum in Green River. We also assisted with the opening of the University of Utah Moab Arts Center, and work with Tag-A-Long Tours to capitalize on concert sites along the Colorado River."
The Canyonlands Council has applied for state endowment funds to help defray a budget that came to $13,000 last year. "Our performances brought in $8,000, and $5,000 came from other sources," Haney said. "The endowment interest would help us stabilize and focus on the future."
- LYDIA JOHNSON heads the Kanab Variety Arts Council, which though isolated (or perhaps because isolated) offers a commendable arts menu.
"We regularly do performing arts January through May," Johnson said. "From June through August we co-sponsor local talent. On Wednesday nights we have cloggers, drill teams, soloists, the cast from a local "Oklahoma," outdoors at the gazebo near the LDS Stake Center. We also had an art exhibit this year."
Last year the town's artists-in-the-schools and local programs included the Imago masque and dance artists, poet David Lee, the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company, the Kanab Civic Orchestra and the Missoula Children's Theater. Next year the council will bring in AIRJAZZ, a juggling-dance-theater group, and Joe Muscolino's Big Band, among other events.
Johnson is especially proud of the three-year-old orchestra, conducted by Kortney Stirland, with 45-50 members, an outgrowth of accompaniment for a "Messiah" Sing-In that blossomed into full-fledged status.
Johnson doesn't expect Kanab to tap into the state endowment fund, though she appreciates Kanab City and UAC funding assistance. She considers more a propos the formation now in progress of a regional arts council - the Five-County Southwest Arts Network, involving Beaver, Washington, Garfield, Kane and Iron counties. "We hope to pull in bigger artists and workshops, and possibly will do some co-sponsoring this year," she said.
The Uintah Arts Council in Vernal mines the area's colorful history to produce annual musicals for the Outlaw Trails Festival. The shows all resolve around associates of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, who frequented eastern Utah - not Butch and Sundance themselves, they've been done to death, says Alta Winward, though they always appear in cameo roles.
The Canyonlands Arts Council in Moab helps sponsor a variety of events, including performances on the Colorado River. Many Concerts are in the Star Hall, a rebuilt church dating to 1906 that seats 345, or in the high school gym. Subscriptions come from as far away as Green River, Castle Valley and Monticello.
The forming Sevier County Arts Alliance is based on the premise that there's strength in unity. "When you look at the county as a spreadout neighborhood, there are many advantages," said president Pam Williams.