A History of the First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City Fine Arts and Crafts Fair

by William B. Reed 

Since the 1990s, First Church has sponsored some kind of fine arts and crafts fair.  This family-friendly fun fund raiser is held every year to provide all members and friends of the church an opportunity to show off their hidden and not so hidden creative talents.  At first its was low-key and was held only intermittently.

In 2008 we decided to upgrade the event to provide an opportunity for expression and exchange between the artists of our church and the greater church community; I was put in charge.  Although a modest fund raiser for First Church, artists were encouraged to show their work even if it was not for sale. There were 32 registered artists that year. Music was donated and provided by John Major and friend, and by Mary Craig with David Owens on piano.

In 2009 another successful fair was held. Of special note is that one painting, by artist Robert Scuderi, sold for $1,450. Ali Reed and I read poems; John Major played guitar.
In 2010 the art festivities became  an exciting three ring circus, with music and poetry in the Sanctuary; dance performances in the Little Chapel; and art (pottery, photography, oils, acrylics, encaustics, fused glass, mixed media, assemblages, piñatas), crafts, t-shirts, books, cards, and CDs in Elliot Hall.   The night included the youthful and very talented band Josh Young / Anays Ponce & Friends; poet Joanna Straughn; “Tablado”, a flamenco troupe with a special appearance of John Major as cantaora; “Bleeding Heart Liberals” a new musical group made up of 1/3 of the famous “Saliva Sisters” (our own Becky Heal) and more stepping out including our co-chair Laura Clinton and Dan Waldis on piano; nationally recognized folk musician Alicia McGovern; and let’s not forget the wonderful belly dancers with a solo by Adrienne.

In 2011 the circus approach of 2010 was formally adopted and expanded with some performances outside.  The night included the art gallery of over 30 artists in Eliot Hall; Aerial Arts of Utah Performing Troupe on the front lawn; Scandinavian Dancers – Gwen Trefts and Tom Oesleby, The Blue Wolfe Troupe and Life Force – AcroYoga & Dance, Salt Lake Scottish Country Dancers, Desert Journey School of Dance – Belly Dancing, Bleeding Heart Liberals – Music, and Tablado Dance Company – Flamenco Dance.

In 2012 the “night” included a gallery of 31 artists and authors in Eliot Hall – Aerial Arts of Utah outside; Scandinavian Dancers; Salt Lake Arts Academy Dance Company (Modern Dance;  Aere Greenway (musical improvisation);  Troupe Alima  Belly Dance; Bleeding Heart Liberals; Madrigal Mystery Singers; and Tablado Flamenco.

In 2013 there were 35 artists, including a cupcake artist, and several performances: Aerial Arts of Utah, Tablado Flamenco, Salt Lake Arts Academy, INTERIORS (modern dance performed by Joanna Reed et. al. on big screen in Eliot Hall), Three Women and a Guitar, Krista and Holly, The Madrigal Mystery Singers, and Aere Greenway – Synthesizer/Composer.

In 2014 the fair was moved from April to May to take advantage of warmer weather. Held on May 17th the Art Fair featured a children’s yard, music, dancing, good food, and of course art and crafts. For example, Marjorie Wilson provided hands on origami lessons in the children’s yard during the day. Entertainment was provided from 1:00 to 10:30 pm. Although the expanded format looked promising, and indeed a postcard was sent to the local community to expand advertisement, attendance remain essentially unchanged from previous years.  Performers included: Aere Greenway – Synthesizer and Composer; Dances from the British Isles; Madrigal Mystery Tour Singers; Desert Journey School of Belly Dance; Ribs (three women and a guitar); Tablado Flamenco; Salt Lake Scandinavian Dancers; Krista Bowers sings song from the Great American Songbook; Aerial Arts of Utah; Kaz African drummers and dancers; and The Stratford Street Big Band (providimg a chance to unwind and dance).

In 2015 the Art Fair was moved back to April and spread over two days. Entertainment on Saturday was provided by Aerial Arts of Utah, First Unitarian Church Junior Choir, Aere Greenway, Art Lee, John Major, and “Quattro Amici” (Four Friends) a madrigal choir of church members: Jessica French, Jim Thornburg, John Major, and Kathleen Wilson. Sunday hours were between services and after last service. Sales were essentially evenly split between the two days.

In 2016 entertainment on Saturday was provided by Scandinavian Folk Dance – Tom Oesleby, & Gwen Trefts with dancing lessons on the Plaza, First Unitarian Church Youth Choir in Sanctuary, Ukumania – Stacey Cole, Jim Thornburg, & Max Willard in Little Chapel, Nature Sings – Art Lee in Little Chapel, Andrea Hughes – Classical Violin in Sanctuary, and John Major – Classical and Flamenco Guitar in Little Chapel.

In 2017 the fair featured 27 artists including the following:  Java Jive – Jazz Vocal Ensemble; Quattro Amici – Italian Madrigal Quartet; Aerial Arts of Utah – High Flying Acts of Strength and Grace;  and Tablado – Flamenco Guitar, Dance and Song (ending with audience dance participation).
In 2018 this fund raiser continued to be a lot of fun. We had over 40 artists raising approximately $2,250 for the church. Performances included: Aerial Arts of Utah – Outdoor Plaza Performance, UU Children’s Choir, Quattro Amici – Italian Madrigal Quartet, Java Jive – Jazz Vocal Ensemble, and Tablado – Flamenco Guitar, dance and song.  Attendance was great. This is an event with a lot of helpers, too numerous to mention here.

From meager beginnings in 2008 we have strived to make the Church Art Fair a premier fun fund-raising event.  We have reached a level of excellence that would have not been possible without the commitment of the Art Fair Committee, especially Marcia Scott Walker for entertainment, Jim Turner for accounting and cashier, Diane Johnson for cashier, Cheryl Johnson for refreshments, and Bill Reed for visual arts. Others have included Mary Pusey, Randy Laub, Carlos J Espinosa, Sonia Hult, CJ Sadiq, Nancy Howard, Donna Drown, Lissa Lander, Suzanne Tronier, Art Johnson, Jane Grau, Joan Johnson, Janet Minden, Marti Major, Carol Finnegan, Chuck Wilson, Laura Clinton, Kathy Payne, Kathy Reavis, Ellen Johnston, Joe Herring, Nancy Challed, Susan Slade, Lee Shuster, Don Walton, John Major, Tom Oesleby, Bill Stay, Christy Pulliam, Kate Gardiner, Jan and Mike Crane, Dave Click, Marion and Greg Johnson, Hal Gonzales, David Owens, Richard Bliss, Mary Pusey, Jennifer Killpack-Knutsen, Sonia Carnell, Tom Goodwin, Sarah Coursen, Colleen Bliss, Nancy Howard, Molly Hames, Kristen Elder, and many others who all committed time and energy.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the 2020 Arts and Crafts Fair was cancelled.

The colorful 2017 Church Art Fair Team:  Cheryl Johnson, Christina Tills , Diane Johnson, Bill Reed, and Cheryl Sadiq

Cupcakes by Kasturi, Art Fair 2013. Diane Johnson, Kasthuri Kateel, John Kateel, and CJ Sadiq

2014 Art Fair Dancing in the Dark, Tom Goldsmith and Mary Tull

John Major and troupe

Relaxing during a break in evening sales, Art Fair 2016. People left to right: Bill Reed, Cheryl Johnson, Sonia Carnell, Marion Johnson, Molly Hames, Christine Ashworth, and Jim Turner