Spring ReachUP Impact

Spring ReachUP Impact

UtahPresents ReachUP engagement events this spring were as varied as our artists. Led by Community Engagement Manager Melissa Salguero, these events reached nearly 4,000 people, mostly K-12 students.

Step Afrika kicked off our January with their electric performance on Martin Luther King Day. Following the show, students from Highland High School, who are in the first and only high school stepping group in the state, met the performers and spent time talking and asking questions. The students also performed a short stepping routine for the Step Afrika dancers.

Though stepping is a well-known art form in many parts of the country, it is not as widely practiced locally and seldom presented here. For these students to see professional step dancers and be able to meet with them afterwards was an incredible experience, encouraging them to imagine possibilities for their own futures.

March brought us the fun and joy of Music From The Sole, a tap dance and live music company that celebrates tap’s Afro-Diasporic roots, coming to Utah for the first time to perform both a student matinee and public performance at Kingsbury Hall. During their time here, the artists taught a master class with students from the University of Utah School of Dance and participated in an Afro-Diasporic Dance Exchange that UtahPresents organized at Sorenson Unity Center. The Dance Exchange also featured local organizations Bomba Marilé and Samba Fogo. Attendees ranged in age from nine months to 79, and was a joyous evening of dance, music, and community.

March also featured a public performance and student matinee of Ocean Filibuster, an immersive multimedia theatre performance that explores the critical relationship between humans and the ocean. Partnering with Save our Great Salt Lake, the project aimed to raise awareness of the plight of the lake and what we, as individuals, can do to save it. Members of the group attended the performance in costumes that were made and worn during the most recent state legislative session, as they marched to support water conservation efforts.

Together with Save Our Great Salt Lake, we partnered with the University of Utah’s Sustainability Office and Center for Equity & Student Belonging, along with community groups River Writing Collective and Making Waves for Great Salt Lake, to sponsor a Student Art Contest. Students from across the county created visual art or writing inspired by Great Salt Lake. The contest was open to K-12 students and undergraduates at the U of U. Entries came from students as young as 2nd grade up through college age and varied from paintings to multimedia pieces to longform poetry. View the winning entries here.

UtahPresents also partnered with Save Our Great Salt Lake on their annual vigil at Antelope Island, where community members gathered to advocate for efforts to save and revitalize the lake.

We rounded out the semester with Red Baraat, a North Indian Bhangra fusion band performing their Festival of Colors show celebrating Holi. For this show, we partnered with Utah Punjabi Arts Academy, who opened for Red Baraat and also taught classes at Olene Walker Elementary in partnership with Promise South Salt Lake.

Spring semester also included two master classes with School of Music piano performance majors with virtuoso pianist Simon Trpčeski, a community conversation with the artists from Black Violin, in partnership with Live at the Eccles, and our annual collaboration with University of Utah Youth Theatre for their production of SpongeBob the Musical.


National Endowment for the Arts Funds UtahPresents’ Stage Door Series, Featuring New Works by Plan-B Theatre and Heartland Collective

National Endowment for the Arts Funds UtahPresents’ Stage Door Series, Featuring New Works by Plan-B Theatre and Heartland Collective

Plan-B Theatre also receives funding for EllaMental by Dee-Dee Darby Duffin, which will serve students in grades 4-6 statewide as the company’s 12th annual Free Elementary School Tour

UtahPresents is thrilled to announce it has been approved by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for a Grants for Arts Projects award of $25,000 to support the Stage Door series. The UtahPresents series, reimagined to feature local artists producing new work, will present premiere performances of Plan-B Theatre’s Kilo-Wat and Heartland Collective’s Minute and Far.

The Stage Door series was created to present touring artists and ensembles in a more intimate setting. Patrons enter through the backstage door of Kingsbury Hall and sit on the stage where the performance takes place. This coming UtahPresents season, the Stage Door Series will become an engine to support the rich creative community in Salt Lake City with a new focus on local artists.

