Sunday, February 28, 2021

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Viva Mestizo


Renato Olmedo-González with Nadia Rea Morale’s Zacuanpapalotls

Renato Olmedo-González, the new director and curator at Mestizo Institute of Culture and Arts, remembers life in Jalisco growing up with centuries of culture and public art. “I grew up with Mexican culture everywhere around me. It shaped me as a child,” says the lanky and serious University of Utah graduate.

“I’ve always loved and appreciated artists—but I’m not an artist. I really don’t like to do things with my hands,” Olmedo-González says seriously.

Still, Mexico’s tremendous cultural heritage, nor even art in general, ever made much of an impression on him until he immigrated to Utah with his mother. As a student at Taylorsville High School—not exactly a center for Latino cultural scholarship—Olmedo-González needed to fill his class schedule and reluctantly took an elective in art history.

“I fell in love with art,” Olmedo-González recalls. “And I immediately found myself attracted to Mexican art. You learn about yourself through art. I learned my history.”

The high school’s superficial art-history course, which spent a day on muralists (Diego Rivera!) and a only few minutes on surrealist Frida Kahlo, spun Olmedo-González’s head around and left him hungry. He graduated from the U of U in spring 2014 with degrees in Latin American Studies and Art History.

As a university student, Olmedo-González connected with the city’s vibrant Latino art community through helping on the Artes de Mexico en Utah’s ¡Viva Frida! exhibit. Some of Utah’s leading Latino artists, including curator, contemporary artist and DJ Jorge Rojas, mentored him. “I’ve learned so much from Jorge; fortunately, he’ll be continuing to mentor me at Mestizo,” Olmedo-González says. “I plan on growing with this opportunity.”

Olmedo-González, aware of his inexperience, is throwing energy into leading the Institute’s gallery. “Mestizo is very important to this community. My goal is to make Mestizo even more respected.”

Many of Utah’s immigrants were forced here by economic necessity, he explains. As the parents work long hours and the children enter American schools, they lose touch with their culture. “Soon the kids have no clue who they are. Pancho Villa, Zapata? They have no idea. But they yearn for Mexico,” he says. “They aren’t accepted here, yet they don’t know anything about where they’ve come from.”

Olmedo-González’s first curation project opened earlier this spring with two mixed media installations, Pentz’s Ithaka 12 and Rea Morales’ Zacuanpapalotls. Both installations explore cultural migration, memory and transformation—through the Monarch butterfly that migrates between United States and Mexico, a trip that takes place over three to four generations.

“Mestizo’s a space not just for art but for discussion of social justice and inclusion,” Olmedo-González says. “It represents a community that is under-represented.” And by that, he doesn’t just mean the Latino community. Mestizo explores through art the beauty and challenges of all marginalized cultures, including gay.

“Art makes you want to get up and change things,” Olmedo-González says. “It can start a conversation that people don’t want to have, but when they are forced to have it—it’s good.”

Coffee, Tea or Culture

Mestizo Institute of Culture and Arts began in 2003 to enrich and celebrate Utah’s many cultures. Since then it has injected vibrancy into Salt Lake’s art scene. Despite its awe-inspiring name, MICA is one of the state’s least-intimidating art galleries; its space on 631 West North Temple is shared with its namesake coffeehouse. Yet, the institute has set a Quixotic goal to connect Salt Lake’s dominant culture and its emerging immigrant communities. Its related programs include Mestizo Arts & Activism Collective, a leadership program for Westside youth in collaboration with University Neighborhood Partners and NeighborWorks Salt Lake. 631 W. North Temple, 801-596-0500,

Even in the exploration boom of the 1800s, nobody dared to explore the terrain flowing through the Green and the Colorado Rivers.⁠

That is, nobody until Major John W. Powell said the 19th Century equivalent of “Hey man, hold my beer while I try this.”⁠

Read more about his dangerous expedition at the link in our bio!⁠

Photo of Powell’s expedition courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division⁠

