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Utah Arts Festival gives top artists a voice

SALT LAKE CITY — Born in Haiti, Michaëlle Martial channels her traumatic life experiences to write and perform powerful poetry.

"I experienced a few things down the road. For example, my daughter, my youngest child, passing away in her sleep, and being the survivor of domestic abuse," said Martial, also known as the Caribbean Nightingale Poet. "Finding out throughout that period of time that my mother was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's, I felt I lost my sounding board. She was my biggest supporter in that sense."

People admire the glass sculptures made by Stan Oneil at the Utah Arts Festival in Salt Lake City on Friday, June 22, 2018.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

People admire the glass sculptures made by Stan Oneil at the Utah Arts Festival in Salt Lake City on Friday, June 22, 2018.

When she read a few poems from her two books at the Utah Arts Festival on Friday afternoon, her confidence, personal style and passion shone in the rhythmic words.

"It makes me happy to see other women come up and say, 'Oh my goodness, I went through the same thing,'" said Martial, who came to Utah at 19 from Haiti to attend Ricks College and BYU. "I hope that that's what my poetry does — empower women and help with the healing process."

The annual Utah Arts Festival is showcasing a range of visual and performing arts, including music, dance, film and visual art. The festival is the state's largest outdoor multidisciplinary arts event in Utah, according to the festival's press release.

Now in its 42nd year, the festival themed "Art lives here" runs through Sunday at Library Square in Salt Lake City. Executive Director Lisa Sewell said organizers are expecting between 80,000 and 100,000 attendees this year.

Matthew Sievers paints at the Utah Arts Festival in Salt Lake City on Friday, June 22, 2018.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Matthew Sievers paints at the Utah Arts Festival in Salt Lake City on Friday, June 22, 2018.

"This is a beautiful weekend for people to come out," Sewell said. "I'd like to say every year is different, because every year there are new artists, different artists, people are changing things up, even people who are coming back."

More than 300 performers and 175 visual artists are participating this year, according to the festival's spokesman, Patrick Kibbie.

"Come with an open mind," Kibbie suggested for getting the most out of the festival. "Talk with the artists — not just look at their stuff but talk about their process and what inspires them."

This is the first year the festival is offering the Arts Fest Amplified experience: an area of the festival where attendees can pay a little extra to see some of the festival's headlining musicians.

Melody Pulsipher performs at the Utah Arts Festival on Friday, June 22, 2018.

Carley Porter

Melody Pulsipher performs at the Utah Arts Festival on Friday, June 22, 2018.

Kibbie said the Utah Art Fest is one of the most competitive art shows in the U.S., with many applicants rejected in the jury process.

Singer and songwriter Melody Pulsipher is familiar with the tough festival application process — after 10 years of applying and not making it in, she was finally accepted to the festival and got to perform for the first time Friday.

"I had decided, I'm just going to do it every year," Pulsipher said. "I'm just going to do it every year, and maybe eventually they'll just go, 'Fine, fine, you can play.' So that's been my joke now."

With her guitar and strong, rich voice, she plays some of her own work but also performs several covers because "people can understand it and relate to it in a way that they can't with my own stuff."

Matthew Sievers, who won best in show for visual arts at the festival last year, paints landscapes with oil paint in broad, colorful strokes.

Sievers said when he won, he had been experimenting with a new, fresh style to draw out emotion in people, so it was gratifying and confirming to get the award.

Matthew Sievers paints at the Utah Arts Festival in Salt Lake City on Friday, June 22, 2018.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Matthew Sievers paints at the Utah Arts Festival in Salt Lake City on Friday, June 22, 2018.

"I feel like art is entirely about emotion," Sievers said. "Everything I'm painting now, that's more what my mindset is about — how will it make you feel? Does it have an impact? Is it worth looking at? Will it move the viewer?"

Lungala Rubadiri also focuses on emotion with his art, but in his Ugandan paintings, it's all about connecting the art with a story.

"I realized everywhere we go, everybody is looking for these issues, for love, for friendship," Rubadiri said. "We all want to be there for our children. They're all universal themes, so I can't say they come from one particular place. They're things that all go through."

Rubadiri and his cousin, Paul Nzalamba, both grew up in Uganda and ended up in the U.S. to go to college. Rubadiri said he designs the paintings and connects them with stories, while Nzalamba does the painting.

Lungala Rubadiri explains the stories behind his paintings displayed at the Utah Arts Festival on Friday, June 22, 2018.

Carley Porter

Lungala Rubadiri explains the stories behind his paintings displayed at the Utah Arts Festival on Friday, June 22, 2018.

"In this case we're looking at the mother and child looking into the future, lots of flowers on her skirt, the child has real flowers in the hand, and it means a parent could have a lot of material wealth, but her best gift is love," Rubadiri said, describing the story behind one of the paintings displayed at the festival. "Love gives children a very beautiful perspective of life."

The cousins' art has been used by the American Cancer Society to spread awareness of breast cancer screenings and was recognized by the Smithsonian, which sells some of their prints. Their art also won best in show at the Utah Arts Festival in 2014.

"I realized everywhere we go, everybody is looking for these issues, for love, for friendship," Rubadiri said. "We all want to be there for our children. They're all universal themes, so I can't say they come from one particular place. They're things that all go through."

The festival is also hosting a variety of food vendors, including Mexican, Greek, Italian, Japanese, dessert and drink options.

If you go ...

What: The Utah Arts Festival

When: June 21-24

Where: Library Square in Salt Lake City

How much: Adults $12, senior citizens 65 and up $6 and children 12 and under free.

Web: uaf.org