Artes de México, a local cultural nonprofit, is engaged in artistic and literary activities this month throughout Utah in an effort to promote Mexican art and Spanish language with a poetry and short story contest.
The nonprofit's mission is “to promote the appreciation of Mexican art in Utah,” and their vision is “a community united through cultural appreciation and connection.” Over the years they have organized art classes, traveling exhibitions, and workshops and crafts for all ages.
The organization began in 2010 after founder Susan Vogel, an American, lived several years in Mexico and taught her daughter Spanish. She knew the importance connecting people to their roots. “It’s important for people to know their history,” says Fanny, board chair of Artes de México.
Their new location at Hartland Partnership Center in the Glendale neighborhood will be instrumental in catering to citizens of Mexican descent who live on the west side. “Before our current location, we had a lot of exposure to central and eastern parts of town. It’s good to educate the predominantly white population there, but we also need to educate our own,” says Fanny.
Artes de México is hosting their sixth annual Sor Juana Poetry writing contest. The contest consists of two categories: poetry and short story. It is open to high school students and adults living in Utah. Submissions are to be original and written in Spanish. They are due June 30. More information can be found on their website, artesmexut.org. Winners of each category will win $100 dollars cash prize. Winners will also be announced at the Utah Humanities Book Festival in Salt Lake City this fall. Winning submissions will be published on social media and various local Spanish language newspapers.
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (commonly known as Sor Juana) was a nun, scientist, poet, and composer. Most of her writing touches themes on love, religion, and the perversities of males. She is nicknamed “the tenth muse.”
She was born in a village near Mexico City in the second half of the seventeenth century during Mexico’s colonial history. She was a self-taught scholar and rare renaissance figure and prodigy that by age thirteen she hung around authorities in physics, math, musicology, and philosophy.
Much of her later life was devoted to a religious and monastic lifestyle. She sold her scientific equipment and chunks of her library for charitable causes. Her exposure to sick patients caused her to die of the plague in 1695.
Today she is a national figure in Mexico; a highly revered and debated author in Mexico’s literary and intellectual scene; and featured on the 200.00 Mexican peso banknote.
Mexicans and Mexican-Americans living in the United States should be proud of their rich literary tradition from Mexico that is often understated by the English-speaking world. Often, people of Mexican descent living on the west side are clueless about the poets, authors, artists, and filmmakers of their country of origin . Artes de México is playing an important role in fostering both pride and awareness of some of Mexico’s remarkable contributions to the world.
Organización local de artes mexicanas promueve la lengua española y las contribuciones literarias y culturales mexicanas
Escrito y traducido por Atticus Agustin
Artes de México es una organización sin fin de lucro cultural está comprometido en actividades de artes literarias este mes durante todo Utah en una lucha en promover las artes mexicanas y la idioma española con un concurso de poesía y cuento corto.
La lema de la organización es “Promover la apreciación de las artes mexicanas en Utah. Nuestra visión es una comunidad unida entre una apreciación cultural y coneccion. sobre los años han manejado cursos de arte, exhibiciones, talleres y artesanías para todos los edades.
La organización comenzó cuando la fundadora Susan Voguel, una estadounidense, vivió varios años en México y enseñó a su hija español. Ella sabía la importancia de conectar gente a sus raíces. “Es importante que la gente sepa de su historia”, dice Fanny, presidenta de la mesa directiva de Artes de México.
Su una ubicación en Hartland Partnership Center será instrumental en abastecer con ciudadanos de ascendencia mexicana who viven en las áreas occidentales. “Antes de nuestra ubicación actual, teníamos mucha exposición en áreas centrales y orientales. Es bueno educar la predominantemente gente blanca [anglosajón] de esas áreas, pero debemos educar a nuestra propia gente”, dice Fanny.
Artes de México organizará el sexto anual Sor Juana Poetry Writing Contest. El concurso consiste de dos categorías: poesía y corta historia. Está abierta para los estudiantes de preparatoria y adultos viviendo en Salt Lake City. Entradas deben ser escritas ser original y escritas en español. Entradas deberán ser entregados el 30 de junio. Más información se puede encontrar en artesmexut.org. Ganadores serán premiados cien dólares y también serán anunciados en la feria de libros Utah Humanities Book Festival en Salt Lake City este otoño. Entradas ganadoras también serán publicadas en redes sociales y varios periódicos locales de lengua española.
