On the third Saturday of May 2007 the Bulgarian culture was represented for the first time at the Living Traditions festival in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. We are obliged for our appearance on the Stage to Craig Miller. He had invited us and encouraged our participation in a way that made us confident that we would do a good job for the public.
It was my pleasure before Christmas to invite for interview Craig Miller, one of the great Americans who made this year more meaningful for the Bulgarian society in Utah. He has been nominated by the International Institute of Anthropology for the best multicultural ambassador in Salt Lake City. As you will learn from him, there is opportunity for two international groups to be invited for the Festival in May 2008.
L. Nikolova: Craig, would you please first represent yourself shortly? How did you become involved in the Living Traditions Festival?
C. Miller: I’ve always been interested in world cultures and wanted a career that would help me meet many different people and travel. I am a graduate of Florida State University with a Master’s degree in cultural geography and a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish. In 1985 I received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Utah. Since 1988, I have worked for the Utah Arts Council, and I have taken contract positions around the country researching regional cultural traditions. Specializing in studies of cultural diversity in the American West, I work closely with arts groups and ethnic communities to produce festivals, concerts, publications and radio programs that help make diverse cultures accessible to the general public. That is how I started working with the Living Traditions Festival as the Performing Arts Coordinator.
L. Nikolova: It is not easy to keep one cultural annual event as a top event of the year. The International Institute of Anthropology has nominated the Living Traditions Festival for our new initiative “Cultural Event of the Year” in Salt Lake and neighborhood. I know how personally was influenced by this year participation – just cannot wait to get close to the event and to begin to participate in the special repetitions of the Salt Lake Bulgarian Folk. I believe this is the feeling of hundreds of participants from different ethnical communities. The closed for the event Downtown, the wonderful stages, the refreshments and thousands of visitors make the atmosphere unique and unforgettable. How do you develop the idea every year? Do you have a steady budget or all depends of charities and sponsors?
C. Miller: The Living Traditions Festival is presented by the Salt Lake City Arts Council and Casey Jarman is the festival director. I think the reason the festival remains so vibrant year after year is because of the diverse community we live in. The character of the festival changes each year as the festival reflects the changing ethnic diversity of Salt Lake City. Each year we discover new groups and invite them to the festival to present their own ethnic food, craft and performance traditions that are treasured elements of their own cultural communities. As the festival presenter, the Salt Lake City Arts Council is responsible for fundraising for the festival. Many of the costs are paid by Salt Lake City and by my agency, the Folk Arts Program of the Utah Arts Council, but the budget is bolstered with grants from government organizations, private foundations and corporations. This keeps the festival free to the public and still provides a budget large enough to pay all the participating artists.
L. Nikolova: Salt Lake is a mega multicultural city. I believe that the Living Traditions Festival is especially valuable for the young Americans whose ancestral immigrants are a few generations behind their parents. There are students in cultural anthropology in all colleges and universities that could reach excellent results for research papers and other kinds of projects based on performances at the festival. What is your interactions with the Anthropological academic departments? As far as I know, the multiculture is the leading perspective of the American academic education.
C. Miller: Academic support for the festival comes from the folklore programs at local universities. I’ve always felt the anthropologists could benefit also, since the festival delves into community and family based traditions that are often not accessible to the general public. We record interviews with all the participants about their background and their lives in contemporary society. We are especially interested in finding out why it is important for them to maintain their heritage of cultural traditions. We maintain a large collection of recorded interviews, photographs and artifacts in the Utah Arts Council’s Museum of Utah Folk Arts and in the Utah Folklife Archives. These facilities are open to the public and we encourage academic research.
L. Nikolova: How is possible for instance, a folk group from Bulgaria to come to participate in the Festival? Who they need to contact? Do you have some tips how to make such projects successful? Is the program for 2008 ready or still there are chances international folk groups to be included in the Festival?
C. Miller: Although the festival’s focus is to highlight the traditions of people who live in the Salt Lake Valley, Casey Jarman books two out-of-town groups for the Living Traditions Festival each year. Usually he takes recommendations from arts management services to find out who is touring the United States and who will be in the area during the dates of the festival. These services have already screened performing ensembles for professionalism and guarantee there will be no visa or travel problems. The program for 2008 has not been set yet. Interested groups should contact Casey Jarman at the Salt Lake City Arts Council. isit this website http://www.slcgov.com/arts/
L. Nikolova: Thank you for your answers and for your time. I wish you the Living Traditions Festival to win in our nominations, as well as a new big success of its next issue in May 2008.
C. Miller: You are very welcome. And thanks to you, Lolita, for your interest and support. I’m sure we’ll see each other at next year’s festival if not before!
Lolita Nikolova, PhD
Cultural anthropologist and archaeologist
Website of the International Institute of Anthropology on the topic:
Cultural events of 2007 in Salt Lake City and its neighborhood
Nominations of Bulgarians of 2007 in the USA
Salt Lake Bulgarian Folk at Living Traditions in May 2007
Lolita Nikolova, PhD