Visions of nativity span the globe

Annual Vancouver festival offers 600 interpretations of birth of Jesus Christ

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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A child's birth that was reported in a small town on the other side of the world has been inspiring artists for 2,000 years.

Almost 600 different representations of that event were on display Sunday at Vancouver's annual Festival of the Nativities.

The 13th annual festival at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 10509 S.E. Fifth St., included plenty of traditional crèches.

There also were some innovative visions of the baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph and their visitors.

But however the interpretation takes shape, Coleen Collins said, "It's an opportunity for people to put into their art what his birth meant to them, and to share it with the world."

The festival also has become an opportunity for the world to share its nativity scenes, said Collins, the event's organizer. About 50 nations were represented this year.

A couple of them were from Africa and illustrated folk-art traditions, both old and new.

A nativity scene from South Africa was done in bead work.

An artist from Zimbabwe tapped a newer medium — salvaged aluminum pop cans. Colorful strips from old Coca-Cola cans were transformed into figures of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Some of the nativities are very much a labor of love.

"One cross-stitch nativity scene took over 20 years to complete," said Steve McAllister, a local church spokesman.

For two paintings — one of Mary and baby Jesus, the other of Joseph and Jesus — the artist used family members as his models.

The goal of the festival is to provide an opportunity for members of the community to come and celebrate together, McAllister said.

And the wider community is joining in, Collins noted. Most of the displays are from Clark County church members, though people from other local religious groups are taking part, making it something of an interdenominational festival.

The free four-day event included live music, children's activities and live nativity performances.