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (comúnmente Sor Juana) fue una monja, scientifica, poeta, y compositora. Ella escribió durante el siglo de oro de literatura española y durante el barroco tardío. Muchos de sus poemas tocan temas de amor, religión, y las perversidades de los hombres. Ella es apodada “La décima musa”.
Sor Juana nació en un pueblo cercas de la Ciudad de México en el segundo medio del siglo XVII. Fue una catedrática de auto formación y una figura rara renacentista y prodigio que a los trece años se reunía con autoridades en la física, matemáticas, música, y filosofía.
Mucha de su vida fue dedicada a una vida religiosa y monástica. Vendió su equipaje científicos y cantidades de su biblioteca para causas caritativos. Su exposición a pacientes enfermos hizo que contagia la plaga, murió en 1695.
Hoy, ella es una figura nacional en México; una autora altamente alabada y debatida en círculos literarios e intelectuales en México; y es mostrada en el billete de 200.00 pesos.
Mexicanos y Mexicanos-Americanos residiendo en Estados Unidos–en particular los barrios occidentales–son claramente orgullosos de la rica tradición literaria de México que es a menudo subestimada en el mundo parla-inglés. Muchas veces, se ve que mexicanos en el exterior y connacionales no tienen idea sobre los poetas, autores, artistas, y realizadores de su país de origen frente un vaivén educativo y cultural anglosajón. Artes de México juega un rol importante en estimular tal orgullo y conocimiento.
Megan Hallett started her nonprofit, Framework Arts, in 2014 as a “projects-based nonprofit” to “show other people’s stories.” She focuses her efforts on the west side of Salt Lake City because, as she puts it, “Not all arts and culture organizations have worked as hard as they could have on the west side.”
Hallett has no staff and enjoys the flexibility she can maintain with a small-scale operation. Flexibility must be part of the reason this former coordinator of the Children and Family Program for the Utah Museum of Fine Arts is thriving as a teacher of elementary school children, a teacher of art teachers pursuing master’s degrees at the University of Utah, and an organizer of multiple family-focused art projects to benefit her own school and the wider community.
Hallett works full-time as the K-6 art teacher at Escalante Elementary School in Westpointe and loves her job. She interacts with every child in the school, and after seven years in the same school, she has developed strong bonds with many of the children. Through Framework Arts, Hallett has become more than a school-day presence in the lives of many of her students. She has shaped a project – the Family Art Studio – to address her special take on the needs of her west-side school.
Parental involvement in a child's school life is recognized as a strong contributor to academic success, explains Hallett, and because the west side of Salt Lake City has a concentration of the common barriers to that engagement, such as language and time constraints, many parents may feel a sense of alienation. Perhaps others feel awkward because they have had limited or negative school experiences themselves. Over the past three years the Family Arts Project has welcomed all interested members of an Escalante Elementary household to attend a series of six to eight two-hour evening meetings once a week.
Dinner is served to a mix of generations, and arrangements are made in advance for interpreters to attend as needed. (Sometimes it is necessary to use grant money to pay an interpreter, but often, a PTA parent will volunteer.) Each series averages about 30 people per night. Provisions are also made to accommodate very small children.
Typically, a family is asked to create a “picture portrait without a person in the portrait.” Family groups work together at Escalante to create 'books' of art in which each week a page answers a given question related to the family in the form of an illustration. Using a theme as a prompt, the picture answers are created as family members interview each other. Working in a school setting is important – barriers are worn away as everyone feels welcome.
Hallett wants more than art appreciation for families at Escalante. Yet, that is part of the package. The evenings begin with Hallett’s presentation of visual art that fits her project theme. Recent topics have been “Movement and Immigration” and “Identity.” The purpose of the presentation is to broaden understanding – copying is discouraged. As the teacher says, “That’s not the way I’m interested in teaching,” because it is a “disservice to reproduce someone else’s work.”
The projects have led to “beautiful artwork,” says Hallett. The results have not only delighted the teacher, but prompted Escalante administrators to support efforts to invite families from other elementary schools in the area to participate.
