by Maribel Alvarez, Ph.D.
Honoring All that is Beautiful and Understated
It has become a common practice in our society to associate the word “genius” to the fields of science, technology, and math. Mention the word and Steve Jobs comes immediately to mind. Every so often, it is the turn of a novelist, poet, painter or even a pop singer to get called out for their towering talent (or maybe just charisma). But there is another kind of “genius” that often goes unnoticed; the kind that sociologist Gary Alan Fine called “everyday genius” or “remarkable people who toil, sometimes in the face of indifference.” 
There’s no better tangible evidence of this kind of brilliance than that which we find in the makers and transmitters of arts of everyday life in communities all around Arizona. Sometimes “hidden from view” to the larger public, but extremely visible and influential in their own niche circles, there are tribal elders, occupational experts, storytellers, ethnic dancers, cooks, horticulturalist, quilters, weavers and singers who beautify our lives every day. Sometimes called “folk artists” because they work with traditional or heritage-based art forms, their skills might have been learned informally (no academic degree), but they are not for that reason any less extraordinary.
This edition of BorderLore shines the light in those corners of brilliance where beauty and creativity thrive, ever so quietly. Tucson Meet Yourself the festival has served for years as a gateway to experience the power of art and heritage, up-close. Now we are undertaking new programs and initiatives through the Southwest Folklife Alliance that turns what already “good” into something “great.” I hope you can share in our collective joy at this beautiful crossroads for heritage arts in our region.
A previous version of this statement was published at the Arizona Commission on the Arts blog. To read more about the TMY Performance Fellowships, go here.