We document folklife, culture, and heritage in the U.S. Southwest and Northern Mexico through our monthly journal BorderLore and through special projects and fellowships. Current ethnographic projects include:
Reclaiming the Border Narrative: A three-year effort initiated by the Ford Foundation in partnership with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures, Borealis Philanthropy, and the Center for Cultural Power, this Initiative is supporting storytelling efforts along the US-Mexico border into to penetrate attentions and expand perceptions about the border region and migration, from one of chaos and danger to one in which all communities, people, and cultures are understood, respected, and uplifted. SFA researchers Dr. Maribel Alvarez and Kimi Eisele are conducting an ethnography of the initiative.
Plain View Fellowship: This pilot fellowship program (2021) supported 5 documentarians and artist-researchers to carry out a project that elevates and illuminate a slice of folklife, culture, or heritage in the region that may otherwise be misunderstood, overlooked, or forgotten. The program takes its name from folklorist Mary Hufford’s notion that the study of folklife reveals beauty “hidden in plain view.”
End-of-Life Caregivers: A cohort five ethnographers is documenting the lives of five EOL caregivers in Southern Arizona. Their research aims to amplify stories and methods of EOL caregivers in order to demystify their work, share best cultural practices, reduce stigma, and connected audiences to EOL care planning options. Ethnographic findings will be shared on our web site and in a special EOL exhibit at the Arizona State Museum in 2022.
We also bring the tools of the folklorist (assets mapping, ethnography, participatory action research) to foundations and collaborative initiatives involving arts and culture. Past work in this area includes:
Arizona Creative Communities Initiative: We offered guidance to the Arizona Commission on the Arts and Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts (ASU HIDA), in an initiative supporting 9 teams representing Arizona cities, towns, and neighborhoods exploring how arts and culture can contribute to community development and positive community change. Teams received intensive training, one-on-one mentorship, and funding. Visit the AZCCI site to listen to podcasts about each of the projects. 2019-2020
University of Arizona Office of Student Engagement: We worked with the UA Office of Student Engagement to assess the landscape of student programs, courses, and projects that integrate community engagement at the university. Our findings offer recommendations for best practices and institutional support. We also carried out case studies of several such programs. Sept. 2019-Jan 2020
Nogales, Arizona: A rapid-assessment of community needs/assets/desires: We conducted a needs assessment in Nogales, Arizona to understand pressing local issues, innovative responses, and ideas for how the UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences might best use the Castro House, the former residence of the state’s only Mexican American Governor, Raul Castro. The house was gifted to the College in fall 2019. Our assessment also helped birth VozFrontera, an SFA program in Nogales, bringing arts and entrepreneurship to youth in that community, in collaboration with community partners and with funding from ArtPlace America. 2017-2018.