Generally speaking, Salt Lake City is the center of the state’s arts scene. The state’s Mormon heritage is reflected in the city’s love of and support for fine music. The glittering Abravanel Concert Hall is home to the noted Utah Symphony, and the tabernacle at Temple Square is often filled with concerts and recitals. The famed Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs here, as do various other church-related music groups. Best of all, all performances at Temple Square are free, making this a great opportunity for travelers to soak up culture at a good price.
Salt Lake City is also the state’s major venue for rock and alternative music. A number of lively clubs host both local bands and traveling acts from both coasts.
Come summer, there’s fine music at more out-of-the-way places. Venues at Park City offer a full summer schedule ranging from rock concerts at the Canyons Ski Area to the Utah Symphony at classy Deer Valley Resort. In Logan’s sparkling Capitol Theatre, the Utah Festival Opera puts on a summer season of grand opera and classic musicals.
Theater and Dance
Again, Salt Lake City is the center of things theatrical in Utah. Several year-round theatrical troupes dish up everything from Broadway musicals to serious plays like Tony Kushner’s Angels in America.
In the summer, Cedar City’s Utah Shakespearean Festival (www.bard.org) offers eight different plays performed by a professional repertory company. Both Shakespearean and contemporary plays are featured; the Bard’s works are presented under the stars in an outdoor theater.
Salt Lake City supports a number of dance troupes, all with excellent reputations. Ballet West performs a mix of classical and contemporary pieces, while the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company has a more eclectic approach.
While you’ll be able to see most first-run films and some art-house fare in Salt Lake City and, to a lesser extent, in smaller cities in Utah, the real cinematic event in Utah is the Sundance Film Festival, held every January in Park City. Founded by actor Robert Redford as a forum for little-seen documentary and independent films, the festival has grown into a major showcase of new high-quality cinema. Make lodging and ticket reservations well in advance if you want to attend. For more information and to get on the mailing list, call 801/328-FILM (801/328-3456).
Utah residents are very proud of their pioneer past, and nearly every community in the state has a Daughters of Utah Pioneers (DUP) museum, which recounts the story of local Mormon settlement. In fact, church history and state history are so closely interconnected that the primary state history museums are the various Temple Square institutions and the LDS-dominated Pioneer Memorial Museum. The museum at the Utah Historical Society isn’t even in the same league.
Utah has a number of good museums dedicated to dinosaurs and other forms of ancient life. The area around Price and Vernal is rich in fossils, and both towns have good dinosaur museums; additionally, there are fossil digs with visitor centers at Dinosaur National Monument and at the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry. The Museum of Ancient Life at Lehi’s Thanksgiving Point has one of the largest collections of complete dinosaur skeletons in the country.
Ogden has converted its large and handsome railroad depot into a multi-museum complex with collections of minerals, fine art, firearms, and historic automobiles and train cars.
Utah isn’t exactly known for its fine-art collections, but the Salt Lake Art Center has a changing lineup of traveling shows that focus on regional artists. The universities in Salt Lake City, Provo, and Logan each have art galleries, and Ogden boasts the Myra Powell Art Gallery in the historic train depot. If you’re looking for commercial art galleries, the state’s richest pay dirt is in Park City. This small resort community has more fine art galleries than Salt Lake City.
Festivals and Events
Throughout Utah, the year’s biggest summer event is Pioneer Day on July 24, with parades and fireworks in almost every Utah community. It commemorates the day in 1847 when Brigham Young first saw the Salt Lake Valley and declared “This is the place.”
To most of the outside world, the most followed event is January’s Sundance Film Festival, in Park City, when you can see the best independent films shoulder to shoulder with the actors, directors, and press . . .tickets are hard to score, but it’s possible. Likewise, be sure to book your room way in advance or be prepared for a long commute.
July brings the Utah Festival Opera to Logan and for six days in August the Bonneville Salt Flats are the site of Speed Week, when vehicles ranging from motorcycles to diesel trucks “shoot the salt.”
© W.C. McRae and Judy Jewell from Moon Utah, 9th Edition