CALA (Celebracion Artistica de las Americas)

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Find out about the CALA alliance, a new organization seeking to foster cultural understanding of Arizona’s Latino heritage through bi-annual arts and cultural festival.

José Cardenas: There is a new community-based organization formed to help Arizonans understand and appreciate the Latino cultural heritage. With me to talk about this new alliance from CALA are board members Margie Emmermann and Ruben Alvarez. Thank you for joining us on "Horizonte." What do the letters stand for?

Ruben Alvarez: CALA is means Celebration of Artistic Performances from throughout the Americas.

José Cardenas: And we want to talk about the specifics of how it got started, but Margie, as I understand it, CALA was inspired by a festival in Mexico.

Margie Emmermann: It's been existence for quite a number of years and it's a three-week long celebration of performing arts and exhibitions and we want CALA to be that more of the grassroots effort here in Arizona but growing to be international in stature just like that festival.

José Cardenas: One of the things I might mention, I'm on the board, but you and -- Ruben, you and Margie are on the board.

Ruben Alvarez: It began with a -- for arts and culture and CALA was directed to try to attract a worker to provide and enhance quality of life that would attract companies and bring more jobs to Arizona and we've been working over the last two years to develop this festival, which will be taking place next year, September through October of 2011.

José Cardenas: Impact itself is no more, but this is one of the surviving legacies, people thought it important to focus on this particular aspect of those projects?

Ruben Alvarez: I was asked to be the president of the organization and both of you, agreed to be on the board of directors, the other members are Grady Gammage and Myron Millinger and Lisa Diaz, president of communications.

José Cardenas: There's organizations that are involved in one way or another.

Ruben Alvarez: We chose CALA alliance for a specific reason, we're partnering with existing performers and presenting organizations to help develop and attract performances to Arizona. That will be part of the overall festival. A couple the organizations are the Arizona Latino Art and Cultural Center and Chico Arts.

José Cardenas: Margie, CALA, the English translation is the artistic celebration of the Americas is this an important time to be talking about that. Other aspects, Joe Arpaio, and other things that have given Arizona a little bit of a negative image.

Margie Emmermann: It's a perfect time, there are those of us on the governor's tourism taskforce and there's an effort, the real Arizona, we're trying to let people across the globe know there are real people in Arizona that work here day after day that want people to come to Arizona and experience our diverse culture and everything that Arizona has to offer. Something like this is a great opportunity to really showcase the local talent we have and the talent that's going to be brought in and have people experience the state and people the diversity. It's a great time to be experiencing a little bit of buzz about something that's positive.

José Cardenas: We're going to talk about the buzz coming up with a kickoff event later in the interview, but Ruben, the organization has some support from funders? Tell us about that.

Ruben Alvarez: Yes, the board of impact before the group was disbanded agreed to transfer funds over to the new organization. We're in the process of working with various corporations to provide sponsorship for the kickoff event, a couple of companies here have stepped up, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Arizona public service are two of the companies and corporations that have agreed to sponsor this kickoff event.

José Cardenas: Tell us what you envision CALA becoming over time?

Ruben Alvarez: We envision it to become a platform to bring various organizations together, to bring awareness to the importance of the Latino culture here in Arizona and help change and enhance the -- Latino culture here in Arizona and so we can attract the type of companies that we need in order to grow our -- our employment base.

José Cardenas: You indicated it will be a multi-week event.

Ruben Alvarez: It's an eight-week festival. Mid September through mid October, as I mentioned, in 2011.

José Cardenas: And every two years?

Ruben Alvarez: Every two years.

José Cardenas: And what kind of events in?

Ruben Alvarez: We can see performances in opera, and hoping to bring in various music acts from Argentina and Brazil and Colombia and dance troupes and theater performances and part from the street festival ideas we're in the process of developing. Food exhibits and things of that sort.

