Salt Lake City DIY Festival Highlights Pacific Islander Heritage Month

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Brooklyn Critchley

Kanani Pua Dancers Performing at the Salt Lake City DIY Festival. (Photo by Brooklyn Critchley | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Paige Gardner, Assistant Arts Editor

 

This past weekend, the Utah Fairgrounds hosted Craft Lake City’s DIY Festival. With gracious sponsor support from Harmons, the festival spanned three days with, “over 250 local artisans, DIY engineers, vintage vendors, and craft food creators … and approximately 20,000 attendees,” according to the Craft Lake City website.

The Festival was a massive success, according to Rachel Kozlowski, an artist at the festival — this year was the biggest the event had ever been, as the interest in DIY and local art only seems to grow each year. 

Additionally, the festival took place during Pacific Islander Heritage Month so the organizers decided to highlight the work of local artists in the Pacific Islander community with cultural stations and performances all day Saturday.

Pacific Islander Heritage Month

The Pacific Islander community in Utah is strong and has been growing since the mid-1800s. Utah is lucky enough to have one of the largest populations of Pacific Islanders in the United States, and their contributions culturally, artistically and economically to the Salt Lake Valley and the state as a whole have shaped Utah’s history.

This powerful heritage was highlighted at the DIY festival, with stunning performances by local Pacific Islander artists along with traditional food and art stations. Pasifika Enriching Arts of Utah, or PIK2AR, is a local non-profit organization that played a key role in the centering of Pacific Islander culture at the festival.

Art from PIK2AR at the Salt Lake City DIY Festival. (Photo by Brooklyn Critchley | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

Arts and the Community

Nisi La’a, artist and case manager at PIK2AR, said that the work they are doing centers on empowering and building up the Pacific Islander community from within, in part by fostering creativity and the arts. 

“Mental health isn’t something that’s talked about a lot in our community, and we’re trying to change that.”

Traditional Wood Carving by Tane Falevai. (Courtesy Tane Falevai)

La’a works closely with individuals in her community, teaching leadership skills and helping people develop healthy coping mechanisms for processing their emotions.

Nisi is the owner of MANA Manifest Jewelry and sold handmade journals at the festival that she hopes will help those around her develop the habit of writing out how they’re feeling as a way to better understand themselves and unpack how they’re feeling.

Another artist participating in the festival was Tane Falevai, who was born and raised on a small island in Tonga. Falevai is putting in the work in his community to teach the skills that he has mastered to a younger generation, who he hopes will continue his work.

Falevai is a multi-faceted artist best known for his traditional Polynesian sculptures and wood carvings. One of the only masters of traditional Polynesian-style wood carving in the world, he hopes to make the art more inviting to young people and more accessible.

Growing up in Tonga, Falevai connected with the environment where he sourced his materials for sculpting and learned all the styles of design throughout Polynesia. He continued to hone his skills working at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie, Hawaii.

His goal is to share a piece of Polynesian culture with everyone who is a patron of his art.

With tens of thousands of attendees, the DIY festival was the perfect place for La’a, Falevai and many others in the Pacific Islander community to showcase their beautiful culture and traditional arts.

 

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