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The City Journals

Arts center progress, new volunteer committee highlight Taylorsville’s 2018 activities calendar

Dec 17, 2018 02:38PM ● By Carl Fauver

Thai, barbecue and pizza in a cone were among the many food items served outside city hall on Saturday nights last summer. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

Way back in December 2016 — long before he decided to challenge and defeat Utah lawmaker Mia Love, to claim her 4th Congressional District seat — Ben McAdams made an exciting announcement outside Taylorsville City Hall.

The recently departed Salt Lake County mayor told a frigid audience of arts lovers and media members, the city and county had reached an agreement for the construction of a new $39 million amenity.

Then the planning and waiting and designing and waiting and bid-letting and waiting and anticipation and waiting began.

Without question, the excitement and anticipation of the Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center has been the dominate arts, entertainment and leisure story in Taylorsville for three years running. 

And finally, in 2019, residents driving along 5400 South, across the face of city hall, will be able to see heavy equipment and hard-hatted people bringing the project to reality.

“It’s been a long wait but well worth it,” said Taylorsville Arts Council Treasurer Gordon Wolf. “It is going to be absolutely fantastic. The Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center will be the jewel of the west side. I can’t express how excited the arts council is.”

Officials originally scheduled an Oct. 29 groundbreaking ceremony for the project, until some last-minute glitches forced a delay. As of press deadline, those same officials were hoping to carry out the ceremony during the holiday season. 

Salt Lake County officials are funding nearly all of the construction (and will operate the facility), while Taylorsville City officials donated the land and a smaller portion of the money. The 67,500-square-foot facility will feature a 440-seat main (or “proscenium”) theater, along with a so-called “black box” theater with seating configurations ranging from 50 to 225.

The main theater will include a 38-foot-by-85-foot stage, along with an orchestra pit, technical support booths and balcony seating. Rehearsal and dressing rooms also promise to be spacious — possibly the nicest amenities Taylorsville Arts Council performers will have ever used. 

“I am so excited and so ready for this to happen,” Mayor Kristie Overson said. “We (city representatives) have been involved in every decision. So many hands have been on this project. With everyone working together and communicating well, I don’t think we have missed any important details. I can’t wait to see the first performance.”

Barring more unforeseen delays, that first use of the new center is still expected to occur in late2020.

Though continued progress on the arts center project has been the dominant Taylorsville entertainment and leisure story in recent years, it certainly was not the only one in 2018. 

New Cultural Diversity Committee created 

For the first time in several years, Taylorsville City became home to a brand new volunteer resident service committee in 2018. And one of its members believes the new Cultural Diversity Committee made Utah history in the process.

“I’ve done a lot of research on this, and I believe Taylorsville is the first Salt Lake Valley city to establish a cultural diversity committee, designed to strengthen relations between the different people who live here,” said committee member Thomas Reams.  “I’m a born-and-raised Utahn, but marrying into a different culture has been very rewarding. I’m excited to be involved.”

Thomas Reams is treasurer of the American Venezuelan Association of Utah, while his wife, Maria Liliana, is the association’s vice president. They, along with AVAU President Carlos Moreno, were among the driving forces getting the new committee launched last spring.

Shortly after the Taylorsville City Council voted to establish the new committee, the Cultural Diversity group transformed its first official meeting into an open house.

“Our goal is to try to bring our minority communities into contact with city government,” Moreno said. “I feel we can do so many good things to support local government. I love to serve and do not expect any payment. We simply want to help improve our community.”

City Councilman Curt Cochran was named the council adviser to the committee. As one of its first acts of business, the new committee elected Moreno as its chair.

“This is your committee,” Cochran said.  “I’m just here to lend a helping hand. This needs to be a two-way street, where members of the committee learn more about government, and we learn more about the great diversity of people living in our city.”

One of the first things the committee discussed was the possible creation of a brand-new Taylorsville community celebration.

“Salt Lake has hosted its annual Living Traditions Festival for many years,” Moreno said. “And I believe Taylorsville is every bit as culturally diverse as Salt Lake, maybe more so.”

As a sort of warmup to something they may do on their own in 2019, Cultural Diversity Committee members joined forces with the Taylorsville Preservation Committee and the city’s Parks and Recreation Committee to host last month’s “Saturday with Santa” at the Taylorsville-Bennion Heritage Museum. The group coordinated some of the games at the event — and created an international menu for guests to sample — as the annual activity was renamed “Christmas Around the World.”   

Summer food trucks debut at city hall 

A chance meeting between a young entrepreneur and a member of the Taylorsville Planning Commission resulted in another significant development in the city’s 2018 leisure life activities.

The “Food Truck League era” dawned not long after Anna Barbieri, Taylorsville Planning Commisioner, met Taylor Harris.

“I attended an economic development luncheon, sponsored by Bank of Utah, and went looking for people to network with,” Barbieri said. “So, I just randomly sat by a stranger for lunch. He turned out to be Taylor Harris, who owns and operates the Food Truck League.”

“It was purely a coincidence, Anna joining me at the luncheon,” Harris said  “I told her about how our food trucks go to many different locations along the Wasatch Front — as a group, normally once a week — allowing families to come out to dine with everyone getting to choose what they want.”

That chance meeting led to weekly food truck events, from Memorial Day to well past Labor Day, in front of Taylorsville City Hall.

“The city was great to work with, and it was a huge success,” Harris said. “We had food trucks visit from more than 50 different companies. I haven’t talked with city officials about returning again this summer. But if they are up for it, I know our companies will be as well.”

Harris said Taylorsville could again have Saturday nights, which would be beneficial for another of the city’s family activity developments in 2018.

Outdoor movies return

Soon after she was elected to the city council, Meredith Harker volunteered to serve as the council liaison to what was then the Leisure Activities, Recreation and Parks Committee. Soon thereafter, the group simplified its name to the Parks and Recreation Committee.

And not long after that, they brought back a popular summertime community activity that had gone by the wayside in recent years.

“Our committee is just about having fun and doing family activities,”  Harker said. “So, it only made sense to look at bringing back outdoor summer movies. And they turned out to be a big hit.”

The city invested in a new projector, DVD player, screen and audio speakers. Free movies “Wreck it Ralph,” “Wonder” and “Coco” were shown on separate Saturday nights, all with a variety of mobile eateries parked nearby for snacks.

“The city has had outdoor movies in the past; but they became pretty rare in recent years,” Harker said. “This year, once we learned the food trucks were going to be here (parked outside city hall) on Saturday nights, we thought it was a no-brainer to bring the movies back and have them on the same nights, so people could buy whatever food they wanted and then enjoy the show.”

With an average of about 200 people attending each movie, the Parks and Recreation Committee has every intention of bringing them back this coming summer, possibly on more nights.

Of course that may be a bit trickier in 2019 — or a completely new location may be required — because rest assured the dominant leisure activities story of this year will be the Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center construction, on the same lawn where movies were shown just a few months ago.