The series will open UtahPresents 2024-25 season with Minute and Far, created and performed by Heartland Collective, a multi-disciplinary performance collective founded by Molly Heller. Minute and Far plays with perspective, proportion through distortion, and the mechanics of time. This mixed media work is inspired by the stories, both real and imagined, of iconic Kingsbury Hall. Themes of geometric repetition, zigzag forms, and whimsical surprise are explored through movement, live music, and Art Deco inspired scenic elements.

In February, Plan-B Theatre will premiere Kilo-Wat, a new play written by Aaron Asano Swenson, performed by Bryan Kido, and directed by Jerry Rapier. After leading the University of Utah men’s basketball team to the 1944 NCAA Championship, point guard Wat “Kilo Wat” Misaka was drafted into the U.S. Army and assigned to interview survivors of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima. After the war, he was drafted by the New York Knicks, breaking the color barrier in professional basketball. Kilo-Wat explores what it means to make history within history.

Plan-B also received NEA funding for its statewide Free Elementary School Tour of EllaMental by Dee-Dee Darby-Duffin. Created specifically for grades 4-6, EllaMental centers on Ella, a Black, twelve-year-old sixth-grader struggling to make sense of her Big Feelings from the pandemic—grief, loss, fear, and anger—in a post-COVID world.

In total, the NEA will award 1,135 Grants for Arts Projects awards totaling more than $37 million as part of its second round of fiscal year 2024 grants.

“Projects like UtahPresent’s Stage Door Series exemplify the creativity and care with which communities are telling their stories, creating connection, and responding to challenges and opportunities in their communities—all through the arts,” said NEA Chair Maria Rosario Jackson, PhD. “So many aspects of our communities such as cultural vitality, health and wellbeing, infrastructure, and the economy are advanced and improved through investments in art and design, and the National Endowment for the Arts is committed to ensuring people across the country benefit.”

The Reviews are in – Ocean Filibuster Reviews

The Reviews are in – Ocean Filibuster Reviews


Photo by Pim Lin, Forest Photography at the University of Houston, 2022.

Reviews are in for Ocean Filibuster’s performance at Kingsbury Hall! Each reviewer noted the skill of actor Jennifer Kidwell, who played both the Ocean and Mr. Majority, the production’s unique and immersive projections. Here’s what they had to say:

The Daily Utah Chronicle

Arts writer Josie Hind wrote a glowing review of Ocean Filibuster, noting that “Kidwell’s ability to switch between the Ocean and Mr Majority was “a feat of performance”… “through a combination of large-scale projection, song and audience interaction, the show was exceptionally unique, engaging and educational.”

Read the full article 


Reviewer Stephanie Garcia notes the importance of Ocean Filibuster’s message: “through humor, a lot of scientific facts, and visual immersion, [Ocean Filibuster] unfurls the specifics of how poorly our anthropocentric approach has managed and exploited natural life and resources”.

Garcia also commented on Ocean Filibuster’s relevance here in Utah: “If anything, Mr. Majority reflects how this city and state’s leaders have overlooked, and put at risk the future even of their own children on behalf of business, greed, and profit.”

Read the review

Utah Theatre Bloggers Association

Salt Lake playwright and Utah Theatre Bloggers reviewer Tatiana Christian calls Ocean Filibuster “a powerful performance piece that challenges people to de-center human desires and focus on her, the Ocean…encourages audience members to think about the interconnectivity of life and that it isn’t just humans who live here.”

Read the full review



UtahPresents Hiring Development Coordinator

Congratulations to Bretleigh Sandorf, UtahPresents’ Development Officer, on her upcoming wedding! She will be moving to Utah County and seeking work closer to her soon-to-be home. As such, her last day with UtahPresents will be May 31st. The entire team at UtahPresents wishes Bretleigh and her fiancé all the best in the next chapter of their lives!

The impact of Bretleigh’s work at UtahPresents has been far-reaching and impressive. She has created multiple donor programs, overseen fundraising for two new series premiering next season, and helped us exceed fundraising goals. She has teed both her successor and UtahPresents up for success.

“I have truly enjoyed my time at UtahPresents and have immense respect for the mission and vision of this organization,” Bretleigh said. “I want to express my deepest gratitude to the UtahPresents team and Advisory Board for the support, encouragement, and camaraderie they have shown me throughout my tenure. It has been an honor to be part of such a remarkable team.”

