Visual Arts

Finding a Home, for Herself and for Salt Lake City’s Performance Art Festival

Kristina Lenzi performing inside one of Salt Lake City Library’s elevators.

It’s a worn cliché, the idea that we should think “outside the box.” But sometimes the metaphor rings with the sound of truth, especially when the box is an actual one. Kristina Lenzi was, in her words, “on a rampage” to put performance art on Utah’s map, but was only able to do so when she went beyond the four wall box of a gallery setting.

A Utah native, Lenzi studied drawing and painting at the University of Utah and then pursued an MFA in interdisciplinary art from Tufts University in Boston before returning to Utah, where she now teaches at Weber State University. She describes herself as “a painter who loves performance art.” And she just wasn’t able to satisfy her performance art fix when she returned to Utah. “I had left Boston’s strong international performance art community and I wanted one here.” During a University of Utah faculty exhibit in 2012, she performed in the Great Hall at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. Nox Contemporary, in their original, larger space, hosted some performances. But Lenzi wanted a festival, a chance to bring in artists from around the world. The galleries weren’t interested and Lenzi felt at a standstill. Then, over a cup of coffee, friend and artist Sandy Brunvand suggested Lenzi talk to their mutual friend, Paul Reynolds. In addition to being a talented artist, Reynolds runs the art programming at the Salt Lake City Library. Salt Lake City’s Performance Art Festival was born. “Paul and I have collaborated closely since. We have often laughed about how the day after everyone leaves the festival, we meet to start planning the next one.” That planning merry-go-round has been going on for ten years now. 

What might have begun in desperation looks in hindsight like inspiration. Can you imagine a better venue than Salt Lake City’s main public library to engage the public with performance art? It’s a perennial “favorite building in Utah” among our readers, there are five floors, a broad atrium, and a variety of nooks and crannies. Performances can happen inside or outside, viewers can watch from above or below. And there’s a built-in, ever-changing public. “The performances capture both unsuspecting passerby as well as viewers who know about the festival,” Lenzi says. “I loved witnessing passersby who stopped to watch the performances and really got into it. So many of them got on their phones and I could hear them tell their friends, ‘You have to get to the Library to check out what’s going on.'” 

Emma Wilson, Natalie Allsup, Molly Mostert at the 2018 festival.


Gustaf Broms at the 2015 festival.


Kristina Lenzi at the 2018 Performance Art Festival.

A gallery is a reverent space, something you attend, like a church service; in a library, performance art is stumbled across. “Performance art happens in the moment. I don’t believe it should be rehearsed like in theater,” Lenzi says. “I believe it has the power to change people by giving them a one-time, ephemeral experience.”

The first festival was launched in 2013 and has been held every year since in the Spring (for 2 years of the pandemic, the festival went online). “The first year I simply invited performance artists I knew or had heard about,” Lenzi says of the launch. “We brought in a Canadian couple. I invited several local artists too, as well as Marilyn Arsem from Boston.” Since then, almost 60 artists, from around the world, have performed.  “There have been a lot of discoveries over the years:  the conceptually different works ranging from funny to deeply political to durational to somber, meeting artists from different states and countries, and learning of the various sites the artists chose at the Library.”

Her favorite was a performance by Marilyn Arsem under a glass floor where she could be viewed in the Urban Room, and heard through vents in the floor, reading The Borrowers by Mary Norton. “Of couse, there were so many other fabulous performances over the years. … I think I am most proud for being able to bring in so many amazing artists, and thereby broadening the international performance art community.”  

Curating the festival has been relatively easy Lenzi says. Things just seemed to fall into place. “The biggest hurdles have been bringing everyone together, all of the transportation and locating art materials for performances, and getting everyone where they needed to be at the same time.” 

Those logistical challenges may become even more difficult now that the Library has announced they will no longer be able to host the festival and Lenzi will have to look for another venue. “I will really miss the Library. It has been a fantastic place/home for a performance art festival.”

Alastair MacLennan performs outside, in Library Square, during the 2017 festival.

A 10-year anniversary (might someone incorporate tin into one of their performances?) is a time of celebration and reflection. “The festival has become all I envisioned,” Lenzi says. “I was able to bring in artists from all over the globe.” Even the pandemic-hiccup was a success. “I never would have dreamed that the festival would not be a live event.  But with a lot of help from Aleko Campos and Paul Reynolds at the Library, we were able to program it. That changed the dynamics with the viewers, but at least we kept the festival going.” And Lenzi says she plans on keeping it going for another ten years.

Keeping the festival going is important to Lenzi for both artistic and personal reasons. “I recall feeling very at home with my community that first year, and that surprised me. I lived in Utah most of my life and I had not felt so at home until the first festival. It just seemed like everyone was in sink with each other. It felt truly amazing.”

