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

Jim Griffith, Founder


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.

TMY is the signature annual event of the Southwest Folklife Alliance. SFA produces a number of other programs that help support, honor and promote the traditional arts and heritage practices of the region and that compliment the festival year-round.

TMY has had a long history of partnership and shared goals with the University of Arizona. To learn more about that history go here.

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.