“We have been so lucky to have Bretleigh on the team, and her impact will be lasting,” Executive Director Chloe Jones said. “We will miss her and wish her all the best!”

UtahPresents is hiring a full-time Development Coordinator to join our team this summer. This opportunity is ideal for someone looking to launch or advance a career in fundraising or the arts. Prior fundraising experience is preferred but not required. The priority application deadline is May 6, and the job posting can be found here: https://utah.peopleadmin.com/postings/162700  Please help us spread the word!

Save Our Great Salt Lake Student Art Contest Winners

Save Our Great Salt Lake Student Art Contest Winners


We are happy to announce the winners of the Save Our Great Salt Lake Student Art Contest.

Visual arts entries included painting, drawing, mixed media and digital art. Literary arts included poetry, short stories, and essays. Contest entrants ranged in age from K-3rd graders up to U of U undergraduate students, and winners represent all age groups.

The visual arts winners will be on display at Kingsbury Hall for the performance of Ocean Filibuster on March 23, after which they will be on display in the Center for Equity and Student Belonging office.

The literary arts winners will read their pieces at the Save Our Great Salt Lake Vigil on March 16, from 2-4PM at the Antelope Island Visitor Center Amphitheatre.

Thank you to our sponsors for supporting this contest:
Save Our Great Salt Lake
River Writing Collective
Office of Sustainability
Center for Equity and Student Belonging

Congratulations to the winners and thank you to all who entered!


Visual arts winners:


Pablo Cruz-Ayala
University of Utah Undergraduate
Spirit of the Great Salt Lake, Painting


Hannah Loertscher
University of Utah Undergraduate
Blessing Ceremony, Digital Art


Phoenix Williams
Salt Lake Arts Academy 7-9th grades
Wilson’s Phalarope, Painting


Amelia Wiscomb
Canyon Rim Academy, K-3rd grades
Amelia’s Amazing Jetty!!!!!!, Painting


Samuel Meikle
Highland High, 10-12th grades
Great Salt Lakeside, Painting


Sarah Giordani
University of Utah Undergraduate
Suspended in Salt, Mixed Media


Literary Arts Winners


Samantha Terrion
Canyon Rim Academy, 4-6th grades
An Ocean of Hope

A body of water, away from the crowd,

away from the houses, the cities, the loud.

Once big and majestic now small and in need.

We must try to save it for the dry is close, close, close far too close.

But there is still time, limited but some.

We must salvage and save it, for the run is so small, the run of water, of lake,

but not of heart, there is an ocean out there of hope, love, hands.

Unified hands, all hands, all colors, all sizes, all shapes but hands all the same.

They will lift, they will shape, they will save this water.

Only that is the future and we must make it the now.



Cloud Garcia-Ruiz
Salt Lake Center for Science Education, 10-12th grades
The Human Mindset

It is common for the human mind to want to claim Nature, transform her, and use her to make riches for themselves.


They fail to realize that Nature has shared her resources to others since the beginning, Many fail to listen. Many fail to realize that it’s not all yours.


When you open your ears, listen to those without words, the ones that you try to push out, you can hear them screaming

“It’s not all yours”


When you respect them, give them space, and open yourself up to their needs and listen,

You hear the whispering of sweet gifts, and they will offer it to you,


Not all

Because it’s not all yours.



Zabrina Le
University of Utah Undergraduate
To every community, group, and ecosystem that we took from, I am incredibly sorry.

Can I say I’m sorry for those who used you before?

