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This year at the Utah Arts Festival, June 21 (Friday) is
dedicated to Women Who Rock!, with female musicians, poets, writers and spoken
word performers set on various stages along with a Fear No Film program and a coding
workshop for girls headed by two sisters who work locally as software
developers and engineers. The focus not only highlights the breadth and depth
of talent in Women Who Rock! but also showcases the multifaceted opportunities
for girls and others to follow their creative muses. The themed events are
sponsored by KRCL Radio (90.9 FM) and the
City of Salt Lake.


The Amphitheatre Stage will feature two
female artists who have made an impact in recent years. From Salt Lake City, Talia
Keys and The Love,
will take the stage at 8 p.m. Throughout her life, Talia
has been as natural a musician as one can be,
as mentioned in a 2018 feature at The
Utah Review
. While she is not formally trained, Keys has pure instincts.
However, it only was a little more than 10 years ago that Keys, who worked in
retail, could see real possibilities for a music career. She started playing
house parties and open mic sessions but it was a regular gig at Pat’s Barbecue
restaurant in Sugar House that set the creative trajectory in full speed
motion, thanks to the encouragement of figures in the local music community
including ‘Bad’ Brad Wheeler, who recently became 99.9 KUAA-FM’s new program
director. “It was the validation I needed to pursue a career,” Keys said at the

Talia Keys and The Love. Photo Credit: Cat Palmer.

Recalling her younger days, she says
that she was a “self-proclaimed Elvis impersonator, right down to wearing her
grandmother’s leather jacket and slicking her hair back.” She was drawn more
frequently to music with a political message, finding consonance with Bob
Marley, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. “My mom also listened to really good
music – Pink Floyd and Neil Young,” Keys says. “She played some piano but it
was for her own enjoyment.”

In 2018, Keys and The Love, dropped
their album of 11 tracks titled We’re Here. The songs have a strong
soul profile but Keys and the band musicians, who have collaborated for nearly
the last three years, build in many inflections of other styles and sounds that
deepen the social message of Keys’ lyrics. The band augments Keys’ artistic
development solidly, as all of them have impressive performing portfolios. They
include Dave Brogan, from ALO, on drums and Ryan Conger, from the Joe McQueen
Quartet, on keyboards. Rounding out the group are Josh Olsen on bass and Lisa
Giacoletto on backup vocals, whom Keys met at an Equality Utah benefit. Keys
and the band have performed at many high-profile events including Utah Pride,
Sundance Film Festival and Equality Utah.

Keys also serves as the music
director for the Rock N’ Roll Camp for Girls SLC and is involved with the Women
Who Rock series on KRCL-FM Radio. Keys, who has skied since her childhood, also
saw one of her original songs Me used
as part of a brand image campaign for Ski City. As for the camp, Keys says the
young women respond, realizing how music can be empowering for them personally.
“On the first day, they’re really quiet but by the middle of the afternoon that
day, they unleash themselves. It is really something to see that
transformation,” she says.

Rock ‘N’ Roll Camp for Girls SLC.

Participants from this year’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Camp for Girls SLC will perform at noon on the Park Stage. Ashley Finley and Lindsay Heath will follow up by leading a writing and rhythm workshop helping participants put their words to beats (2 p.m., The Round).

Following Keys, Caroline Rose (9:45 p.m.) from
New York will take the stage showcasing her songs and skills on various instruments.
Making a mark with her debut album in 2014 I
Will Not Be Afraid
, she released LONER
last year, which includes tracks suggesting diverse genres: To Die Today (moody), Bikini (sunny optimism) and Money (sinewy punk). Rose also was
featured on a Tiny Desk
episode on NPR. Regarding the changes in musical styles between her two albums,
Rose said the following in an interview
with Tom Shackleford, “I don’t really think I’ve really changed as a person
that much, but the way I reflect myself and my music has changed. For instance,
something I was always trying to do and I never really got it, was
understanding how you can translate humor or satire into song. I don’t think I
ever really nailed that, and I’ve gone through many versions of songs to try
and get better at it. It’s something I’ll spend a good amount of my career
getting down.”

