Updated: Nov 16, 2022
Since Cedar City, Utah was in the news last week for some unseemly behavior by a few young people, I'd like to bring balance to our justifiably tainted image. There's more going on in this small Southern Utah town than what was recently in the news.
Cedar City is the home of Sugar House Review, a poetry magazine whose mission “is to promote an eclectic range of poets through publishing and live events to build nationally connected literary communities and foster the literary arts in Utah.”
Two of the original founders, Nano Taggart and Natalie Young, make Cedar City their home. Most days, they can be found curating poetry submissions from around the nation.
They also bring many of these poets to our community for readings, and I attend all of them. As a visual artist, I find that the poetic imagery from these readings disrupt patterns in my thinking and gives energy and life to my own art making. Nano and Natalie are two people who are quietly creating a more kind community in Cedar City.
Southern Utah University, where I teach, is home to the Grace A. Tanner Center for Human Values, “which seeks to promote access to scholarly and scientific learning in areas of human values which embrace moral, artistic, intellectual, and spiritual concepts.” The Tanner Center at SUU is lead by Danielle Beazer Dubrasky, a poet, author and educator who thoughtfully curates visiting artists and intellectuals that brings interesting, if not challenging, discourse to our community.
The actor, Geena Davis recently was a speaker for the Tanner Lecture series. In 2004 she founded The Institute on Gender in Media, “an organization that seeks to correct gender imbalance and challenge demeaning stereotypes within entertainment media.”
“The stories that we choose to tell in entertainment media send a specific message about who matters most in our culture. In order to bring about a global culture change, it is especially important that children see diverse, intersectional representations of characters in media to reflect the population of the world — which is half female and very diverse — and avoid unwittingly instilling unconscious bias in them. Doing good is also good for business!”
Geena tells an interesting outcome of gender equity in media. Since many of the actors in the popular Crime Scene Investigation TV series genre are female, Universities who offer CSI training are overflowing with female students and graduates. Proof that representation works.
Shape Theory Collective was founded almost two years ago. While our patrons and artists come from all corners of this nation, I make my home in Cedar City, Utah. Our mission is to connect master artists and discerning patrons. We are also keen to expose the hypocrisy of cannabis laws. We donate a percentage of sales to the Last Prisoner Project to help them in their mission to free the 40,000 cannabis prisoners that have suffered under the ill-begotten and racist war on drugs.
Our community certainly has its dark side as illustrated by the recent behavior of a few young people. However, we believe that no person, or community, should be judged on one event. I hope these kids can grow from this experience, and come to realize that their ill-advised costume perpetuates stereotypes and it harms our community. As their brains continue to develop neuro-pathways, let’s hope they get exposed to an alternative story than the one they have been taught.
I’m not the person I was when I was their age, and I’ve certainly grown since starting Shape Theory Collective. I hope as a community, we can all be more kind to each other. We all have more in common than the algorithms and the outrage economy want us to believe.
Poets who have recently shared their work in Cedar City, Utah.
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And check out Shape Theory's latest show "Portraits" with Tom Bartel and Richard James