Art: The Legend of Hidden Hollow

By Patricia Sanders

Brolly Arts day of art and action in a hidden gem of Sugar House.
by Patricia B. Sanders
sanders-hidden-hollow.jpgEveryone knows about the Earth Artists heading out of their New York studios and into the great Western deserts to create new art forms that are part of the environment. Think Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty or Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels.

The Legend of Hidden Hollow, slated for September 22 in Sugar House, is something else again, but equally engaged with nature, in this case the Hidden Hollow Natural Area right here in Salt Lake. On one day only, artists from a whole variety of arts disciplines-music, dance, visual art, poetry-will create art works right in the park. From 3 to 5 p.m., Hidden Hollow will be magically transformed. Imagine dancers, singers, actors, and art works among the trees, along the banks of Parley’s Creek and in the rolling meadows of this little bit of wild in the heart of Sugar House. The artists’ inspiration is nature itself and the human events that have taken place in this historic part of the city.

There’s never been anything quite like this event produced by Salt Lake nonprofit organization Brolly Arts. Amy McDonald Sanyer, Brolly Arts founder and director, says the event is “a way to draw attention to this too-little-known gem of Sugar House. As a neighborhood that is being transformed, it seems timely to stop and think about what Sugar House has been-both in a natural presettlement  and a cultural sense. Keeping these in mind can only enrich what Sugar House will become in the future and help reinforce its sense of community.”

The Legend of Hidden Hollow is unique not only in combining many arts in a natural setting, but also in how these will be experienced by the audience. On arriving at the west entrance to Hidden Hollow, attendees will receive a program that identifies the more than 20 “events” distributed throughout the park. With this in hand, audience members can wander at their own pace, exploring the nooks and crannies of the park to discover-dance, musical, and poetry performances as well as art installations.

In creating this one-time event, Sanyer has drawn on both local and national talent. Chicago-based artist Ann Boyd has assisted with the overall concept. Salt Lake choreographers Natosha Washington and Nicholas Cendese have created a dance performance based on the shapes and lines of the landscape. An embodiment of the spirit of Hidden Hollow, it will be performed along the banks and in the waters of Parley’s Creek, which runs through the park. In another location, Bay Area artist Mary White will install two of her solar-powered bird fountains, which she makes entirely from recycled materials. Arts organizations Bad Dog Rediscovers America and TRASA Urban Arts Collective have coordinated several local artists to create installations responsive to the landscape of the park.

“In The Legend of Hidden Hollow, we really wanted to help create a sense of place, so we asked artists to respond not only to the natural environment, but also to the history of Hidden Hollow and the areas immediately surrounding it,” says Sanyer. “This area is rich in history. Not only is it the end of the Mormon Trail, but this area was, and to some extent still is, the community center of Sugar House. At one time, there were several recreational facilities here and since the mid-19th century it has been a vibrant commercial center.” Since much of the history of Sugar House is still little known, Brolly Arts, in collaboration with Westminster College’s Center of Civic Engagement, sponsored two events in July to gather oral histories, funded by the Utah Humanities Council. The Sugar House Stories project is the source of a new song written by songwriter Phillip Bimstein especially for The Legend of Hidden Hollow. This and other Bimstein songs will be performed on September 22. Singer Marv Hamilton will appear as songwriter and labor activist Joe Hill. Visitors will also be able to listen to segments of the Sugar House Stories at listening stations located at several of the benches in Hidden Hollow, and they can share their own stories at an oral-history booth.

Local history also flavors several other offerings, such as a bevy of dancers in old-fashioned swimming suits performing in the location where the old public swimming pool opened in 1928. Nearby, on the bridge dedicated to Fredrick Sanberg, whose Granite Mill and Fixture Company once stood where Wild Oats is now, performers will recite “The Hymn of Hidden Hollow,” a poem written especially for this event by Westminster professor Doug White. Beside the north pathway, the Greek goddess Hygeia, namesake of the old Hygeia Ice House that once stood where Homestead Suites is today (played by Rebecca Keene Forde), will hold forth, with the help of her snake mascot. Elsewhere, wandering gypsy singers (led by Mary Johnston Coursey) will remind us of these visitors to Hidden Hollow in days gone by.

Hidden Hollow would not even exist if it were not for the efforts of Hawthorne Elementary School students in the 1990s. Thanks to the projects of 4th, 5th and 6th grade students in the classroom of Sherri Sohm, Hidden Hollow was rediscovered, named and preserved in the form we know it today. The contribution of  KOPE (Kids Organized to Protect our Environment) will be commemorated in an area marked by children’s handprints in the southern concrete path. The current generation of KOPE kids will make their own contribution to The Legend of Hidden Hollow: images of endangered species made from recycled materials and the reenactment of games played by pioneer children in the 19th century.

The Legend of Hidden Hollow will culminate in a grand finale in the park’s natural amphitheater. This will be followed by a performance of alternative-rock music by the RavenHorse band from 5:30 to 6:30.

To underscore the event’s focus on art, nature and history, information from nonprofits representing all three areas will be available to the audience. The Dave Foster Foundation will have Recycle-on-the-Go bags for visitors to help keep the park clean and to encourage good environmental practices. Food vendors and audience-participation activities will round out the event offerings.

Expect to experience even more art works, more music, and more poetry in this event-packed two hours. Like previous Brolly Arts events, this one was created for a single public showing, never to be repeated. Brolly Arts usually produces one major event annually and has been active as an umbrella arts organization in Salt Lake since 1995.

Patricia B. Sanders is an art historian and eco-arts curator of Brolly Arts. Besides her arts activities, she is also active in several local groups dedicated to improving the environment: Utah Moms for Clean Air, Post Carbon Salt Lake and the Sustainability Salon.

We’ve created a fun, interactive map of the art exhibitions and opportunities in Sugar House! Check it out on the web: CLICK HERE.

This article was originally published on August 31, 2007.