By Amy Childress
Assistant Editor, The Selective Echo
Since the Urban Arts venue was established seven years ago at the Utah Arts Festival, it has grown from a single community graffiti cube to a multiplex of booths, murals, and interactive projects and classes in which the public can participate.
Greg Covello, the events coordinator for the locally-based Higher Ground Learning, says when Urban Arts was first incorporated into the festival it comprised a booth from Higher Ground, Uprok Records DJing, and one graffiti cube. He says, ‘The cube was just four square walls and what people were painting on for five or six years.’
This year, he decided to ditch the cube, and commission artist Christopher Kelly to build sculptures that would become public canvases for painting. In addition to the sculptures, the venue has several other murals open to public contribution. Throughout the festival these murals and sculptures are changing and morphing into continuously new landscapes as local graffiti artists go wild, creatively spray-painting tags and images on these freestanding walls. (PHOTO: Day 1, June 21, evening)
One of these murals is dedicated solely to the Open Road Project, a brainchild of Mason Fetzer, the venue’s artist-in-residence who came up with the idea during a drive to Las Vegas. Fetzer has been involved with Higher Ground Learning and the festival for four years and last year, he conceived the foundations for the 100 Artists 1 Image project, which was a mural of an Indian chief consisting of 100 smaller images.
This year, the interactive activity has become the Open Road Project. ‘It is a community project, just like last year’s, where each morning an open road scene is constructed and throughout the day people can add their take on the road scene,’ Covello explains. (PHOTO: Day 2, Friday, morning)
‘Someone, for example, could put up Godzilla tearing down a building or a UFO abducting a cow, or a bear. There might even be a roadside billboard or a plane pulling an advertising banner, which people can write on.’
The open road scenes are fabricated every day between 1 and 4 p.m. by junior high and high school kids who started the week of the festival by participating in a five-day workshop led by Fetzer. During these workshops, the students learned spray-painting techniques and stencil cutting basics where they created their own stencils they would use to create the open road scenes.
Festival attendees can witness the evolution of this mural throughout each day of the festival, as more features are added, thus creating by the end of the day a true collage of urban graffiti that supersedes the notion of merely a static road scene. (PHOTO: Day 2, Friday, morning, full)
As part of the Open Road Project, individuals also snap photos of the work-in-progress mural and are directed to upload it to the project’s Web site. These contributors’ photos, along with those snapped by Fetzer and Covello, will be incorporated into an edited time-lapse video at the end of the festival to chronicle the project’s evolution.
The project represents an ideal larger theme of the festival’s commitment to making the creative arts experience as truly community oriented and interactive as possible. In addition to the video, festival visitors can follow the activities at the Found Sound Studio, organized by Spy Hop Productions.
Festival visitors are encouraged to show their musical talents by recording themselves singing, or playing impromptu riffs on a guitar or ukulele provided by Spy Hop staff. Several other musical instruments – including the xylophone, the piano and percussion instruments – also are available. These recordings are then mixed into a mini-composition at the end of the day. The first two examples can be seen here and here. (PHOTO: Day 2, Friday, evening)
At the end of the festival, Spy Hop will edit these daily-created songs to become the soundtrack for the Open Road Project’s time-lapse video.
Providing an exclusive space especially for aspiring teen artists and musicians, the Urban Arts venue has been cultivated as a mini-community experience of a spontaneous hands-on creative experience. Many spectators also groove to the beats and dance on the venue’s lawn as talented Uprok’s DJs and MCs spit rhymes and spin some kickin’ beats.
Copper Palate Press also holds a printmaking and silk screening class daily at 2 p.m. However, visitors must register onsite for the tutorial prior to the class.
And, finally, if you ever wonder how B-Boys are able to pull off some of those impossible break dance moves, then head over to The Round outside the City Library where The Federation will lead workshops on b-boy and street choreography daily at 4 p.m.
For more information about all Sunday activities at the festival, see here.
Find Today's Daily Deal on the Best in Salt Lake City!