The hair of Kristina Lenzi (right) is woven with that of Eugene Tachinni, 2017 Performance Art Festival

Salt Lake City Performance Art Festival, Salt Lake City Library, Salt Lake City, Apr. 14-15


PAF 2013

Marilyn Arsem   Lost Words

Jeffery Byrd   Cathedral

Macie Hamblin   Gifts

Hailee Heiner   Zerfall

Bryce Kauffman   Bear Necessity

Shasta Lawton   Magic Circles

Kristina Lenzi   Fishing

Gretchen and Zoey Reynolds   Watching Ourselves Always for the Return of the Italian Puffies

Jorge Rojas   I Could Go On and On…

Eugene Tachinni   String


PAF 2014

Marilyn Arsem  New Words

Marti Grace Ashby, Erin Esplin    Dreamscapes and Blurred Lines: A Journey through the Collective Unconscious

Caroline Boileau    The Drawing Incubator

Jeffery Byrd    Symphony #4: Beautiful Notes for Salt Lake City

Lisa DeFrance    Fold: Repetition and Difference

Stéphane Gilot    Station Library

Bryce Kauffman    Democracy at Work

Tatiana Svrckova Larsen    Pilgrimage

Kristina Lenzi    Trickster

Gretchen Reynolds    Alter Ego

Joanne Rice    Seven Mile River

Jorge Rojas    Slow Dance

Tony Schwensen    REAL

Eugene Tachinni    Next

Paul Waddell    Untitled


PAF 2015

Gustaf Broms    Am I an immaterial BEING having a physical experience, or am I a     physical BEING having an immaterial experience?

Daniel Embree     Translation: A Curious Work

Macie Hamblin    Listening

Bryce Kauffman    Globe

Shasta Fletcher Lawton    Shoot Me a Text

Kristina Lenzi     Clans

Dawn Oughton     Grandmother and Wolf

Gretchen Reynolds    Tray Thoughts

Jorge Rojas    Tortilla Oracle

Sandrine Schaefer    Wait/Weight

Tony Schwensen    23 20 17 25

Heidi Somsen    Portage

Eugene Tachinni    Have a Seat


PAF 2016

Marilyn Arsem   Under the Floor

Keith Beard   Choose to Elevate

Gabrielle Civil   . . . hewn & forged . . .

Lisa DeFrance   Fold: Repetition and Difference

Macie Hamblin   Listening II

Lexi Johnson   50 Year Address Check

Anna Kosarewska   DISSOLVING

Kristina Lenzi   Crumpled

Tanya Mars   Homage to the City of Women:  Leaves of Gold

Jorge Rojas   Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!

Heidi Moller Somsen   Self-contained: The Anti-Social  Performance Artist

Eugene Tachinni   First Impressions


PAF 2017

Marilyn Arsem    Don’t Look!

Shannon Cochrane    Performance for a Reading of La Joconde

Lisa DeFrance    Fold: Repetition and Difference

Macie Hamblin    Listening III

Chris Irving    Untitled

Kristina Lenzi    Almost 51

Alastair MacLennan    Bust  As  Dust

Dawn Oughton    Untitled

Gretchen Reynolds    The Basket

Tony Schwensen    Once Upon A Time

Julischka Stengele    flesh and bone, glass and stone

Eugene Tachinni    When I Have Time

Kristina Lenzi, Eugene Tachinni   Grafting


PAF 2018

Marilyn Arsem    DON’T THINK!

Jeff Huckleberry    BRIDGE

Lexi Johnson    If I Had A Nickel

Kristina Lenzi    How I Learned to Paint

Alastair MacLennan     BUST AS DUST

Dawn Oughton    Trees and Displacement

Gretchen Reynolds    Little Tiny Ridiculous Circles

Jorge Rojas    tether

Tony Schwensen    Talking to the Tax Man about Poetry : Brag Version

Eugene Tachinni    BLUE

Emma Wilson, Natalie Allsup, Molly Mostert    The Spectre

Rosalie Winard    Play with Pelicans


PAF 2019

Marilyn Arsem   Don’t Speak?

Chelsea Coon   Phases of the Imminent

Lisa DeFrance, Steve Creson   Middleman

Nora Lang, Tanith Benedick, Amy Cox, Eliza Kitchens, Tori Meyer, Aileen Norris, Ellen Weiler   A Six-Sided Argument

Kristina Lenzi, Macie Hamblin   Bruce and Christian

Sinéad O’Donnell   hidden

Joseph Ravens   Defying Duality

Gretchen Reynolds, Kristina Lenz, K Stevenson   One

Jorge Rojas   cage

Eugene Tachinni   Reminded

Emma Wilson, Natalie Allsup-Edwards, Molly Mostert   Shm00fi3zZ



PAF 2021

Marilyn Arsem   Signs of Spring

Alexandra Barbier   Tell Me Something Good!

Lena Chen & Michael Charles Neumann   Crosswind Landing

Gabrielle Civil   Jupiter

Alexander Del Re   Exercises of Reality

Lisa DeFrance & Kristina Lenzi   Press: Four Arms Ironing

Sam Forlenza   At the Creation

Cynthia Post Hunt   Untitled

Myriam Laplante   You have to be there

Guadalupe Neves   Memory of Body

Gretchen Reynolds   The Shower

Eugene Tachinni    Untitled

Emmett Wilson   Take care to take care

Paola Paz Yee   Untitled


PAF 2022

Alexandra Barbier, Samuel Hanson   Tell Me Something Good!

Jeff Rufas Byrd   Sensory Monotony

Sam Forlenza   The Palermitan

Kristina Lenzi, Lisa DeFrance   Mending

Caitlin Mary Margarett   100 Days V.III (live)

Gretchen Reynolds   I Was Here

Jorge Rojas   Wish you were here

Eugene Tachinni   Where They End Up


All images courtesy Salt Lake City Performance Art Festival

Categories: Visual Arts

1 reply »

  1. Kristina, I’ve watched your art form grow, feeling film, dance and performance art is an important way of saying things visually that often cannot be said in other ways. As an art community we need to work together to make sure what you do is not lost.

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