Other performers include Mia Grace (Park Stage,
1:30 p.m.) from Provo. A solo guitarist and singer-songwriter with influences including
Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, Patty Griffin and Joni Mitchell, she debuted
her band two years ago. Grace features Aaron Anderson (Fictionist) on drums,
Marcus Bently (Location Location, Two Nations) on guitar and vocals, Nate Pyfer
(Mr Tape, Pinguin Mofex) on vocals and Guitar, and Scott Wiley (The Lower
Lights) on bass.

The Park Stage also will feature the
pop-rock sounds of Sarah
Degraw Band
(2:45 p.m.) and Bonnie
(4 p.m.), followed by folk and bluegrass performed by Michelle Moonshine (5:15 p.m.). Honoring
the creative impact of the late Amy Winehouse, Amy Jade’s
Beehive Society
(6:30 p.m.) is a 10-piece band, founded and managed by
Kya Karine and directed by saxophonist David Halliday. The band comprises three
singers, three horn players and a full rhythm section.

Amy Jade’s Beehive Society. Photo Credit: Whitney Lewis.


Among the highlights on the Big
Mouth Stage will be a performance (6 p.m.) by Nan Seymour and Beatrice
, reading excerpts from An
Unremarkable Girl
. The book is a mother-daughter autobiographical memoir
chronicling how a Utah girl survives to become herself during her teen years.
Both prominent activists on transgender issues, they were featured in Hope Lives, a 2016 documentary
addressing teen suicide in Utah.

This year’s Wordfest (Literary Arts)
program features the broadest spectrum of voices in traditional and new forms
of literary expression on the Big Mouth Stage. The
PEAU Pacific Islander Women’s Writing Group
, a collective dedicated to
helping Polynesian women tell their stories in their own words, will perform at
2:30 p.m. This group meets weekly to write and share stories, which will be
compiled into a forthcoming book for publication. Ciriac Alvarez Valle (3 p.m.), an undocumented
Mexican-American immigrant, incorporates various roles as a community organizer
in immigrant rights, health and education equity along with her work in poetry
and prose. J. Delgadillo (3:30
p.m.), writing from her experiences in Guadalajara as well as communities on
the west side in the Salt Lake Valley, champions creative outlets to resist
gentrification and ensure working class artists always have a platform. Gloria
(4 p.m.), a Mexican writer living in Utah, is a women’s rights
advocate and holds a baccalaureate degree in mechanical engineering along with
a minor in Chicano Studies.

Beatrice Washburn.


(4:30 p.m.), Logan City poet laureate in Utah, will read excerpts from her
work. Her most recently collections are Thin
Spines of Memory
and Both Sides from
the Middle
(Helicon West Press). Walking
the Bear
, a chapbook, is available digitally through Marriott Library at
The University of Utah.

Ayja Bounous
(5 p.m.) is a debut author whose book Shaped
by Snow
explores community, climate change, and snow in the Wasatch
Mountains. Marcee Blackerby (5:30 p.m.) is a mixed media artist and an
author who has just completed her memoirs. Jo Lynne Kirkwood (7:30 p.m.)
will share poetry about the humor and pathos living on a farm in central Utah,
near Sigurd.

Sam DeLeeuw.

Cowboy poetry is making its most
prominent presence this year at the festival.Among the featured
literary artists are Sam DeLeeuw (8
p.m.), a rancher who has nominated numerous times for honors in her genre. She
also received the 2008 Will Rogers  Award for Humorist of the
from the Academy of Western Artists. The last solo
performance before the evening’s indie poetry slam competition will be Lynn
(8:30 p.m.), a master
storyteller with tales from around the world including folk stories, personal
accounts, scary prose, and fairy tales.


With the largest slate of short
films ever, the 17th Fear No Film program also will offer a Women
Who Rock! screening twice (June 21, 8 p.m.; June 23, 4 p.m.). The program
features short films running between four and 20 minutes. All of the films are directed
by women with the exception of one but which was written and produced by a
female author.

include Do not ask for your way (Déborah Hassoun, 2019), a comedy short about a 30-something
woman who decides to leave her analyst after several years but ironically, as
she decides how best to cope with the gravity of her decision, she seeks help
from another therapist. While Shaholly
(Wojciech Lorenc, 2018) has a
male director, the film’s creative genesis is entirely the work of writer
Shaholly Ayers, who is known for her work on the television series Home and Family, which offers tips on home
improvements, crafts, parenting and health and fitness enhancements. This
story talks about the struggles of a congenital amputee who was once told that
she could never become a model.

