Jay Meehan: Art rules
Being a sneaky sort, there was always a certain controlled ecstasy that would accompany me on my backdoor route from the Heber Valley to the Park City Arts Festival back in the day.
Not having an old town vehicle permit, I would usually just slap on some fugitive war paint along with a headband and a sense of entitlement and head up Pine Creek drainage to Guardsman Pass with my cooler bouncing beside me and all my senses idling at an alert level somewhere south of total awareness.
It always reminded me of an earlier time when, as an LA boy with far too much time on his hands, I had located a somewhat similar backdoor access to the Hollywood Bowl. The covert maintenance trail in question led to an always-locked gate in a moderately-high chain link fence that I, being a knight-errant and all, would "boost" my date up-and-over. Chivalrous times, to be sure.
Each year, the same visions of the same "objets d’art" danced in my head as I neared my non-credentialed parking spot at a friend’s house on Sand Ridge. Although the specific locations from where these fine pieces would be made available to us lower-on-the-food-chain art connoisseurs changed from year to year, locating them was never an issue. Arts Festivals always lent themselves to casual encounters.
There was usually a must-see music event in what is now referred to as the Brew Pub parking lot that was in my early-morning crosshairs. Imagine, if you will, a lone figure with a book and a suspicious thermos occupying a single folding chair among the couple of hundred or so set up in carefully arranged rows. That would be me.
The stage crew would be going about their business setting up speakers and stretching microphone cords while the band of the hour, with at least one member seemingly on a valium regimen and still working on the previous evening’s after party, unpacked instruments, discussed set lists, and gobbled Ibuprofen.
There would be other stages at other times with other musicians of interest with which to make rounds throughout the day. That much was always a given. For the most part, there were also watering hole collectives different from but filling similar functions to those that augment the art booths along both sides of Main Street in the new world.
With performance art on equal footing with the many other classifications accepted into the festival, "working the room" in those days became a process without end. You had to keep your eye on the ball, however, which, in my case, was one of the aforementioned "objets d’art."
One year it would be the empty beer keg that members of the Park City "Muckers" Rugby Football Club would toss for distance in competition with each other at what is now Miners Park. If memory serves, these brew-powered encounters would serve to wrap up the festival and draw quite the crowd.
Another year it just might be something from festival namesake Art Durante’s "Dummy on Duty" hex-head self-tapping sheet-metal screw collection down at Main Hardware. I seem to recall one year that the line at the Sex Bolt display went out the door, up past the Alamo and on up Daly Avenue almost to the Alliance Mine assay office in Empire Canyon. No doubt about it! Art’s Art Festival art was high art!
Now this was back before Easy Street was developed into the Lower Main we know today. It was absolutely no problem recognizing when you arrived at the northern terminus of the festival back then and stopping at the Utah Coal and Lumber bar for some vinyl album sleeve and wrap-around Scotch bottle art before heading back up Main Street seemed to always be what the doctor ordered.
On the way back up, before they ran a bulldozer or two through it, it was often the tile work and can beer labels that would draw you into that quite singular miner’s art gallery known as the Cozy. In many ways, the Cozy was the home of high art in the low charkas.
This was also before KPCW and its quite-artful entourage in the "bunker" at the Memorial Building, so there were no air shifts to pull with their ongoing traffic and parking and lost children updates. That era would come soon enough. Until then, it was mostly about which watering hole was crafting the best Bloody Mary and what band would close down the Main Stage on Saturday night.
Of course, there was also the re-negotiation of the Guardsman Pass "scenic byway" back over to Hebertown, so making too long of a stop at the Rugby beer garden to sample their art was not an option. That’s rule number one. Art must be obeyed.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.