Maribel Alvarez

Maribel Alvarez of Tucson, an anthropologist, folklorist, writer and curator, will receive the 2021 Shelley Award. 

The award will be presented virtually during the 40th annual Governor’s Arts Awards, a hybrid event this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, on Friday, March 26. The Governor’s Arts Awards will be celebrated at locations throughout the state.  Details will be announced. 

The Shelley Award is named for former Arizona Commission on the Arts Executive Director Shelley Cohn, who served in that role for 21 years before retiring in 2005. The Shelley Award has been presented since 2006 to an Arizona individual who has advanced Arizona arts and culture through strategic and innovative work to create or support public policy beneficial to the arts.

“Maribel’s commitment and passion ensures that important native arts and cultural traditions are celebrated and embraced as everyday expressions of culture, heritage and diversity in the southwest,” said Joseph Benesh, executive director of Arizona Citizens for the Arts, which produces the Governor’s Arts Awards. “She has quietly but incredibly effectively integrated, promoted and documented the practice of more than a dozen of the nation’s leading emerging and alternative artistic and cultural organizations.”

Alvarez, who holds the Jim Griffith Chair in Public Folklore at the Southwest Center at University of Arizona, also is associate dean for community engagement in the College of Social & Behavioral Sciences and founder of the Southwest Folklife Alliance. The Alliance is an independent UArizona-affiliated nonprofit which produces the annual Tucson Meet Yourself Folklife Festival in addition to multiple programs connecting artisanal economies, foodways and traditional arts to community planning and neighborhood-based economic development throughout the U.S.-Mexico border corridor.

In 1989, she co-founded MACLA in San Jose, Calif., one of the most vibrant contemporary Latino art spaces in the United States and recently completed a 6-year term appointment as a Trustee of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

She has been a Fulbright Fellow in Sonora, Mexico where she currently still carries on research with indigenous Yaqui communities around food and sovereignty. She has served as core advisor for several national philanthropic efforts, documenting the practices of art making in America in the context of changing demographics and racial justice. Alvarez also has served in the faculty of the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures’ National Leadership Institute for 17 years. In 2018 the American Folklore Society awarded her the prestigious Americo Paredes Prize for “excellence in integrating scholarship and engagement with the people and communities one studies.”

The Governor’s Arts Awards are presented by Arizona Citizens for the Arts in partnership with the Office of the Governor. Since 1981, more than 200 distinguished artists, individuals, cultural organizations, educators, businesses and philanthropists have received Governor’s Arts Awards.

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