Mission and History

“The festival is conceived of as a dramatization of the fact that we live in a plural society.”
Jim Griffith, Founder

Founded in 1974 by folklorist Jim Griffith and his wife, Loma Griffith, Tucson Meet Yourself is an annual celebration of the living traditional arts of Southern Arizona’s and Northern Mexico’s diverse ethnic and folk communities. The free, three-day event features hundreds of artisans, home cooks, dancers, musicians and special exhibits that celebrate and honor beauty in all its diverse, informal, and everyday forms. Tucson Meet Yourself happens annually in Downtown Tucson during the second weekend in October.

MISSION

Our mission is 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.

Through our folklife festival, we focus on presenting artists and communities that carry on living traditions rooted in a group’s own definition of identity, artistry, and cultural significance.

What is “folklife” and “folklore”? Folklife is the informal, familiar, common side of human experience not contained in the formal records of culture (often found in museums and universities). 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.

How do you define “traditional”? By traditional we mean practices and customs “transmitted” over time from people to people. We don’t mean “unchanged” or even necessarily “old.”

Who are the “folk” and “ethnic: communities? 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, and more) tied together by some common interest and meaningful system of communication that makes sense to them (language, cooking, clothing/costume, decoration, dance, etc.)

HISTORY 

The festival has been held annually in Downtown Tucson, Arizona since 1974. It 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), an affiliate non-profit organization of the University of Arizona, housed within the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and the designated Folk Arts Partner of the Arizona Commission on the Arts with the support of the National Endowment of the Arts. SFA’s mission is to build more equitable and vibrant communities by celebrating the everyday expressions of culture, heritage and diversity in the Greater Southwest. Its work helps support, honor, and promote the traditional arts and heritage practices of the region and that compliment the festival year-round.

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 has had a long history of partnership and shared goals with the University of Arizona.

Want to remember the festivals of the past? Click here to view festival programs from the past decade or so.