Artist at the Table will kick off film festival |

Artist at the Table will kick off film festival

Each year the Sundance Institute works with community partners to present the Artist at the Table Event, a fundraiser that helps continue the nonprofit organization to develop and discover artists and audiences throughout the world.

The event, held on the Sundance Film Festival’s opening night, begins with cocktails and appetizers and then moves to the Eccles Center Theater for a screening of the Day One premiere film, Cherien Dabis’ "May in the Summer."

Afterwards, the guests gather at another local venue to enjoy a dinner and talk with established or up-and-coming filmmakers, celebrities and musicians.

This year’s Artist at the Table event, which will be held Thursday, Jan. 17, will begin with cocktails the New Frontier venue at The Yard, said Sarah West, director of Utah community development, of the Sundance Institute.

"New Frontier is a great place for us to highlight this wonderful art exhibition that we bring to the festival," West said in an interview. "We’ll have cocktails and appetizers there."

During that time, Sundance Film Festival Executive Director John Cooper, will address the crowd and introduce the film, said Donna Gruneich, Sundance’s Utah advisory board and chairwoman of the development committee.

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"John is a showman and he will set the tone for the festival," Gruneich said.

This year’s post-screening dinner will be held at the Yoga Shop Studio, which has been redecorated and transformed into a dinner and music venue by Meld Designs.

The Sundance Institute chose the Yoga Shop Studio because of its location and character.

"West: it is such a beautiful space for this particular event because it’s rooted in the historic sense of Park City," West said.

During dinner, the Sundance Institute composer fellows will treat participants to a concert.

"The composers who will perform during the evening have participated in our film music composers program," West said. "They both have their own distinct style and have not worked together before, but will perform with each other. So, it will be interesting to see and hear what will happen."

Also, at each of the 10 tables, guests will be able to interact with an artist who has a connection with the Institute or the film festival, Gruneich said.

"The artist can be a celebrity such as Harry Belafonte, who participated in our event a couple of years ago," she said. "Or the person can be someone not as famous or that is premiering their film that was created through the Institute’s summer workshop.

"While it’s special to be at a table with someone you may recognize, it is also fun to be at a table with someone you don’t know, whose name is all over the place two years later," she said.

Zeke Wray, executive chef for Talisker and Canyons, who also planned the meal, will create the dinner menu.

"For the dinner, we wanted dishes that represented where we live as far as locality and seasonality," he said. " So, we chose a mountain cuisine."

The meal will start with a spiced duck confit salad with brandied fig vinaigrette with some mixed greens and roasted onion caramel.

"Duck confit is a preservation technique, which uses salt and the meat’s own fat," Wray said. "We’ll serve that with braised short rib with a smoked cauliflower and potato puree, which will also include some parsnips, and wildflowers."

Dessert will be rosemary bread pudding that will be pan-seared in brown butter and seared with local whiskey cream on glaze.

"We will create a make-shift kitchen on site to produce the highest quality of food, but keep within the means of execution to deliver what we promise," Wray said. "I’m looking forward to participating in this year’s event."

Transforming the Yoga Shop Studio into a unique dining hall that pays homage to the mountains was an enjoyable challenge for Kara DiOrio and Gary Vlasic of Meld Design.

"One of the biggest chores we faces was creating a tent component, an addition to the space, where people will enter through at the south side of the building," Vlasic said. "We have to warm up a big, white tent and disguise the interior walls with aluminum to get a nice soft glow."

The tent frames into the staircase entrance, which will merge into dining space that require contemporary Ottoman pieces with a mix of log-inspired cocktail tables to warm up the space, he said.

"We’re also adding a little bit of glam to our contemporary mountain aesthetic," DiOrio said. "We’re using some black and white theme with gold referencing and candlelight and floral things we’re putting together."

The stage where the musicians will perform will be lighted by lanterns and more candles, and when people enter, they will see slow-motion projections of horses.

"The horses reflect Sundance," DiOrio said. "When I think of Sundance, I think of Robert Redford and film, and the film that first comes to mind is ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,’ which, of course, had a lot of horses."

Another challenge was working the 65 feet-by-50 space to make room for 21 tables that will seat 10 people.

"We want people to have a fun and inviting experience that gets them into the spirit of Sundance," Vlasic said. "This is a great space, because the bones of the building are so good. And we want people to look more like a restaurant instead of a yoga studio."

The Artist at the Table event is a unique and intimate program that would not be as successful without the help of community partners, West said.

"We would like to give a special thank you to the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation who are our presenting sponsors this year," she said. "Community support helps us maximize the money raised at the event by minimizing the overhead."

The Sundance Film Festival will run Thursday, Jan. 17, through Sunday, Jan. 27. For more information, visit