Volcano Island.

From Hungary, a country being represented for the first time
in Fear No Film, comes Volcano Island
(Anna Katalin Lovrity, 2018), an
animated short about a lion and a young female tiger in a narrative with echoes
of the #MeToo movement concerns. One
Cambodian Family Please for My Pleasure
(A.M. Lukas formerly Anna
Martemucci) is about a Czech refugee living in Fargo who writes a letter to a
group with the request of sending a Cambodian refugee family to her new town.
Lukas is the child of a refugee who fled during the Cold War from
then-communist Czechoslovakia and an Italian immigrant. Her grandfather is the
late Jan Lukas, a great Czech photographer and filmmaker whose work can be in
the found of the Museum of Modern Art.

A strong entry is Lola (Isabella
Tan, 2018), a film about an Asian-American teen whose secret life as a webcam
model is revealed in a surprising moment. Dealing not just with the complex
relationships in extended Asian families and the sexualization of young Asian
women, Tan’s artistic statement indicates how the film compels the “audience to
think about the meaning of self-worth and self-acceptance through the eyes of a
teenage girl who was forced to grow up too fast.”

Isabella Tan.

Caldeira (Julie Bousquet, Estelle Hocquet, Catherine
Manesse, 2018) is a animated short from France focusing on the younger sister
of a widely respected volcanologist who decides to see if she can step
out of the shadows by following her sister’s footprints and setting her own

How Does
It Start?
(Amber Sealey, 2019) is about a 12-year-old girl in the 1980s
who is curious about having her first sexual experience but is unsure about how
to pursue it. She is left on her to explore this challenge because her parents are
too distracted after their recent breakup. Sealey’s credits include the feature
films How to Cheat (2011) and A Plus D (2008).

Other short films on the slate include Human Again and Here’s To…


Last year, Janneth Gonzalez and Roxana Montenegro, sisters
from Bolivia who work as software engineers and developers, earned a $2,00o
prize from Opportunity Quest, a Westminster College business model competition held
in conjunction with the college’s Center for Entrepreneurship. The sisters
formed CodeDevs, a coding academy to coach, mentor and introduced young girls
(typically starting in the 8-10 age group) to coding and computer programming.
They also earned a $500 People’s Choice Award in the competition for their
video presentation about the project.


In its first year, CodeDevs has become more visible, as the
sisters have organized workshops in classes and STEM fairs. They have been
active most prominently in the South Salt Lake community, which has among the
highest number of children from refugee and immigrant families in the
metropolitan area. For the Women Who Rock! activities, they will hold an open
workshop for young girls from noon to 7:30 p.m. at the Art and Technology

The women have been inspired by their own experiences. Gonzalez,
who has worked in the industry for more than a decade, says “I often was and am
the only woman in the room.”

Their message is simple, especially when they are
communicating to young people when English is their second language: There is
no reason to let your background scare or intimidate you about exploring your
curiosity with coding and computers.


CodeDevs has found the simplest, most elegant way to remove
those barriers by using lines on plain paper, color markers and a robot. As
participants learn quickly that changing lines and colors on paper will lead to
the robot following their instructions, they already are learning the
foundations of how coding works. “They become so excited as they realize, ‘This
is coding. I can do it,’ Gonzalez explains, adding that even then the most hesitant
child realizes she can continue. Montenegro recalls a girl who was maybe nine
or 10 years old at a STEM festival and she appeared withdrawn. “I spoke to her
in Spanish and she felt more comfortable. Soon she was excited to participate,”
she adds.

For the festival, the sisters will show how the robot can
carry out basic tasks and let the students experiment with the process. They also
will demonstrate how to build a simple robot.

For more information about all
events, see the Utah Arts Festival website.
Ticket information can be found here.

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