Because I am

I am in dismay for your pain

I am in anger for your lost

I am entirely and wholly apologetic for your aching

They admired your beauty, but abused your strength

They called you precious, but took more than they needed

They painted themselves the victors, and you a mere object to take

We are not deserving

We are not even close

How can they ignore the history, the records, the balance you’ve maintained

If you walked away, we’d be left with nothing

Nothing to gaze at

Nothing to admire

A whole system, a whole community, a whole self-functioning foundation


Gone because of generations of harmful actions

Gone because of human conquering

Gone because he miscalculated your worth

Your worth should be seen as attached to ours

I only count myself deserving if you’re thriving

If the light left this planet, I’d assume you’d had passed

So when there’s threat of your light leaving our orbit

It seemed like my world was over

I can’t even fathom not having you here

Because if not for your presence, nothing seemed acceptable

If not for your energy, no mechanism would be met

So if you were taken away, I’d walk off

Off into the light

Off into the unknown

Off of this planetary plane

We must pledge our loyalty to you as a cause

To you as a being

To you as something or someone with full personhood

So I stand here and I pledge my allegiance to this enduring being

Our mother, our home, our community

– To every community, group, and ecosystem that we took from, I am incredibly sorry.

Fall 2023 ReachUP Events Create Far-Reaching Impact

Fall 2023 ReachUP Events Create Far-Reaching Impact

School of Dance students learning from Circa artists

This fall, UtahPresents’ ReachUp events, featuring performance artist Timothy White Eagle and artists from Cimarron and Circa, reached more than 2500 people from all ages and backgrounds.

Cimarron and Circa both performed student matinees for K-12 students. These two performances reached more than 1300 students across 29 school districts from Logan to Nebo.

Cimarron also taught two community workshops, for both adults and kids. See more of the Cimarron engagement here.

Artists from Circa held workshops with University students from the School of Dance as well as Honors students taking Professor Phillip Bimstein’s Artfully Extended Mind courses. Student comments included “It challenged me to think about space and my body in a new way!” and “I thought I’d struggle but they made it so easy to understand the movement.”


Honors College students learning from Circa artists in a class a the Utah Museum of Fine Arts

In partnership with the American Indian Resource Center, indigenous artist Timothy White Eagle participated in a panel discussion on the impact of boarding schools on Native American communities. Historian Steven Lee, Dr. Cynthia Benally from the Education, Culture & Society Department, and Dr. Dena Ned from the College of Social Work, also participated in the discussion, moderated by Department of History Professor Dr. Maile Arvin.

Timothy also spent time with students affiliated with the American Indian Resource Center and the LGBTQ Center, talking about his career trajectory as a queer indigenous artist. Students gained insight and encouragement about navigating higher education and their future career paths.

Timothy White Eagle speaking with students from the American Indian Resource Center and the LGBTQ Resource Center

Thank you to these amazing artists for connecting with our community and bringing their creativity and artistry to Salt Lake and the U campus!

Cimarrón Brought Rhythm, Music, and Joy to Salt Lake City

Cimarrón Brought Rhythm, Music, and Joy to Salt Lake City

It was a short stay in Salt Lake City, but the musicians from Cimarrón made the most of their time here.

On Tuesday, Sept 26, the band taught a maraca class to community members at Sorenson Unity Center in Salt Lake City’s westside. The two maraca players from Cimarrón impressed the group with their show-stopping talents, and then taught several participants some basic rhythms on the maracas.



The event was a partnership with Bomba Marile, a local Afro Puerto Rican Bomba music & dance group, who taught the group a series of dance steps. The night culminated in a dance circle, with Bomba Marile artists, musicians from Cimarrón, and community members all taking turns showing off their newfound artistic skills in the center.

Wednesday morning started with a visit to Telemundo Utah where the group performed and the band’s leader and vocalist Ana Veydó spoke about the group’s history, their focus on joropo music, and what audiences could expect from the performance. See the spot (in Spanish).

That afternoon, members of the band taught a maracas class to elementary school students as part of an after school program for refugees, organized by our community partner Promise South Salt Lake. The kids had so much fun as they learned about the performance and history of this important instrument from these artists.

The public performance that evening at Kingsbury Hall had the audience on their feet with the incredible beats and energy of the band. The following morning, they repeated the show for an audience of K-12 students from along the Wasatch Front. The students’ energy was palpable, with one teacher reporting that her student musicians were “very excited to see unique musical instruments being used in a culturally significant way.”


Over three short but action-packed days, Cimarron reached more than 1100 people throughout the Salt Lake Area.


