Arizona ArtBeat: CALA Festival

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The Celebración Artística de las Américas (CALA) Alliance has launched its inaugural CALA Festival, a two-month celebration of Latino arts and culture. CALA Alliance Treasurer Myra Millinger talks about the festival’s purpose and what it has to offer.

Ted Simons: On tonight's "Arizona artbeat," a valleywide celebration of Latino arts and culture. The CALA Alliance -- CALA being short for Celebracion Artistica de las Americas -- launched its inaugural CALA festival this week. The two-month celebration features a variety of visual and performing arts designed to encourage a better understanding among cultures. Here to tell us more is Myra Millinger. She is treasurer for the CALA Alliance.
Ted Simons: Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.
Myra Millinger: Thank you.

Ted Simons: This year is first year for the festival, huh?

Myra Millinger: Well, it's the first year for the launch. It's been six years in planning.
Ted Simons: Talk to us about the planning and how did this get started?

Myra Millinger: It got started as an idea of a taskforce looking at how arts and culture might be better positioned to assist business and everybody trying to attract talent and business to the region. And one of the assets that we found that was not talked about as much as we thought it should be, was the richness of our Latino cultural heritage. And so we began to plan for an effort that might find a way to bring that to light. And the CALA Alliance is now an entity that grew out of that effort as a nonprofit dedicated to celebrating and educating and inspiring not only Arizonans, but we hope the whole world about that richness and that heritage.

Ted Simons: And this festival is going to be held at different locations throughout the valley, different kinds of events, the Phoenix symphony involved and art museum involved?

Myra Millinger: There are over 40 organization represented in this effort. And they are a range of organizations. Yes, the Phoenix symphony and Doc SEVERINson to the Arizona Latino arts and culture center and the Phoenix boys' choir. So it's the first time the arts and culture community has come together, big and small, Latino and non-latino with a purpose of celebrating together that piece of our heritage.

Ted Simons: And again, this is more than an arts festival. The idea is bridge building too. Why does a bridge need to be built? What misperceptions are out there and what needs to be corrected in terms of how folks think of other folks?

Myra Millinger: It's interesting, when we launched this as an idea, we were looking at the fact we didn't know within our own community the richness of our Latino roots. Cultural. But -- culturally. But we also knew that other countries didn't know about us and what we had to offer and we didn't know much about them. And part of that was to build that bridge. In the U.S. in the past year, there are other issues that made building bridges and changing perceptions even more important than involves all of us who want to make Arizona the best place it can be to -- to live in and be proud of. And we see this effort as cultural efforts have often been throughout the century as the potential of a bridge to a better place for us.

Ted Simons: Talk about how art, as a bridge, can do things that political discourse, political actions, social this, sociopolitical that, can't seem to get done.

Myra Millinger: It's an interesting story and age-old and I think it's because art speaks beyond the immediate. Art speaks of what is the best of us in many ways. It celebrates the human spirit. It celebrates the talents that make us good. Those things that differentiate, the not so good part of living from the good part. And I think it resonates particularly in difficult times as a comfort and way to communicate our humanity in a non-threatening manner.

Ted Simons: Forged if you will in difficult times.

Myra Millinger: I think more in difficult times.

Ted Simons: Yeah, as far as financial support for the festival, where is it coming from?

Myra Millinger: Our presenting sponsor and we're very, very proud of this is Target. And we began discussions with Target several years ago. And they are funding not only the festival itself but a significant educational outreach effort. That's going on concurrently in the next two months and we hope every year now. It will be an ongoing effort to work with schoolchildren to help them understand their own heritage, but also to help non-latino students who will be our next future leaders, recognize the beauty of other people's traditions.

Ted Simons: As far as getting this together, especially in recent years, six-year process, in recent years, probably I would imagine somewhat difficult. Talk about those challenges.

Myra Millinger: Of getting something like this of the ground?

Ted Simons: You bet.

Myra Millinger: In this economy?

Ted Simons: Yeah.

Myra Millinger: Extraordinarily difficult. And I think part of the reason we celebrated at the art museum last night with almost 300 people was that the business community saw the value in changing the conversation to something positive. And we have emerged without intending to be so. As a positive voice in -- in some -- in an environment that isn't necessarily the best for business to prosper right now, here. And so our support is widespread from Hensley to Aetna to Blue Cross to Blue Shield to private foundations. And we've getting off the ground, I think because of the challenges that the situation is trying to address.

Ted Simons: All right. Well, it started yesterday and goes for two months, good luck. Sounds like it's going to be a busy two months.

Myra Millinger: Thank you.
Ted Simons: And good luck to you. Sounds like quite the festival.
Myra Millinger: Thank you.

Myra Millinger:CALA Alliance Treasurer;

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