A brand new issue of Salt Lake magazine is coming your way! ⁠

We can't wait to share these stories with you. This issue includes our annual Blue Plate Awards celebrating those surviving and thriving in the restaurant biz. Plus, we take a road trip to Wyoming and ask why the only Utah passenger on the Titanic didn’t survive her journey.⁠

A note from our editor Jeremy Pugh, including beautiful tributes to Mary Brown Malouf from our friends in the community, is online now. Read more at the link in our bio ❤️⁠

Subscribers: Look for this issue in your mailbox soon. The magazine will be on newsstands March 1! 📬

Today, we are thrilled to announce the winners of the 2021 Blue Plate Awards! ⁠🎉⁠

These prizes honor the growers, food evangelists, grocers, servers, bakers, chefs, bartenders and restaurateurs who do more than put good food on the table—they make our community a better place to live. This year, just surviving as a local business deserves an award, but each of our Blue Plate winners did more than that. They made us grateful for every person involved in the essential act of feeding us.⁠ 🍽⁠

At the link in our bio, we have the full list of winners, a celebration of feats of COVID creativity and a tribute to restaurants we lost this year. If you’re hungry for more, pick up a copy on newsstands March 1! Plus, check out our Instagram for spotlights on some of the Blue Plate winners. ⁠

This year’s Blue Plate Awards are the first without our beloved Executive Editor Mary Brown Malouf. We dedicate them to her, our town’s biggest food fan, critic and champion. xoxomm⁠ 💙

2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @ricobrandut for Staying in Beansness⁠

Last summer, it seemed that Rico would be another victim of rapid gentrification in Salt Lake. Luckily, Rico was able to find a new home in Poplar Grove and now plans to add even more employees. It’s a last-minute happy ending for a community leader who literally wears his mission on his sleeve, courtesy a tattoo in bright red block letters: “pay it forward.” 💙⁠

2021 Blue Plate Award Winner: @spicekitchenincubator for Keeping the Spice Flowing⁠

This year Spice Kitchen Incubator, already an essential resource for refugees, became, well, even more essential. 💙⁠

2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @thestore_utah for Special Deliveries ⁠

As grocery delivery becomes the new norm, The Store offers a personal touch that only an independent grocer can provide. Last March, high-risk and elderly customers began calling in their grocery lists over the phone, and The Store’s general managers personally delivered food to their homes. 💙⁠

2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @cucinaslc for Preserving Neighborhood Connection⁠

Cucina’s outdoor spaces became a place where the neighborhood could gather safely. Owner Dean Pierose offered free coffee in the mornings and encouraged his regulars to linger and commiserate together, preserving a semblance of society during a socially distanced time. 💙⁠

2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @oquirrhslc for Betting the Bottom Dollar⁠

When COVID-19 hit Salt Lake City, Oquirrh co-owners Andrew and Angelena Fullers' dream was seriously damaged. But the Fullers keep trying to follow the rules. 💙⁠

2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @hearth_and_hill for Opening Doors⁠

As the pandemic ravages independent restaurants, Hearth and Hill has reaffirmed its commitment to small businesses in Park City and used its large dining room as an informal gathering space for the city. 💙⁠

2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @fisherbrewing for Creative Canning⁠

This year, Fisher found ways to utilize their beer, taproom space and canning capabilities for good. They created special lines of limited edition beers in custom cans to help raise funds for local businesses struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic. 💙⁠

A wind storm #tbt for your feed today. 🌬️🛹⁠

2020 was a long, long, loooong year, so we asked local photographers to share what the new normal looked like through their eyes. The link is in our bio!

Just hours after being sworn in, President Joe Biden signed an executive order calling for a review of the boundaries for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. The monuments—designated by Barack Obama in 2016 and Bill Clinton in 1996—were reduced by roughly 2 million acres by former president Donald Trump, and the executive order is seen as move towards restoring the original boundaries.⁠

Read the full story through the link in bio.⁠

📸Bears Ears National Monument: Courtesy of Utah Office of Tourism

What’s your favorite park in Utah? ...