Mission and History

Our Mission: To research, document, interpret and present the living traditional arts and expressions of everyday life of the folk and ethnic communities of the multi-national Arizona-Sonora region.

Tucson Meet Yourself is different from other large events: it is a “folklife” festival. This means that our focus is on presenting artists and communities that carry on living traditions rooted in a group’s own definition of identity, artistry, and cultural significance.

Here are a few additional things about TMY that you may find of interest:

    • By “living”  we mean that, during the other 362 days of the year when there is no TMY festival and they are not on stage, active groups of folks in Tucson by virtue of sharing an ethnicity, a culture, a national origin, an occupation, or another shared interest actually dress, sing, eat, display, and behave in ways that are meaningful to them and that they consider “traditional.”
    • By “folklore” and “folklife” we mean the informal, familiar, common side of the human experience that is not contained in the formal records of culture (what is not in museums nor taught at universities). Folklore is the traditional, unofficial part of Culture. The study of folklore includes language, music, dance, games, myths, customs, handicrafts, architecture, food preparation, jokes and humor, and almost anything else that people say, make or do on their own, informally.
    • By “tradition” and “traditional” we don’t mean “unchanged” or even necessarily “old,” but rather having some basis on being a kind of knowledge that is “transmitted” over time from people to people.
    • By “arts” and “artists” we mean just about any human activity that has an aesthetic component –call it an embellishment of the commonplace. For example, food: everybody has to eat to live (this is commonplace) but some of us cook recipes and prepare foods as an art form.
  • By “folk” and “ethnic” we mean any group of people (cowboys, Mormons, Mexicans, African-Americans, Yaquis, O’odham, gays and lesbians, the deaf, bikers, martial art students, low rider car owners, etc.) who are tied together by some common interest and meaningful system of communication that makes sense to them –the way they talk, cook, dress, decorate objects, dance, etc.

The festival has been held each year in Downtown Tucson, Arizona since 1974. TMY was founded by University of Arizona folklorist and anthropologist Dr. James “Big Jim” Griffith, who in 2011 was honored by the National Endowment for the Arts with a prestigious recognition as a “National Heritage” treasure.

In addition to the annual festival, TMY leads several other projects year-round. (Learn more in the section of this website called “Programs”)

TMY is building a community that respects traditions, culture, diversity and honors the land and environment (“sense of place”) unique to the desert borderlands. We have several ongoing partnerships with other organizations in our region dedicated to fostering compassion, integrity, and stewardship of the land and our Southwestern cultural ways.

TMY is a vital economic engine for community groups and the economy of charitable giving in our region. TMY funnels the revenue generated at the festival directly back into the local economy. Participanting ethnic clubs and nonprofit associations raise collectively over $250,000 through their sales at the festival. Most use this revenue to re-invest in their cultural, faith-based, and educational programs year round.

    • Tucson Meet Yourself is a not-for-profit organization run by a Board of Directors made up of 12 community leaders, professionals, educators, and local entrepreneurs.
    • Tucson Meet Yourself shares a Memorandum of Agreement with the University of Arizona/Southwest Center that loans Dr. Maribel Alvarez (Associate Research Professor) to TMY to serve year-round as Folklorist and Program Director. In addition, the UA provides office space, computer, and administrative support.
    • Tucson Meet Yourself is the designated official “folk arts agency” for the state of Arizona as determined by the National Endowment for the Arts. TMY is eligible to receive federal funds dedicated to the preservation of living cultural traditions and to document folk practices and serve folk artists statewide.
  • Tucson Meet Yourself is a Member of the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau (MTCVB) and of FEATsAZ (Festival Event Association of Tucson and Southern Arizona) and collaborates regularly with other organizations, festivals, and special events dedicated to promoting a vibrant cultural life for downtown Tucson and the region.

“The festival is conceived of as a dramatization of the fact that we live in a plural society…”

Jim Griffith, Founder