Photo courtesy of Chris Peterson
Our Pilot Project
The Bonnie Wall
Bonnie Ball Street Festival
...celebrating Utah's Bonneville Cutthroat Trout
Pilot Project for the Utah Wildlife Walls
On October 22, 2022, the Utah Wildlife Federation, in partnership with the Neighborhood Hive Market and Utah muralist Chris Peterson, hosted the First Annual Bonnie Ball in celebration of Utah's state fish: the Bonneville Cutthroat Trout. The event highlighted the completed 120 ft trout mural and the installation of a baby trout fish tank inside, and demonstrated the grassroots community of Utahns who want to gather to celebrate and learn about the wildlife in our state.
Written by Brett Prettyman
The relationships people have with wildlife in what is now called Utah have changed over time, but the importance of connections with wild animals remains a vital part of living in the American West.
Those links are often accentuated with annual gatherings for hunting, fishing, and birding outings. As Americans grow more disconnected with wild places and the unique species that roam there, it is time to bring wildlife to the people.
Using landscape-sized art, history, fun, and stories, the Utah Wildlife Federation and artist Chris Peterson held the first of what will be many celebrations of wildlife across the state in the fall of 2022.
With a 120-foot mural of a native Bonneville cutthroat trout as the background, the first Bonnie Ball was held at The Neighborhood Hive in Sugar House.“This is what community looks like,” renown conservation writer Terry Tempest Williams said to a crowd of about 300 people.
Williams had conducted two writing workshops for children, with many adults that snuck their way in during the festivities of the day.
“Being with these young people made me realize they are thinking about the present and the future,” Williams said. “They were talking about grief. They were longing to ask questions like why have we are forgotten that we too are animals? We are in good hands.”
“The Bonnie Ball was an act of love and a wild promise that we will honor the power and majesty of this miraculously enduring cutthroat trout.”
-Terry Tempest Williams
For muralist Chris Peterson the opportunity to combine his passions for art and wildlife in a community setting culminating with a celebration of it all was personally and professional rewarding. It also served as an example of what Peterson and the Utah Wildlife Federation want to make happen around the state in the coming years.
“The Bonneville cutthroat mural began as a way to highlight and celebrate a beloved local species, but we soon found out that it also provided an ideal backdrop for wildlife education and community building,” said Peterson, who spent a week creating the 120-foot mural. “The Bonnie Ball showcases a few of the many opportunities to engage kids and adults alike around the celebration of and learning about wild creatures.”
Owners of the building now adorned by the Bonneville cutthroat mural embraced the idea of combining wildlife education with the art. They set up a 55-gallon aquarium in the store and stocked it with live Bonneville cutthroat trout. The trout cutouts provided at the Bonnie Ball for kids to paint are now strung together like a big school of fish hanging from the ceiling of The Neighborhood Hive.
“When we developed the concept behind The Neighborhood Hive it was our intention and hope to create a gathering space for all,” said co-owner of the Hive, Jed Matthews, who was familiar with the Trout in the Classroom program from volunteering to manage a tank at the nearby elementary his children attend. “My involvement with that program led me to love educating children and adults about trout – specifically Bonneville cutthroat. Adding artists, writers, conservation groups, and state fisheries biologists to the mix was amazing. The Bonnie Ball has been a personal highlight for me. It was an amazing event we are all very proud of.”
Matthews and the others at the Hive are planning on making the Bonnie Ball an annual event. People have already named the fish in the tank and go out of their way to visit the trout when in the neighborhood.
“The Bonnie Ball was an act of love and a wild promise that we will honor the power and majesty of this miraculously enduring cutthroat trout,” Williams said.
Photo courtesy of Chris Peterson
“Most every Utah resident has a wildlife story to tell. Those who don’t should have one. Our hope is that the murals will cause people to think about wildlife and want to know more about the animals in their local area. These mural celebrations are a perfect way to engage people and give them a chance to get to know their wild neighbors.”
Brett Prettyman, Chair, Utah Wildlife Federation
The Bonnie Wall and the Bonnie Ball inspired the vision for 29 Utah Wildlife Walls and the community celebration events of the Celebrate Utah Wildlife Project.
SLC Own It Podcast
discusses the Bonnie Ball
SLC Own It brought Harvey the Storybus to the Bonnie Ball Street Festival. They interviewed young attendees about what they learned and saw at the event. Phil and Sarah Kappos compiled the recordings and also interviewed Chris Peterson and Brett Prettyman about the Utah Wildlife Walls project. They edited it all into this podcast. Enjoy!
The Utah Wildlife Walls and the Celebrate Utah Wildlife project are collaborations between Utah Wildlife Federation (UWF) and Utah artist Chris Peterson. In 2021, Chris approached UWF with some funding for a wildlife mural to be installed somewhere along the Wasatch Front. Chris and UWF Board Chair Brett Prettyman worked together to identify a potential mural site, ultimately connecting with a newly opened community market in the Sugar House neighborhood of Salt Lake City.
How It Started...
The partnership with the owners of the Neighborhood Hive not only yielded a 120 ft. trout mural, but also a community event focused on the celebration of native trout species and the installation of a trout education area within the market itself. Highlighting the Trout in the Classroom program available to Utah's schools through a partnership with Trout Unlimited and Utah Division of Wildlife, the mural featured the flank of a juvenile Bonneville Cutthroat Trout. We crowdfunded extra funds to cover the additional costs of the 2000 sq foot mural and a small event budget. We also raised funds to purchase baby cutthroat trout and install them in a fish tank within an educational area in the market.
On October 22, 2022, in partnership with the Neighborhood Hive, UWF and multiple partners, we hosted the First Annual Bonnie Ball Street Festival. With approximately 500 attendees showing up on a stormy day, the wildlife education and community-building opportunities created by pairing the mural and outreach event became clear.
While planning the event and mural, we recognized that many of Utah's wildlife species could, and should, be celebrated similarly. The success of the Bonnie Ball led us to refine and articulate the vision for the Utah Wildlife Walls and the statewide initiative to celebrate Utah's wildlife.
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Williamson