May 30, 2013

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Community in Concert

Discover the Sandy Arts Scene

Pamela M. Olson

May 30, 2013

On a recent warm summer night in Sandy, the crowds gathered en masse at the Sandy Amphitheatre for one of the season’s best pastimes: the summer concert. Packing picnics or chowing down steak sandwiches with freshly cut fries from the concessions, locals watched ARRIVAL from Sweden, an ABBA cover band, belt out hit after hit with a fittingly colorful 70s-style sunset as a backdrop. Every seat and patch of lawn was occupied with people of all ages, as it is for most shows at the amphitheater. But live pop concerts are only one of the many choices available to arts-seekers on the Sandy scene. From world-class dance to youth arts programs, Sandy City’s arts scene continues to thrive and offer memorable experiences.

Twenty-Five Years of Arts

“The arts scene in Sandy is very vibrant,” says Steven Ireland, marketing and development specialist for the Sandy Arts Guild, the largest arts organization in Sandy City. Since 1987, the guild has grown to support programming spanning all arts endeavors, from a youth theatre program to a juried visual arts show to music festivals.

On the stage, the guild produces an average of three theatrical performances per year attracting thousands of attendees and involving hundreds of local actors and supporting talents. Classics like Beauty & the Beast, Ragtime and Guys and Dolls have been performed, and a perennial favorite, Aida. “It’s our most diverse attraction,” says Ireland. “We try to get as many people involved in casting as we can.”

With the help of numerous grants, fundraisers and Salt Lake County’s Zoo, Arts and Parks program, the Guild accomplishes its stated mission to bring “special community and artistic experiences to the residents of Sandy and the Salt Lake Valley,” something that, with all of its supporting organizations, the guild does well.

A Community of Performers

The strength of the Sandy arts, one embraced by Sandy City, is the strength in community. This is one reason Teresa Leavitt serves on the board of the Mountain West Ballet. “I danced when I was younger and I have a daughter who also enjoys ballet,” she says. “It’s something my daughter and I can share, but it’s really about being part of the community. I believe that no matter where you decide to give, you get so much more out of the experience than you give.”

Leavitt is part of an all-volunteer board working with a paid and volunteer, part-time artistic staff made up of dedicated instructors and choreographers who also run their own dance studios or teach at university programs. “It’s a big collaborative effort,” Leavitt says.

The mission of the ballet is to preserve and share ballet, but also to provide performance opportunities to aspiring dancers. Leavitt says that while dancers in the principal roles are paid, most cast members are volunteers, including dancers from some 25 different schools, colleges and universities. But what makes the ballet truly special is that each dancer gets a chance to perform. “Everyone who auditions gets to dance,” Leavitt says, noting that the choreographers strive to give each dancer a part, no matter how small.

The company produces two major shows per year: The Nutcracker and a spring show, which in 2012 was A Midsummer Night’s Dream, performed at the Sandy Amphitheater. The Nutcracker, of course, is a holiday favorite and the Mountain West Ballet performances, held in the Mt. Jordan Middle School Theater, have become a beloved tradition for Sandy residents, as well as an affordable holiday experience enjoyed by all. With numerous performances each season, thousands of people have the opportunity to enjoy and participate in the show.

Leavitt says accessible, quality productions are only part of the ballet’s mission. “Our outreach programs are my personal favorite when it comes to the ballet experience.” Leavitt explains that more than 3,000 elementary school-age kids are also treated to performances that teach about the fundamentals of stage production, including the importance of costuming and lighting. “Kids can see what change in lighting does, changing a hero into a villain,” she says. “After these shows, after their first chance to see anything like this, you can see a spark in the kids’ eyes.”

Artistic Foundations

For decades, numerous organizations have been fostering arts in the Sandy community, inspiring involvement in people of all ages and backgrounds. In addition to ballet and theatre, the city boasts the American West Symphony, founded in 1988. Under the direction of Joel Rosenberg, the orchestra performs an average of 13 concerts per year, but according to Chairwoman of the Board Charlotte Jordan, the symphony does much more than entertain.

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