A “BIG” opening for 2023-24

A “BIG” opening for 2023-24

The 2023-24 season kicked off in a BIG way, with four performances of Joanna Kotze’s BIG BEATS, a free outdoor performance on Aug 25 and 26 at the Salt Lake City Public Library and the U of U’s Marriot Library.

The cast included professional dancers, as well as students and faculty from the U’s School of Dance. Kotze was in Salt Lake City for two weeks leading up to the performances, working with dancers and UtahPresents and School of Dance staff to set the work and ensure a perfect execution of such a large event.

“This was quite an event to put together – 24 dancers, one live musician, outside, and free. There are so many variables,” said Kotze. “The dancers worked very hard, taking on the rigorous, detailed movement with openness, concentration, and humor. They were an absolute pleasure to work with. They performed in the heat and sun, on concrete, twice each day, and they had positive energy the whole time.”

As the name implies, the dancers perform to music driven by a very loud beat. Though it’s often performed to recorded music, composer Ryan Seaton performed the music live for all four performances, adding a special component to the event. “The music is a huge part of the piece and musician/performer, Ryan Seaton was able to really showcase all the facets of the music,” Kotze added. “It would not have been as successful without the production support given by UtahPresents, especially the incredible production team and sound set up they provided.”

Though many people planned to attend, the nature of performance in a public place with loud music is intended to draw passersby, and many additional audience members were drawn in by the spectacle. One nearby resident heard the beat, came to see what was up, and then went home to grab his camera.

BIG BEATS, and next May’s ‘lectric Eye, Kotze’s evening length work performed at Marriott Center for Dance, are part of a long-standing collaboration between UtahPresents and the School of Dance, working together to provide not only opportunities for local audiences to see new and cutting-edge contemporary dance, but also opportunities for students to learn from and perform alongside professional artists. “This would not have been possible without the collaboration between UtahPresents and the School of Dance – and namely Chloe Jones and Melonie Buchanan Murray,” said Kotze. “It also would not have been possible without the administrative and rehearsal support given by assistant professor, Molly Heller, and graduate student, Roxanne Gray who took on much of the communication with the large cast as well as organizing the audition and rehearsal space.”

Molly Heller, assistant professor in the U School of Dance and a longtime collaborator with Kotze, felt the impact on faculty and students performing together. “We don’t really ever, except when we are teaching, have the opportunity to dance alongside one another in a decentralized power dynamic,” Heller said in an interview with The Finer Points Blog. “No one is grading anyone. We are all in the same boat, swimming through complex material, figuring it out. For my colleagues and I to experience it together is bonding. I can feel the excitement in our faculty meetings to be sharing this, inviting everyone to come see what we are doing.”

By all metrics, the event was a resounding success! “I can’t say enough about this beautiful, talented, very generous community,” Kotze added. “It’s the first time I’ve set BIG BEATS on a combination of professional freelance dancers, University students, and University faculty. What an opportunity for students to dance WITH and learn WITH their teachers and professional dancers in their community. What an opportunity for the faculty to perform together and learn alongside their students. What an opportunity for me to witness these relationships grow and see the admiration everyone has for each other. I hope to share this with other communities in this way!”

Tickets for ‘lectric Eye on May 9-11 are available now at https://www.utahpresents.org/events/lectriceye/

Learn about UtahPresents’ Dance Package at UtahPresents.org/dance

Community Engagement for K-12 Students in the 2022-23 Season

Community Engagement for K-12 Students in the 2022-23 Season

UtahPresents’ seasons are full of amazing artists from around the world, performing at the top of their genres. But did you also know that most of these artists are also deeply engaged in community and often connect with student and community groups before or after their performances?

During our 2022-23 season, 16 artists/ensembles performed 23 public shows at Kingsbury Hall and other venues. But in addition, they also participated in 48 community events, impacting nearly 10,000 people in Salt Lake and the surrounding areas.

A significant part of our engagement work is with K-12 students, including student matinees. Students come to Kingsbury Hall to see a live performance and often have an opportunity to ask questions of the artists afterwards. For many students, this is the first time they have been in a theatre like Kingsbury Hall for a professional arts experience. In addition, we work with campus partners to provide opportunities for groups of students to stay after matinees and tour the campus, meet with student leaders, and begin to see pathways into higher education.

