The diversity of Salt Lake’s Gallery Stroll draws artistic minds to celebrate and observe the works and collaborations of Utah’s local artists. For many it is a welcome change of pace from the city’s usual entertainment offerings. What more and more people are discovering is that this culturally rich evening doesn’t have to end as those Broadway shops shut down. Starting at 9:00 p.m. on that third Friday of each month, Sketch Cabaret opens the night up for an explosive experience of imaginative and inventive collaborations. Founded in 2010 by Veronica Lynn Harper, Sketch Cabaret is what she describes as “avant-garde in the raw.”
The idea emerged from a need for more immersive and community-driven interactions when Harper moved to Salt Lake City from San Diego, California. Starting as a house gathering, Harper was able to see the movement of her gatherings shift from being a party to an atmospherically connected assemblage of musicians, artists and dancers collaborating in various sections of the house. Harper says, “As [the gatherings] grew, I watched them shift from people coming over to party to people drawing in one area and people making music. We had too many people playing music, so we put the DJs downstairs and kept the acoustic upstairs. Then more artists would show up, so my friends started posing, then dancers started posing. […] It eventually got so big we had guest lists and a door girl.” The expansive natures of Harper’s festivities led to the obvious necessity for a “playground” to host the events.
Transforming from simple house parties to a non-profit organization, Sketch Cabaret has redefined what opportunities a “night out on the town” can present. Each night hosted by Sketch Cabaret is themed, then left in the hands of the performers, make-up artists, photographers, painters and dancers to interpret and present for the attendees. The most recent series started in October of 2014, and is centered on the personal journey of the individual. Starting with “Toxic” in October, this series is meant to encompass the discovery and healing of self. November’s “Beast” delved deeper into letting go of the toxic habits and aspects of one’s self. February’s theme, “Stir,” is the fifth transformational step, exploring those emotions “stirred” up by the process. The finale of the series comes in May with “Bloom.” Each of these themes provides an inspirational canvas for the performers.
While not only a source of entertainment on a Friday night, Sketch Cabaret is a launching pad for those creative minds that are looking to expand their horizons. “It’s a platform to use to express yourself,” says Harper. “I’m not here to give you a job—I’m here to let you prepare for your next step.”
Brittany Moreno shared her experience of meeting Harper for the first time. “I was painting at the fair,” she says. “She came up to me and she was so inviting and excited, telling me all about Sketch Cabaret. I didn’t even know there was an art community as alive and active as Sketch Cabaret. It was really tough when she met me. I was on the floor, just painting on the ground, but I knew it was what I loved. I am so lucky she found me, to be a part of all this.” Hers is a true testament to the power of Sketch Cabaret and the crucial opportunities it provides the artists involved. Sterling Becker, of the ArtsofChaos dance group, also expressed her gratitude for Sketch Cabaret. “I immediately felt, as soon as I got there, that people were stoked,” she says. “They gave me encouragement and let me express my creative vision without judgment. It’s just really good to have that sense of community and to be able to express yourself in any way that you want.”
Heather Marron, the visionary second-in-command, aptly described the experience, saying, “Collaborating with people openly, and respecting people of all different levels and backgrounds is practice for professionalism, as well as practice for professionals.” This community-driven group provides a break away from the traditional idea of “nightlife.” The segregation of groups typically seen in bars and others shows is taken away. In its place is a positive and affirming experience, which encourages branching out and expanding comfort levels, providing for a diverse range of individuals.
Marron says, “When people ask me what Sketch Cabaret is, it feels like it’s such an easy answer, but simultaneously, it’s not. Sketch Cabaret is an all-inclusive community, and everyone is welcome to join. It’s a platform for human expression.” Sketch Cabaret extends beyond a single night of interpretive manifestation. After four years, the group now has 216 members, traveling for events and conventions such as Sundance, Ted Talks, Lightning in a Bottle, Envision and even Salt Lake Comic Con. Sketch Cabaret is available for hire for event planning, providing performance acts and artistic photo shoots, striving to become the source that opens the pathway for both performers and spectators.
This month’s event for Sketch Cabaret will be held on Feb. 20 at 9:00 p.m. at The Metro. It will include three separate drawing stations with live art figure models all night long, a sound performance by Anthony Motto, spin the bottle on the dance floor and a variety of other performances. Sketch Cabaret is currently seeking partners, donations and sponsors.
For those wishing to become involved in any capacity, Harper encourages them you contact Sketch Cabaret through the group’s Facebook page, or to email firstname.lastname@example.org.