The Family Art Project is the main, but not the sole project of Framework Arts. As a non-profit, Framework Arts has also funded and presented art and craft projects at the Day Riverside Library and the Sorenson Unity Center, and the Main Salt Lake City Library in downtown Salt Lake.
“Every day I drive to work, I see this mural and it makes me happy.” That was the best compliment Salt Lake City artist Josh Scheuerman received while painting his Bears Ears mural, located in the Granary District on 800 South between 300 West and 400 West. “When I was painting, I had a lot of citizens stop by and talk about how the mural was changing the feeling of the bleakness into something more beautiful,” Scheuerman said. “I believe it'll bring more community feeling into the area and help brighten the once industrial area into a center open-air gallery for the city.”
A multitude of messages and meaning can be conveyed within the frame of a mural. Murals can sprawl from religious to social to personal to communal. In his 1976 academic journal [ITALICS]Tiene Arte Valor Afuera Del Barrio: Murals of East Los Angeles and Boyle Heights, Louis Holscher, who studied the significance of Chicano murals in Latin American communities, stated: “murals are newspapers on walls, and a wealth of information is contained in them. They can be valuable to educators, politicians, sociologists, political scientists, architects, and planners.” As a canvas for expression, murals provide the unique opportunity for an entire community to come together to articulate common concerns, hopes, and values.
Right now, the Granary District is aiming to do just that. In a project put forth by the Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake City, grants are being provided to local artists to “create artwork that contributes to the beautification, diversification, and economic vitality of the historic Granary District.” As the Granary District changes and develops, local businesses housed within the Granary District boundaries hold on tighter to preserve the historical significance of the area. Once an area of factory and commercial development around the railroad, the Granary has now become a rich community of warehouses and industrial spaces inhabited by artists, restaurateurs, entrepreneurs, and other locals hoping to take grass-roots control of how the area develops. “The Granary Murals will contribute to a new version of the city, which is showing support for local artists and businesses to create more art for the public to enjoy,” Scheuerman said.
Murals incite energy into a community space. They ask to be seen and to be heard. “Art has always been and always will be the most important communicator in the world. It transcends language and time,” said Scheuerman. Mural work can represent much more than a community’s effort to find artistic expression - it can provide an opportunity for critical examination of what’s going on in our city. Murals may be unique to a neighborhood, but when you track murals in Salt Lake City from building to building it begins to paint a bigger picture about issues our city considers to be important. “I believe the Bears Ears Mural, and similar large murals, started a conversation unknowingly with cities across Utah,” Scheurman explained “At the time [of painting the mural] we had just lost Outdoor Retailers due to the threat of downsizing Bears Ears National Monument and I wanted to remind everyone why it was important to keep protected.”
The use of murals to preserve the Granary District is significant. Murals create pride in the neighborhood. They offer a window into a town’s history and interweaves it with our present reality. In a time of gentrification of the west side, the Granary District provides Salt Lake the opportunity simultaneously to step back in time and look forward to the future - a future decided by locals looking to protect what makes Salt Lake City unique. “Murals revive communities and share a combined language. Art has healing power and it has shown us for thousands of years that we can create beautiful and inspiring works of art, which don't have to be protected under glass,” said Scheuerman.
Grants for the Granary Mural Project are currently being awarded to selected artists and murals are expected to start going up in the neighborhood in June.
Salt Lake City is home to a vibrant jazz music culture
Jazz emerged as a form of popular music 100 years ago, and achieved a high peak of popularity by 1945, when twenty-three-year-old Joe McQueen arrived in Ogden with his tenor saxophone. McQueen soon started leading his own jazz group and accompanying nationally known jazz stars who travelled by train to Utah in the days when Ogden boasted the largest community of African Americans in the state.
Jazz records moved up and down the charts over time, but the music evolved to rival classical in the skill of its players and innovations of its composers.
Today, Utah’s colleges employ top-notch, distinguished jazz musicians, such as Chris Johnson, Director of Jazz Studies at the U of U, who are fueling a resurgence of live jazz along the Wasatch Front, supported by audiences of vastly different ages.
