Urban Arts Fest plans separate events through September to stay safe from COVID-19

(Sean P. Means | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sione Vea, a member of the USO Car Club, shows off details on his restored 1948 Chevrolet Fleetline, on Rio Grande Street at The Gateway in Salt Lake City, Aug. 13, 2020. Lowriders and classic cars like Vea's will be on display at The Gateway on Sept. 6 — one of the events of the 10th annual Urban Arts Festival, which will be broken into "elements" for safe viewing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Urban Arts Festival will stay on the street — specifically, Rio Grande Street in The Gateway — for its 10th year, though in a wildly different format because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead of a two-day festival, this year’s festival will be broken down into a series of “elements” throughout September, organizers announced Thursday.

“In a typical year, the Urban Arts Festival will draw tens of thousands of individuals to downtown Salt Lake City,” said Derek Dyer, director of the Utah Arts Alliance, which puts on the festival. “Of course, with COVID-19, this is not a typical year.”

Dyer said his team considered moves other arts organizations have done in response to the pandemic, including canceling, postponing or moving to online presentation. But, he said, “we decided there might be a different creative solution to this problem. We were looking for a way to still connect art to the community, in a fun but still safe way.”

Two exhibitions of “street art” will run through the month of September. A retrospective of past festival works will be displayed in vacant storefronts in The Gateway, to be viewed outdoors any time. And the Skate Deck Challenge, in which local artists use a blank skateboard plank as their canvas, will be on display at the Urban Art Gallery, the alliance’s space at 116 S. Rio Grande St., in The Gateway.

The festival, Dyer said, began in 2011 with a skate-deck exhibition. “That art show got a little out of hand, and grew into a festival,” he said.

Dyer also announced live events that reflect parts of the Urban Arts Festival’s vibe:

• On Saturday, Sept. 5, a live painting exhibition will happen on Rio Grande Street, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the Utah Arts Alliance’s weekly Art & Craft Market. Muralists and graffiti artists will paint works in person, while local artists sell their work in an open-air setting.

Utah graffiti artist Tracy Cook Williams said she’s been inspired by having children watch her paint murals in person, and that the live exhibition “gives kids an opportunity to be part of this great experience.”

• On Sunday, Sept. 6, from noon to 4 p.m., the Hard-n-Paint Street Basketball league will set up hoops for a 3-point shootout, a slam-dunk contest, and space for the public to shoot some baskets on Rio Grande Street. The annual 3-on-3 tournament won’t happen this year, though, said Lance Lavizzo, who operates Hard-n-Paint.

• Also Sunday, Sept. 6, simultaneous to the basketball event, an exhibit of lowrider and custom cars will fill Rio Grande Street.

“We’re a little different than the stationary art. We’re a moving art,” said Sione Vea, a member of USO Car Club, one of several groups that will display their chrome-plated creations.

• And on Friday, Sept. 18, from 5 to 10 p.m., the alliance will hold a Night Market — similar to the Saturday art and craft markets, with local artists selling their works. Dyer said the winners of the Skate Deck Challenge will be announced then.

All events, Dyer said, will follow federal, state and county safety guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Visitors will be asked to maintain 6 feet of physical distance from others, wear face masks, and wash and sanitize their hands often. Temperature checks may be administered at the events, and those buying items are asked to use credit cards, debit cards or cashless apps.