Tucked alongside the mountains of the Arizona desert, Gem & Jam music and arts festival takes place during the annual Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase. Unlike many large mainstream music festivals, Gem & Jam is an intimate event that focuses on being a transformative festival which brings together artists, teachers and concert goers alike for a weekend of creation and collaboration.
In addition to a variety of musical entertainment, Gem & Jam also offers a variety of different musical and artistic workshops to those who attend. The festival is designed to teach and inspire attendees about the environment around them and the talents within themselves and below are eight lessons that we took away this year.
Every moment is an opportunity to create
The creativity that was displayed throughout the weekend at all times and of all forms demonstrated that every moment if an opportunity to create. Live painters were set up around every stage and would relocate their artwork from stage to stage as music went on throughout the day. Wire wrappers and jewelers could be found crafting new wares in the shade from the Arizona sun at campsites and at sets. All weekend long musicians, artists and performers of all kinds found unique outlets for their expression and showed that creativity can strike at any moment and it’s always good to be prepared.
The best experiences are shared
Happiness is best shared, as are experiences. Some festivals have such a large crowd that it can be hard to form connections when wandering through the chaos. At festivals with over 20, 40 or 60 thousand attendees, sometimes not losing your friends takes precedence over making new ones. The crowd this year at Gem & Jam was estimated to be around three thousand which made the festival easy to navigate and allowed it to have a personal vibe. Friends old and new connected and reconnected, and I happily found myself running into the same people throughout the weekend, too. It’s refreshing to find festivals with the genuine sense of community and camaraderie that can be found at Gem & Jam.
Art takes shape in all forms
Art installations of every kind were on display in seemingly every nook and cranny of the Gem & Jam festival grounds. Creative minds expressed themselves in the forms of paper mache cacti to trees adorned in wooden lanterns and immaculate laser cut stages. In addition to physical art, theatrical performers such as hula hoopers, fire spinners and fan dancers also made their moves on stage and throughout the venue in solo acts and in collaborative groups. Art unfolded during all hours of the day and night as artists, musicians, designers and storytellers shared their crafts. The endless expressions of creativity exhibited at Gem & Jam reminds us that everyone is capable of creating art.
It’s cool to care about the environment
One of Gem & Jam’s main focuses is promoting sustainable practices within and beyond the festival. It’s is just as crucial for festival coordinators to take responsibility for enacting sustainable practices as it is for festival goers to abide by them. A comprehensive list of Gem & Jam’s sustainability initiatives can be found on their website here. This year, the festival hired Wysidio specifically to be their sustainability partner to amplify their green initiatives and further support their sustainable vision. The lessons about sustainability put forth by the festival are meant to inspire more conscious environmental behavior within the festival grounds and at home.
There are no wrong dance moves
It is a truly wonderful sight to see when someone is dancing without a worry or care, and a lot of that was seen at Gem & Jam. Some dance moves were careful, calculated and sharp and others were wild and unpredictable. The vibes and dance styles varied from stage to stage as the music changed from soul, to bass to funk. From headbanging, to shuffling – there really are no right or wrong moves. Dancing is about feeling the beat and finding your own groove.
Everyone is a teacher, everyone is a student
The workshops at Gem & Jam this year covered everything from drum lessons to sustainability practices to meditation. Workshops have become an increasingly more integral part of the festival as it has expanded and are hosted from morning through night at different stages across the grounds. I sat in on a few different workshops throughout the weekend and admired the level of open communication between the workshop leaders and attendees which allowed everyone to share knowledge with each other. It is important to listen and engage with others because everyone has a story to tell and a lesson to share.
Good Food Matters
Plain and simple: it is important that we pay attention to what we eat. Those with dietary restrictions often face limited options for food at festivals but Gem & Jam offered a variety of food choices this year for those with different dietary needs. A majority of the vendors at the festival were vegan and many offered both gluten-free and dairy-free options. Super Heady Tacos is a popular festival vendor that was at Gem & Jam this year that travels across the US and features locally sourced menu items based on the location of the event. Whether at home or at a festival, physical health should always be a priority and you should always put thought into what is going into your body.
Diversity is beautiful
Gem & Jam demonstrates the beauty of diversity in a number of ways from the music, to the art to the actual attendees. The musical lineup was a skillfully selected mix of jam bands and electronic acts that varied from reggae to jamtronica to bass. This diversity allowed those with varied interests to experiences shows of different genres and also presented those with more refined tastes with the opportunity to see something new. The assortment of art was just as diverse as the music lineup this year and showcased a spectacular range of human creativity. There was also diversity in the actual attendees themselves. While many of the people at Gem & Jam were Arizona locals, many people who attended traveled from out of state for the event. People of all ages, including families, find a home in the festival each year and proves that people of all walks of life can gather and celebrate over a shared love of music.