Last summer, 8,000 twenty-somethings heard Kamasi Washington play from his award-winning jazz album, “The Epic” at the Twilight Concert Series, while audiences the same age and older attended two other Jazz shows the same night. Almost two dozen venues across the Wasatch Front present Jazz regularly or occasionally throughout the year, including the west side’s Sugar Space.
The Garage on Beck, near the west side’s northern tip at 1199 Beck St, has featured Jazz on Thursday nights since 2011, beginning with fine local musicians Mark Chaney on drums, Harold Carr on bass, and the late guitarist Keven Johansen. “[Johansen] was one of the finest musicians ever to come out of Salt Lake,” said Chaney, “Everyone’s favorite sideman!”
“We played three Thursdays every month,” he said, “and built up a friendly Jazz crowd that wasn’t there [at the Garage] before.”
The Garage devoted the first Thursday of every month to the Joe McQueen Quartet over those same years, with ace musicians Don Keipp from Weber State University, Brad Wright of Ogden, and Ryan Conger, music teacher at Fast Forward Charter High School in Logan.
“The Joe McQueen Quartet solidified at the Garage,” said keyboardist Conger, “We had been gigging around, but playing at a regular location allowed us to really develop.” Noted local musicians such as “Bad” Brad Wheeler, Keven Johansen, and Jay Lawrence sat in with the band.
Conger described his relationship with McQueen as “learning life lessons all the time.” “There is this grandfatherly feeling; he is a strong male role model. Working with him is being a part of a bigger thing. Besides his history in music, he was part of the Desegregation Movement, and so much more. ”
McQueen’s active role against racial segregation is documented in the book “Jazz & Cocktails: Rethinking Race and the Sound of Film Noir” by Jans Wager, plus films by the Ogden Standard-Examiner and Issac Goeckeritz about Ogden’s 25th Street and the Porters and Waiters Club.
Excellence in the Community concert series celebrated McQueen’s 99th birthday at the Gallivan Center in Downtown Salt Lake City in May. There was cake for everyone, and his multi-generational quartet performed skillful, nuanced arrangements of standards like “Willow Weep for Me,” and McQueen’s own tune “The Thing.”
Jazz disk jockey Steve Williams of KCPW 88.3 FM, who has been on Salt Lake Radio since 1979, was “really excited” to be MC at the concert. “Joe McQueen is such a great man,” said Williams, “For me, anytime I can be with Joe is a treat – anytime you get a fellow around who has the credentials he does. He’s an innovator and a motivator for all of us guys.”
Williams is also a regular MC for Jazz concerts at the historic Capitol Theater presented by JazzSLC, which Gordon Hanks started twenty-four years ago, with influential jazz DJ Wes Bowen as announcer at first.
Williams has been on the Excellence in the Community team since 2005, an organization that has promoted over 400 concerts by the best musicians in Utah.
“Excellence” teamed up with the Gallivan Center in 2011, and now produces free concerts every week there throughout the year, in addition to other free concert venues. “We may only have a few celebrities in Utah, but we have lots of excellence,” said Excellence in the Community Founder Jeff Whitely.
That excellence includes McQueen. “We made an album a few years ago,” said Conger, “but Joe’s playing so well right now that we are recording another one called “9 by 99,” which we will release this autumn.”
“The Lord has blessed me with a long life,” McQueen tells the audiences at his shows, “and I hope he blesses everybody just as much!”
Salt Lake City’s Glendale community is booming with musical experiences this summer. Immerse yourself (or your kids) in music with a creative Bucket Percussion Drum Circle – a music workshop hosted at the Glendale Library with the “Strike a Chord” Library summer program, vibe with classical guitar workshops at the Sorenson Unity Center, or check out the Saturday group piano classes at Sorenson Center’s Harmony Hub – all free of charge and brought to you in part by a Salt Lake City-based nonprofit called Mundi Project.
Mundi Project is one of a handful of organizations that bring music, art and culture to underserved communities through creative, hands-on musical initiatives. Hana Janatova founded Mundi Project in 2006 with the vision of increasing access to pianos, because she believes that “every child deserves the opportunity to have music in their lives.” Mundi contracts with artists and teachers to bring music programming into the community. Their Piano Bank program even puts pianos into public spaces (Glendale Library and Sorenson Unity Center) and individual piano students’ homes.
