“Submerged” was exactly the descriptor for what one might have felt at Salt Lake’s third annual Submerged in Art show. Immersive and riveting, the two-day event occurred February 24 and 25 above the Tap Room on Highland Drive, and I happily viewed the fleeting gathering of about 40 artists on the second night. Meandering through the galleries, one felt like a wide-eyed fish that swam unknowingly into a tropical reef, bright artwork substituting for the coral formations and colorful plants. The fine arts display meshed with the humble atmosphere of a craft fair, while edgy music, like a warm current, trickled through the rooms. It was lively and exciting, a spontaneous spring of artistic talent that bubbled up on Highland Drive.
Iosua Tai Taeoalii (aka Josh) was responsible for channeling this talent to Sugarhouse. He began Submerged in Art three years ago as a way to combat the winter blues. “I get real depressed, I drink too much, and I turn into a mess so I need to find something to give me something to do,” he said. When he recognized his surplus of both artist friends who could sell work, and other acquaintances who were financially struggling or homeless, he decided to form Submerged, an art show that was designed to benefit The Road Home, Utah’s largest homeless shelter.
A board member for the organization and Taeoalii’s cousin, Daela Taeoalii-Higgs described the shelter’s intentions and goals. Her passion for the organization was evident as she detailed its obstacles. “The downtown shelter right now, tonight, is housing a thousand people,” she said, and she added that an overflow shelter in Riverton housed an additional 70 families. The shelter has focused primarily on providing places to live for those in need, but also has offered case management and workforce services.
Taeoalii’s own work was for sale at the event, contributing to the proceeds that benefited The Road Home. Seven years before, he began producing stenciled images and offering them on Ebay—they quickly sold, so he became a full-time artist, touring the country to sell his work. Despite the popularity of his stencil-based art, he chose to feature his detailed pen drawings of bizarre hybrid creatures at the show.
Unlike Taeoalii, other artists opted to display their stenciled work. Jorge Arellano Molina utilized recycled materials to generate his images. Daniel Overstreet, another stencil artist, even produced patterns of his work on the walls where his productions hung at the event. His creations, which frequently featured iconic pop-culture images, originated in the streets and were transplanted onto canvas when people asked to purchase his works.