One especially meaningful group from the past season was a group of 7-8 grade students from Granite Park Junior High. The students wrote essays about why they wanted to attend, and 50 students were selected. The group saw a performance of Sugar Skull!, a story of a Mexican American girl who wants to celebrate Halloween with her friends but over the course of the story learns to appreciate her family’s Dia de los Muertos traditions. The cast met with the Granite Park students afterwards, and students expressed appreciation for the story and the performance. Several mentioned that they related to the main character and felt more appreciate for their own family’s traditions after seeing the show.

The students then met with First Generation Scholars, a group of first-generation student leaders at the University of Utah. They gave the junior high students a tour of campus and talked to them about opportunities to attend the U and the ways to overcome challenges if they are the first in their family to attend college.

UtahPresents also brings artists directly into schools (see a separate story about Kalani Pe’a at Mana Academy here) to perform or teach workshops and classes with K-12 students. This past season, the artists from Manual Cinema, who performed their amazing family-friendly show Leonardo! A Wonderful Story about a Terrible Monster, based on popular children’s books by author Mo Willems. Prior to the show, the artists taught a puppet making class with students involved in Promise South Salt Lake’s after school programs, helping the students make their own puppets and create stories for their puppet characters.

On occasion, we are able to create an opportunity for young artists to perform with professional companies. This season, UtahPresents and the School of Dance partnered to present Collage Dance Collective, a renowned ballet company out of Memphis with a cast of BIPOC dancers. The company was in Salt Lake City for two weeks in March, working with local dancers from both the School of Dance and two area schools. 18 university dancers and 60 community dancers, aged 8-18 from Westpoint Ballet in Herriman and Bountiful School of Ballet, took classes from the dancers, learned choreography, and then performed in two student matinees and two public performances at Marriott Center for Dance. For these young dancers, the opportunity to work, rehearse and perform with professional dancers was priceless.

For more information on community engagement events coming up in the 2023-24 season, visit this link.

Congratulations to Willy Palomo and his partner Anushka Sen on their move to Chicago

Congratulations to Willy Palomo and his partner Anushka Sen on their move to Chicago

Congratulations to Willy Palomo and his partner, Anushka Sen, who has recently accepted a tenure track position at Loyola University in Chicago. They will be moving there this summer, and we wish them all the best!

Although Willy’s time at UtahPresents was short, it was incredibly impactful. Continuing existing partnerships and developing new ones, Willy planned and executed 22 engagement events between January and May of 2023, impacting more than 5800 community members. These included student matinee performances of Youth Theatre at the U and Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, as well as a visit to Mana Academy with Hawaiian singer Kalani Pe’a, a puppet-making class with artists from Manual Cinema and Promise South Salt Lake’s after school programs for elementary school students, and hosting the Utah State Poetry Slam Finals with guest poet Justice Ameer, just to name a few.

“I have immensely enjoyed my time at UtahPresents, connecting artists like Heidi Schreck and Manual Cinema to low-income schools and juvenile detention centers,” Willy said. “I am grateful to our community partners like SLCC Dream Center and Burning Sissy Valley for co-building events with us to reach some of Utah’s most marginalized communities. I am sad to be leaving so soon, but excited for the adventures and learning I’m sure to find in Chicago.”

“It’s been a tremendous gift to have Willy on the team at UtahPresents,” said Chloe Jones, executive director of UtahPresents.” He is simply brilliant at building community through the arts. In addition to all the programming he spearheaded this year, he was an invaluable collaborator to me in curating our 2023-2024 season.”

Although we are extremely sad not to continue working with Willy, we are very happy for him and Anushka and their new adventures in Chicago!

Willy will continue to work full-time for UtahPresents through the end of June and part-time through September, allowing for a smooth transition. The search for a new Community Engagement Manager is now open at this link: https://employment.utah.edu/salt-lake-city-ut/community-engagement-manager/6B05BC843C3E417A8A71B6BF7E75487D/job/. Please help us spread the word!