Bringing together a vision that has been embraced by community, Mundi Project brings performances to the Sorenson Unity Center that showcase the results of workshops that help students connect with classical music. In 2017, Mundi Project joined forces with Utah Classical Guitar to offer youth and adult guitar ensemble instruction. Janatova feels that the partnership is giving musical life to the Sorenson Unity Center.
I recently participated in guitar classes taught by Gabino Flores at the Sorenson Unity Center’s “Harmony Hub” space – a product of the Mundi Project /Sorenson Unity Center partnership. During the first session I sat and listened to Gabino and his students as he animatedly taught them proper technique and theory for classical guitar. Gabino then separated the classroom into two groups – one for people with no knowledge of guitar that Gabino would teach, and another for the more advanced classes taught by Gabino’s student, Rebecca. who after only three years of study, has advanced quickly into her musical craft by being extremely disciplined.
When I came back for a second time, the students introduced themselves and welcomed me kindly. Gabino then taught the proper technique of holding a guitar and how to keep my hand naturally parallel and flat against the neck of the guitar. He listened to another student and gave constructive feedback that I felt the student received really well. We then got up and went into a nearby black box theater, where a Harmony Hub student recital was going on. We listened to performances by Riley Elementary guitar and piano students. Pieces, such as 007 Theme music and Malagueña were performed by the students. Students, teachers, and community members listened supportively.
The west side community of Glendale is tapping into its musical talent in part because of arts programming provided by Mundi Project, in partnership with the Salt Lake City School District, Utah Classical Guitar, and Salt Lake City’s Division of Youth and Family Services.
I have been working at the Glendale Library for a little over a year now, and I have found the vast majority of community members to be musically gifted. I believe it is no coincidence that many of the youth can play “Heart and Soul” on Mundi’s Piano Bank piano; music seems to be a staple, feeding the soul of the community.
Gifted Music School’s ‘Project Grit’ brings music and violin instruction to Mountain View Elementary
At Mountain View Elementary in the Glendale neighborhood, every week during the school year Kindergarten and first grade students get the opportunity to study music from a qualified music instructor. The structured, one-hour class is presented by the Gifted Music School’s Project GRIT, an outreach partnership with the Salt Lake City School District. The aim of the partnership is to identify and reach out to the most at-risk children in danger of not completing high school. Through consistent musical training, Gifted Music School hopes to provide students with pathways to success by using music as a way to increase literacy, improve self worth, develop social skills and improve academic achievement. The program is now in its third year and is already showing results, including lower numbers of absenteeism and decreased behavioral problems among its participants.
In addition to weekly music instruction for Kindergarten and first grade classes at Mountain View Elementary, Project GRIT also provides after school music fundamentals and violin instruction for second through fourth grade Mountain View students, and fifth through twelfth grade students are eligible for limited scholarships to continue study at the Gifted Music School’s downtown campus.
Youth Enrichment Foundation provides piano program in three Salt Lake City schools
The Youth Enrichment Foundation (YEF) has made it their goal to help children build self-esteem, experience success and achieve academically through music. The YEF program was created in 1994 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization by Bart & Liz Warner of the Warner Trucking Company. The program is currently funded 65% by the Warner family and 35% by the individual schools the program serves in the Salt Lake City School District, including Whittier Elementary, Glendale Middle and East High Schools. The foundation’s piano program gives students the opportunity to achieve success outside the general classroom by providing professional piano instruction and the opportunity to show off their hard work by performing for their local community. Students have high praise for the program says Bonny Wooten, Youth Enrichment Foundation Music Director. “Many [students] will state that this class is an encouraging, calming, supportive place in which they can be expressive,” she said. Students have said the class "saved my life," "allows me to be myself" and "gives me a place to make friends and feel supported by my teachers.”
