Gem and Jam 2022: A Festival Focused on Energy and Experiences
Gem and Jam 2022 Delivered Palpable Energy and Impactful Experiences
The 14th Gem and Jam Festival took place February 4-6 at Pima County Fairgrounds in Tuscon, AZ.
Images: Mariah Michener | Words: Maya Shoup
The atmosphere of Gem and Jam can be described as sheer acceptance and unconditional love; it is an energy that is palpable from the minute you step foot on Pima County Fairgrounds.
As far as the eye can see, vans, buses, and art cars lined the rows of the camping lot; some were even being spray-painted as we watched. Small packs of dogs frolicked freely and greeted newcomers, staying close to their nomadic humans. One of our neighbors secured a tumbleweed with a rope while another was teaching anyone who was willing how to partner juggle. A small acoustic group set up shop a couple of cars down and were serenading the crowd. Children of all ages shrieked with laughter and joy at the flow and aerial artists.
With Gem and Jam being an all-ages festival, many of those kids were experiencing this beautiful community for the very first time; a new world, an extravagant circus, a safe place, a deep connection to the earth and those who walk it, an undying appreciation for all forms of art.
There are few experiences as impactful as Gem and Jam, this year being no different.
The Lay of the Land at Gem and Jam
The early birds laid claim to their campsites Thursday evening. Windy weather and bad conditions to the east of Arizona did not stop the Gem & Jam team from putting on a breathtaking experience; artist after artist rolled in, from live painters to musicians to aerialists. The art installations were set up with love, the vendors prepped their booths, and the producers performed soundcheck.
After all was said and done, everyone retired for the night in preparation for the upcoming weekend.
Friday started without a cloud in the sky, although the weather was the chilliest on this day. Walking into the festival, you’re greeted by a small circus area that anyone is welcome to play on. A small child balanced on a small tightrope, hysterically giggling when she lost her balance and fell to the soft mat. A cat-shaped lyra hung nearby, which I happily lent some energy to before continuing on my way.
Next, you pass through the food trucks, and believe me, you’ll want to try every single one. It was straight-up impossible to find something I did not like, my absolute favorite being the dumplings from Big Phan and the tacos from Super Heady Tacos. Something I vastly appreciated was the amount of vegan options from nearly every stand; the consciousness of this festival is one of the many reasons people return every year.
Further along we have the vendors, and quite an impressive collection of them. If you want apparel, Noralina Freedom and Grassroots are many people’s go-to and this weekend was no exception with both booths having a constant stream of attendees looking to up their wardrobe.
Art & Gems Align Together
The essence of Gem and Jam Festival resides in the fact that it aligns with the annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, which happens to be not only the largest gem show in the world but one of the oldest and among the most prestigious. Hundreds of International gem and mineral dealers flock to Arizona to buy, sell, and trade their stones. Even if you don’t have the time to make it to the big gem show, you can get a taste of it within Gem and Jam itself.
This year, if you were looking for both affordable and quality gems, Denver Gem Collection had your back with some mind-blowing stones at a mind-blowing price. On the other end of the spectrum, if you want some high-quality jewelry from some of the best jewelers I have ever met, stop by the Rueger Jewelry and Platonic Gems showcase curated by Taron Rueger and Melissa Schramm. Their booth featured a variety of mediums from an outstanding array of artists, including Gem Vines, Rika Wraps, Art of Wire, Mothership Glass, Forged Elements, Dan Hoffman Glass, Chakra Roots, and so many more.
The art installations were endless, each one individually and uniquely beautiful and interactive in its own way. Eliza Shultz of IRL art outdid herself as the art installation director; she poured herself into the curation of this experience and the comfort of her team, a devotion that could be felt walking through the grounds.
I had a chance to meet many of the artists behind the art, including Brittany Sundquist, who paints under the alias of FrozenFeathers and has been receiving well-deserved recognition of late for her mural portraits of Charles Ingalls, known as CharlesTheFirst.
The beloved musician and member of our community passed away unexpectedly last December and since then, Brittany has been traveling the U.S. honoring his memory through paint and healing not only herself, but all who were touched by his poetic soul. Later that night, she and Charles’s brothers, Kaya and Cedar Ingalls, opened up Lab Group’s set with words that conveyed a love so deep and absolute; the entire festival held their breaths and each other, collectively grieving, releasing, and healing.
Charles was with us that night, with a goofy grin stretched ear to ear.
The night closed out with Lotus and Wreckno, both very high-energy sets that left the audience aching for more.
Performers Amaze Crowd with Fiery Show
Saturday warmed up, allowing attendees to shed their layers and really feel the flow of the music. Dirtwire and Shpongle (Simon Posford live set) were among the most memorable, both sending their crowds into a dance fury.
One of the best parts of Gem and Jam is the variety of music, from deep dub to dirtybird house to straight-up jam. The festival attracts some of the world’s best flow artists, both onstage and off – every set at every stage had prop manipulators and dancers getting into the groove of each and every musical genre.
That night, the festival performers set ablaze their props and amazed the crowd with a fiery show. Besides the usual flow toys, the performers kicked it up a notch, performing partner routines and acro yoga while seamlessly handling fire wings, fans, and skirts. Behind them, aerialists twisted and turned through the sky on silks and lyra, defying gravity and turning heads.
It was the most inspiring flow team I have seen in quite a while, to say the least.
Sunday Funday was a perfect ending to the weekend, with the sun shining strong and everyone feeling well-acquainted with their environment.
Denver native NotLo opened the indoor onyx stage with a set that left everyone screaming for more, while Atyya perpetuated the vibe on the same stage an hour later. Sunsquabi and STS9 held it down on the main stage, making for a well-rounded and heartwarming end to one of the most fulfilling weekends I have ever had.
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