Southwest Folklife Alliance Receives $750,000 from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support transborder folklife initiatives and capacity building
We’re thrilled to announce we’ve received a grant of $750,000 from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support transborder folklife initiatives in Northern Mexico and Tucson, Arizona for the next three years.
The Mellon funding will be used to strengthen the capacity of SFA to expand its work transnationally and to develop partnerships that innovate new systems of support and capacity building for traditional artists in the Arizona-Sonora region.
Support will advance the creation of the Alianza para el Folclore y el Patrimonio Cultural del Norte, or Northern Mexico Folklife Alliance. This “mirror” organization to SFA across the border grows from a deep intellectual engagement in scholarship and field activities in partnership with Sonoran artists and folklorists. The Northern Mexico Folklife Alliance is not meant as a replica of SFA, but rather, will develop core programs and a body of knowledge to celebrate the unique cultural traditions of the region. Similar to SFA, it will directly support traditional artists working to pass on their artforms, fieldwork and ethnographic documentation, digital publishing, and an annual convening of Mexican scholars and community documentarians to strengthen both organization’s model of alliance-building.
Esteemed scholar, researcher, and anthropologist Guillermo Núñez Noriega of the Centro de Investigación en Alimentación y Desarrollo in Hermosillo (CIAD) in Hermosillo, Sonora will direct the Alliance, in consultation with SFA founder and UA Public Folklorist Dr. Maribel Alvarez. Núñez holds a PhD in cultural anthropology from the University of Arizona and is the author, most recently, of Fariseos, a study of the ritual performance of Easter ceremonies as interpreted and carried out by non-indigenous men in the small town of San Pedro de la Cueva, Sonora. A legacy of the colonial, missionary instruction brought to Mexico by Spanish priests and most famously documented among indigenous communities like the Yaqui and Mayo of Sonora and Sinaloa, in this Northern Mexican non-indigenous community, the ritual clowning performance highlights questions of morality, violence and aggression, control of sexuality, and racially based ideas of masculinity.
“Northern Mexico has been underserved by national policies regarding cultural heritage, which tend to privilege buildings, pre-Hispanic or colonial, of central and southern Mexico as examples and emblems of our national identity as Mexicans,” said Nuñez. “We may not have pyramids or vice royal palaces, but we have adobe houses as examples of people’s adaptation to extreme temperatures; acequias and water management organizations to tend to and distribute a scarce resource; performances and celebrations like matachines and fariseos, forms of rituality inherited from colonial times; norteño music and dances, which connect a particular aesthetic with traditional economic activities like cattle raising and ranches. And of course, we have flour tortillas and burritos of all sizes, combining the tradition of the indigenous tortillas and the wheat brought by Spaniards. Our hope is that the Alianza helps the people of Northern Mexico develop a greater consciousness of the value of their culture and its importance for regional identity, wellbeing, and sustainable development.”
Funds from Mellon will also support:
- Community engagement activities and research that will inform the creation of a cultural organizing center focused on folklife participatory action research (PAR) in “La Doce,” the neighborhoods along Tucson’s South 12th Ave. This initiative builds on previous SFA work in partnership with grassroots community organizers and the organization Regeneración. SFA will provide training to community researchers, offer management support, and support pop-up micro folklife festival activities that animate the potential for a Community Land Trust Policy in the City of Tucson.
- The development of Loom Market, an online folk art marketplace that serves as a sales platform for folk, Indigenous, and traditional artists; a crowdsourcing platform for artist-to-artist support, peer-to-peer learning, and capacity building; and a donor space for public and philanthropic entities to support participating artists.
- The expansion of SFA staff and capacity via the hiring of two new staff and support for existing staff as SFA expands support for cultural organizing and the launch of a Center for Folklife and Participatory Action Research (PAR) in La Doce, support of artists services such as the annual Master-Apprentice Artist awards and Loom Market, a new traditional artist online folk art marketplace for rural, indigenous, and folk artists.
The grant represents a shared vision to support Southwest and U.S.-Mexico Borderlands communities in ways that help us deepen our understanding and interpretation of cultural expressions and regenerative community development practices within folk and traditional communities here.
“We are deeply committed to communities and artists in the region who — through their lived experiences and folklife – help us imagine and build a more just and equitable system of support, one that celebrates the everyday forms of expressive life in the bi-national/tri-national Sonoran Desert. We are grateful for the visionary support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation leadership and staff,” said Leia Maahs, SFA Executive Director.
About The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom that can be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive.