You enter the Tucson Meet Yourself Courtyard because of all the colorful, diverse folk arts, but also to be surrounded by the comforting yet powerful force of so many busy, creative hands practing their traditions. You look at the Mexican cascarone or the Ukranian woodcarving and the Western braids of horsehair rope, and you find joy in watching these masters of expressive culture. No homogeneity is here, and — as it has been for 40 years — tradition bearers work proudly all around you, demonstrating their skill in fibers, inks, clay, paints, paper and other extraordinary elements that honor the arts of everyday life.
Close to 100 Tucson Meet Yourself tradition bearers will be collected under tents in the Courtyard and along Church, representing more than 25 cultures, tribal nations and Tucson communities. Many of the artists are familiar faces, returning year after year to share their intricate handwork with festival goers. A sampling of the traditional arts and the artists who will be with us for the 40th Anniversary:
- Zenon Korytko, a native of Ukraine, learned traditional woodcarving and its complex surface decoration from his father, who was an accomplished painter and woodcarver. Since 1992 Zenon has demonstrated at TMY, displaying his designs and carvings, with their intricate inlay of beads, mother of pearl and other materials. Often Zenon will use woods brought to America from Germany by his father, when the family immigrated.
- Jesus Garcia, a master demonstrator of the piñata tradition, made his first piñata as a teenager in Mexico, under the supervision of his family. He brought his skills and love of the traditional art to the United States when he moved here about 15 years ago — about the same time he began demonstrating at Tucson Meet Yourself. Jesus produces his three-dimensional piñatas with tremendous artistry, enjoying creating new shapes and animals in vivid colors for onlookers at Tucson Meet Yourself.
- Mohyeddin Abdulazziz has beautifully demonstrated Arabic Calligraphy — the decorative rendering of the written word — for more than two decades at Tucson Meet Yourself. From his Courtyard table, Mohyeddin patiently explains the wonderful variations of this traditional visual Arabic art form, which can be formal and ornate as well as appear as simple, abstract inscriptions.
- Working in cottons and silks on a huge Laotian loom set up in the south end of the Courtyard, Bonyang Michaels proudly demonstrates an ancient and beautiful art which she learned from her mother and grandmother. Bonyang has demonstrated at Tucson Meet Yourself for more than 25 years, meticulously creating geometric designs and lovely tapestries that bring alive to onlookers the traditional techniques of her homeland.
- New for the 40th Anniversary: The traditional art of Chicano mural-making will be demonstrated by South Tucson muralists Alex Garza and Gonzalo Espinosa. Chicano murals have been an important part of urban culture since the 1960s, and neighborhoods continue to tell stories about businesses, politics, religion and arts via tiled and painted walls throughout the city, including South Tucson. The mural tradition thrives as it not only beautifies roadways, parks, civic buildings and neighborhood centers, but also highlights cultural values and issues through imagery and narrative. Alex and Gonzalo will be working in both tiles and paints at their Courtyard demonstration.
There’s a homespun elegance as well as grand craftsmanship in all the demonstrations of these objects of utility and beauty. Be prepared to touch, learn and talk with generous masters of traditional arts.
TMY Folk Arts Courtyard hours: Saturday and Sunday, 11am-5:30pm. Some Courtyard artists may be available Saturday evening. Yaqui and O’odham pavilions (on Church) also will have demonstrations on Friday and during Festival evening hours.