U of U Piano Outreach Program brings piano instruction to Backman Elementary School
When school budgets become tight, arts and music programs are often the first to be cut and Title I schools are often the most negatively impacted by the elimination of these programs. The University of Utah’s Piano Outreach Program recognized a need in the community and designed a program that would help ensure that students at Title I schools, like Backman Elementary, would have access to a high quality music education. This outreach opportunity pairs low-income elementary school students with University of Utah piano students in an after school music program designed to foster life-long musical skills and develop students’ self-confidence. The university students get the added benefit of learning to teach piano in a real world environment and can help share their love of music with a new generation of piano students. According to University Piano Outreach Program Coordinator Dr. Mio Cowden, the “goal of the program is to provide the opportunity for all children to experience music. It is our desire to bring back music to all of the Title 1 schools across Salt Lake County. This comes with a real commitment from the University of Utah, our gracious donors, and the leadership of the elementary schools. However, a commitment that is more than worth it when you see a smile come from those who play their first piece of music or perform in front of their friends and family for the first time. That is priceless.”
Salty Cricket nonprofit provides music education at Mary Jackson Elementary
By Charlotte Fife-Jepperson Photos by Davey Davis
A nonprofit arts organization called Salty Cricket provides afterschool and summer music classes for students in Pre-K through 9th grade at Mary Jackson Elementary School in the Fairpark community. Every day, participating students receive small group instruction, music theory, and orchestra class. Currently, students may choose to learn violin, viola or cello.
Fairpark residents Nathaniel Eschler and Victoria Petro-Eschler run the music program. In 2008, the couple launched the nonprofit with a composers’ collective called “Salty Cricket.” They added the El Sistema program, an international program that originated in Venezuela, at Mary Jackson in 2015. “Jackson’s administration has been very supportive,” said Petro-Eschler.
If all goes well and they receive a capacity-building grant from El Sistema USA, they are planning to expand to Wallace Stegner Academy, a public charter school in the Glendale neighborhood. At this new location, in addition to strings, they would offer wind, brass and percussion instruction.
“We need movers and shakers on the west side to get involved and support [this expansion],” said Eschler.
There are currently two open spots in the El Sistema program at Mary Jackson. To inquire, visit www.saltycricket.org.
“I have musical ADHD,” said Peter Danzig, when describing his songwriting process and the 10 instruments he plays. He is one half of the Fair Park-based folk band, Otter Creek Duo. The other half of the duo is his wife, Mary Danzig.
“I might keep some lyrics in my head, sort of ADHD style, beginning this whole eclectic mess, and then something emerges out of it… hopefully. Some songwriters start with lyrics, I usually start with instruments,” Peter said. Instruments like the steel guitar, the banjo, a couple of mandolins, a bouzouki, a mountain dulcimer, and more.
Otter Creek Duo is currently touring their third album, “The Fiddle Preacher,” this summer, with scheduled appearances in Idaho, Montana, Illinois, Ohio, and Massachusetts.
The album’s title track song, “The Fiddle Preacher” reached #10 on the Folk DJ Charts. It is a fast-paced, rousing song written by Peter, evoking images of prairie campfire dances. Peter and Mary Danzig called “The Fiddle Preacher” a song about celebrating joy in life and embracing your authentic self.
They describe themselves as an “eclectic-folk-Americana-bluegrass band with Celtic influences,” and they draw inspiration from musicians such as Patty Larkin, John Gorka, David Wilcox, Simon and Garfunkel, and Peter, Paul and Mary.
Otter Creek Duo’s name was derived from Mary’s maiden name – Otterstrom. “One day Peter said, ‘If we change your maiden name, which is basically Swedish for ‘Otter Creek’ and just ‘bluegrassed’ it, that’s a good name,” said Mary. “I replied, ‘You know, when we got married I took your name and now you’re going to take mine.’”
The two were childhood sweethearts who first became acquainted in the first grade, as they grew up together in the same Avenues neighborhood. But it was while they both studied music at the University of Utah that they became reacquainted, and later married.
Mary has a master’s degree in violin performance and Peter, a bachelor’s degree in music composition. The two have backgrounds in classical music but became interested in forming a bluegrass band, after they attended a bluegrass festival. It was a pivotal, life-changing moment. Mary said that what she witnessed at the festival convinced her that bluegrass music was the type of music for her. Otter Creek Duo was formed in 2009.
The couple said that their music is often related to current events that inspire them and that their music is meant to carry on oral traditions.