José Cardenas: Margie, we mentioned your day job on Policy Advisor on Mexico. It's relevant to the kinds of thing you're doing and you were previously the Director of the Office of Tourism. What kind of boost, impact do you think an event like this will have?

Margie Emmermann: Number one trading partner is Mexico, it's a hugely important opportunity we have and people are crossing the border on a daily basis and we're trying to find what are the new opportunities to present to audiences, like the Mexican audience to have people continue coming and spend their dollars because it's a increase to our tax base and it diversifies our product offering in a meaningful way because the Mexican audience is a cultural audience. I think this will enhance what we have and give us another opportunity to say, we really do have a lot to offer the state and here are some additional opportunities and hopefully, you didn't mention Mexico as an audience, but I would hope that CALA would have a lot of Mexican opportunity, people from Mexico coming and being part of CALA. That's a very important piece of this as we look to the future relationship.

José Cardenas: In your job, you're involved with the Arizona-Mexico commission, it has an arts and culture commission. There's a lot of things going on over the years.

Margie Emmermann: 50 years.

José Cardenas: 50 years of what is regarded as one the most successful cross-border relationships in the world. How is this different?

Margie Emmermann: The magnitude of this. What is an ongoing relationship at a smaller scale? We certainly look to this as an enhancement to what we do. We'll partner with CALA and I'm on the board, so I'm saying we, but we as the board and the Arizona-Mexico Commission look for a great relationship CALA and brings us to a greater level of partnership in the area. Arts and culture and quality of life, really.

José Cardenas: And Ruben, you're a former policy advisory to Governor Hull on Mexico and I understand you've spent time in Mexico promoting this concept. What's the reaction there?

Ruben Alvarez: Think it's a positive reaction. One the conversations we've been having is perhaps one day, where we bring on artists from Sonora and make it specific to Sonora to highlight their artists but it's important to notice that our audience isn't just the Hispanic population. This is for the general populace. What we hope to do is bridge the culture divide that may exist and bring awareness to the Latino culture and artists and performances and provide those forms of entertainment that others may not have the opportunity to go see somewhere else.

José Cardenas: And this diversity you're talking about within the Latino community and what it offers to the community at large I think is reflected in the kickoff fundraiser that's coming up.

Ruben Alvarez: We're excited about the kickoff event. We have a concert featuring a Latin jazz band that's going to take place September 24th at Phoenix Symphony Hall at 8:00. The opening act is an up-and-coming musician and has a tremendous following among younger audiences and very, very excited we have him as our kickoff event.

José Cardenas: And Margie, the son of two prominent artists. So --

Margie Emmermann: I watched him grow up.

José Cardenas: And still a young man but popular and it does kind of help draw that age demographic. Over time, what is the hope in terms of the kinds of audiences you want to attract to this every two-year festival?

Margie Emmermann: I think Ruben made a good point in the demographic, we really want to have people of all walks of life, you know, just a very, very diverse audience, but a very global audience. One of the other things I'll mention, the spokesperson for our going forward efforts is going to be Luis Gonzales. It's somebody that certainly gets a lot of attention and looking forward to having a partnership with Gonzo so he can get the word out that these concerts are not just for people who are traditionally the arts and culture people. But it's a way for everybody to express the importance of what we're doing. There's crossover with him as I spokesperson, and the type of work we're doing so, a global audience that is outside of the normal realm of people who patronize the arts.

José Cardenas: This event will showcase Latin Jazz and it makes a lot of sense, I think a lot of people will be pleased to see a different aspect of Latino culture. Final words, we're about out of time.

Ruben Alvarez: I want to encourage everyone to come to the concert September 24th at Phoenix Symphony Hall and you can get more information on Ticketmaster.

José Cardenas: And we're going to have a sampling of music as we go out of this interview and before the next, in the meantime, thank you both for joining us here.

Margie Emmermann and Ruben Alvarez: Thank you.

José Cardenas: Good luck with the event.

Margie Emmermann:CALA Board Member;Ruben Alvarez:CALA Board Members;

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