Religion remains an important source of meaning for many Americans, and its diversity provides a deep reservoir of cultural creativity. From the creation of regalia for Native American and African diaspora worship to the foodways in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim celebrations, to Hindu puja (worship rituals) and the construction of Buddhist shrines, religious communities enact, adapt, and transmit their worldviews in imaginative ways. At the same time, religious institutions and religiously affiliated people have also caused unspeakable harm to many, and the process of reconciliation has only just begun.
At the 2023 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Creative Encounters: Living Religions in the U.S. will carefully examine the intertwining of American religious communities and traditions and the imaginative encounters this mingling produces. Together we will confront those religious acts which have caused harm in the name of conquest and celebrate ones used to create profound cultural change. In examining the role of religion in American life, we will uncover a wellspring of creative expressions in the United States and, in some cases, their ties to others around the world.
Although rooted in millennia-old traditions, Creative Encounters involves the vibrant and surprising ways that religion emerges in our lives today. Creative Encounters invites you to join us at a welcome table—a table offering many worldviews, mutual respect, and cultural exchange. If done well, our conversations will extend beyond a two-week Festival, enriching national, even global, understanding about the depth, nuance, and potential of these diverse religious expressions.
See the material resonances of religion through makers’ eyes.
Explore the sonic landscape created and remixed by the world’s faith traditions.
Navigate places and spaces inhabited by one or many faith communities.
Many people are searching for hope amid the Black Lives Matter struggle and the COVID-19 pandemic. Hope is the ability to lean into an unknown future with courage and creativity despite opposition and oppression. In these difficult days, where do we find hope to counteract despair and rebuild broken communities? Brad Braxton and Anthony Pinn, two respected scholars of religion, discuss these questions.
Diverse religious traditions have developed deep reservoirs of “healing faith”—cultural wisdom and spiritual practices to lament brokenness, promote healing, and transform painful circumstances. In this courageous conversation, Joanne Braxton and Angela Oh, two respected scholars, religious practitioners, and social activists, explore how religion and spirituality can be medicine for the spirit, the body, and the body politic.
Many faith practices and tribal traditions command respect for nature and teach life lessons from the natural world. In this conversation, streamed live from the National Mall, faith leaders across different traditions explore common ideas around protecting our shared natural heritage and successful conservation practices.