“Folk musicians are historians. We’re bringing forward these stories that have been informing us about who we are in this society. And also, what things are going on that need a song?” said Peter.
“The theme of our music seems to really reflect what is going on at the time. I mean, all these different issues that we go through like the environment or immigration…,” said Mary.
“‘Sometimes You Just Know’ is written about a friend of ours. I got down to the courthouse the day that marriage equality arrived in Utah and I called a close friend of mine and said, ‘Get down here, you’re getting married today.’ They’d been together 17 years and had two kids together. So we went down there and did wedding music for everybody. And it was really exciting. I just wanted a song about equality,” said Peter.
Otter Creek Duo’s “Take The Climb” was inspired by the suicide of gay Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi, after a roommate posted pictures of him kissing another man on a social media website. “It just hurt my heart to see that someone would feel ashamed of something that they had no reason to feel ashamed of,” said Mary, after channeling her emotions into a song about the incident.
She said that the song “Bidder 77” on The Fiddle Preacher album was written about environmental activist Tim DeChristoper’s protest of a Bureau of Land Management auction of 116 parcels of public land in 2008.
Sometimes they play and record music with their daughters, who also have their own band, called “The Three Muses.”
“We travel a lot during the summer and they always perform with us on the road. I think they enjoy the traveling and have good times,” said Mary.
Otter Creek Duo performed their version of “Down To The River To Pray” on the season 6 finale of “Sister Wives” on TLC.
Otter Creek’s previous two albums are called “Hunter’s Moon” and “Shiver Into Spark.” The band plans to release a fourth album by the end of 2019, called “American Jalopy,” which centers around themes of independence. Peter said, “My dad’s idea of car maintenance was that if it’s still moving, it’s probably worth driving. Why change the oil? It will just burn off,” he laughed. “So I grew up driving all these horrible cars and it struck me that there is something so loveable about American independence. Because it’s like, it’s broken, but we’re going to do it anyway!”
I didn’t fall in love with the Jordan River on the first date. It was more like the 500th date. Originally it was the backdrop of my bike commute. An unimpressive “bottom of the water shed” kind of river that seemed like it had been treated like a canal over the years rather than a real river.
I grew up poking around the Provo and Weber Rivers, trout fishing and catching snakes along the clear mountain streams. The murky nature of the Jordan didn’t do a whole lot for me in comparison.
Biking was my initial endeavor. I wondered if I could bike the river trail from Midvale to Salt Lake to get to school and work. The endeavor took over two hours initially, but it was exciting to get a workout and avoid driving my car. I started to ride the trail in all four seasons and began to log hundreds of hours on the trail each year.
I began noticing beautiful things: on cold mornings in the winter, water vapor rises off the river and into the light peaking over the Wasatch. The pelican’s arrival in the late spring. The yearly arrival of the same Bald Eagle to the same Cottonwood tree each January. Noticing a Kestrel Falcon drop out of the sky and come up with a mouse. It seemed like, as I started to pay attention to the space around me, the more I noticed these awesome things happening. I was starting to connect with the river and all the life that it attracted.
I decided to get more involved. The Jordan River Community Initiative is a project that resulted from attending the West Side Leadership Institute. I jumped into the endeavor of experiential learning and community leadership. I met other people that were passionate about the river and wanted to improve it, including Gilberto Rejon Magana, the Founder of Hartland Community 4 Youth and Family. We’ve since spent many an hour beautifying the river in different ways and engaging our different communities in river projects.
I decided to take my camera along for the ride and try to capture some of the moments that I experienced on the river. We started sharing the images on social media.
A few years ago, we pitched an idea of creating art murals on old vandalized signs to Lewis Kogan with SLC Open Space. We found funding with the help of the Jordan River Commission to create a Jordan River Art Project that engaged the community in canoeing and river art murals. The project spanned three years and engaged hundreds of community members, youth groups, local community artists, other non-profits, and property owners along the river. After three years and countless hours planning, coordinating, and executing the project, we created over 30 art pieces along the Salt Lake section of the Jordan River and got hundreds of community members involved.
Taking the Jordan River route was the catalyst for adding many valuable experiences and relationships in my life.