Auspicious beginnings—a handful of performers, low turnout and snow—marked the first Living Traditions Festival 25 years ago. Since then, it’s become a successful gathering, growing in size and diversity.
Wait, diversity? “That’s one of the motivating factors; this community isn’t regarded as ethnically diverse and has an homogeneous stereotype. But, it’s huge, maybe not in sheer numbers, but in variety of cultures,” says festival organizer Casey Jarman. The population of the Salt Lake Valley is more global than ever.
Presented by the Salt Lake City Arts Council, Living Traditions’ swirling colors, delicious aromas, sounds and textures from authentic and traditional folk and ethnic arts transform Washington Square; it’s how folks say who they are and celebrate their culture rooted in generations past. And, art—performance, visual, craft or culinary—is the high point of cultural heritage. Once refugees, immigrants or transplants settle in the Salt Lake Valley and establish the fundamental elements of survival, they then can begin connecting with the arts, says Jarman.
The food is delightful and the crafts are fun, but the event’s hallmark is its performances. This year, new festival performers include groups from Ethiopia, Ecuador and Chile, among others (see p. 58 for more information about the musical mélange). Crafts can be purchased from the Craft Market, where artists in residence encourage dialogue regarding sometimes centuries-old techniques, styles and tools at each community booth.