Sounds of Cultura: CALA Festival

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The Celebración Artística de las Américas (CALA) Alliance has its annual CALA Festival, a celebration of Latino arts and culture. CALA Alliance Executive Consultant Myra Millinger and Artist Julio Morales discuss the festival’s purpose and what it has to offer.

José Cárdenas: In Sounds of Cultura SOC, the Celebración Artística de las Américas, also known as CALA Alliance, launched its annual CALA Festival earlier this month. It's a celebration of Latino arts and culture featuring a variety of visual and performing arts designed to encourage a better understanding among cultures. With me to talk about the festival is Myra Millinger, Executive Consultant to the board and former CALA board member, and Julio Morales, Curator for the CALA Festival. Thank you both for joining us on "Horizonte." Julio, I want to start with you in part because that video package that we just saw has a lot of connections, not only to the topic we're going to discuss right now and the importance of culture but you know those guys.

Julio Morales: I know those guys. I'm from Tijuana and the whole explosion of music and culture that happened in the early 2000s came from embracing the local and embracing the music from your tradition but also mixing in electronic music, mixing in contemporary music with traditional music, and I think that's the one of the goals of what we're doing here with this festival is we have international artists, well-known national artists and local artists working together for the two day festival that we're about to experience this weekend.

José Cárdenas: Now Myra, before we get into the details of the festival, give us an overview of CALA and I should mention this for disclosure that I'm on the board.

Myra Millinger: Fortunately, you pronounced the Spanish well --

José Cárdenas: I started to say it in English then I remembered what I was doing.

Myra Millinger: CALA Alliance was established in 2010. It seems much longer than that. For the sole purpose of shining a light on both our historic and our contemporary cultural ties to the Americas, and I think one of the major goals and missions of CALA is to bring the depth of that relationship and that history and that vibrancy to light in a better and a more substantive way than perhaps has been done to this point. And our name is indicative of our mission in that we are working very hard to bring together Arizona's Latino poets and playwrights and dancers and visual artists to find common grounds together with mainstream arts and culture organizations to work, to produce new work, to develop relationships into the Americans, that will change perhaps some of our own views of our Latino community's assets and contributions to the fabric of this state.

José Cárdenas: And you're also bringing artists from all over the Americas.

Myra Millinger: Yes. Obviously, we are in the early stages of what we hope will grow in time into something we can be proud of.

José Cárdenas: This is the second major festival, every two years. What's different this year from the first one?

Myra Millinger: The first year in 2011, it was a five week festival involved over 45 arts and cultural organizations spread out throughout the Metro Phoenix area and what CALA Alliance did was to consolidate and promote those efforts to create a unified sense of energy. This year, we are doing that, as well. We launched on October 8th and will include on November 2nd, which is this Saturday, but by a wonderful partnership that has emerged with the City of Phoenix, we are now ending the CALA International Festival 2013 with the two day CALA Phoenix Fest and that is going to be concentrated in downtown Phoenix. The city has been wonderful in working with us, as has the Herberger Theater Center and a number of cultural institutions in the area, put together and to close off streets to create an amazing two-day event that will highlight our local artists of the Latino community as well as a number of artists coming in from across the border.

José Cárdenas: And Julio, this two-day CALA Phoenix Fest focuses on a very traditional Latin-American celebration, Day of the Dead, Día de los Muertos. Tell us about that and some of the performances that we're going to see.

Julio Morales: Sure. So at the starting point, it does take into consideration the traditional Day of the Dead processions and other celebrations. And then from there --

José Cárdenas: We have an image of the session that we want to put up on the screen to give people a sense of what some of the stuff they're going to see, and as I understand this is a cultural coalition that will be leading processions on Friday and Saturday.

Julio Morales: And also some from that as well, we're also working with international artists and I should mention as well that I was here a year ago. And a year ago is when I first started working at ASU Art Museum as a curator and you told me you should check out CALA, they're doing interesting work and I sit here a year later working with CALA and with you.

José Cárdenas: It worked out very well. and we've got -- as I understand a big part of Friday is music and we've got some pictures we want to put up on the screen relating to a few of those performances.

Julio Morales: And the highlights -- there's amazing performance --

José Cárdenas: And this one in particular.

Julio Morales: Yes on Friday and Saturday. And this is Camilo Lara. This is a Mexican city of sound, which is an amazing band and musician and in the last couple of years, he's exploded and he's come back from India, from Africa, from Paris to perform and he performs and he sings in Spanish and in English and his music is a hybrid of mambo music, hip hop, electronic music and it's very danceable and he's going to be performing on Saturday.

José Cárdenas: And then D.J. Lengua.

Julio Morales: Another internationally well-known musician. He's in Los Angeles and so he mixes traditional cumba music with electronic music and psychedelic music as well.

José Cárdenas: We've got some other performers who are going to be performing on Saturday. We've got a hip hop artist from Los Angeles and we've got a picture of her that we want to put on the screen. And this is Mayda Del Valle?

Julio Morales: Did you want to mention?

Myra Millinger: Yes, we're very excited. One of our partners and CALA exists through partnerships. That's the alliance part of our name. One of our partners this year is Cox. And Cox has a commitment to Latino programming. And they have brought Mayda to us and she will be performing on our main stage outside of the Herberger Theater on Saturday afternoon and what we have heard is that she is extraordinarily vibrant and attracts a great following.

José Cárdenas: Just to get people a sense, this is taking place in downtown Phoenix. There will be several blocks that are blocked off.

Myra Millinger: We're blocking off from centrally 1st Street, Adams up down, following through the Herberger theater center. We will have a small stage on 1st and Adams that will be having performances Friday night and all day Saturday.

José Cárdenas: We have the schedule on the screen.

Myra Millinger: And then a major large stage right outside because the street between the Herberger and the convention hall will be closed.

José Cárdenas: I want to talk about some of the very special things that are going on. One of them is the procession. You've got some Italian artists.

Julio Morales: We have some Italian artists. Apart of the ASU Art Museum is that we have a residency program downtown, the Combine International Residency Studios. And so they have been in residence a couple of times in the last year or so. And so this is basically the outcome of their residency and I'm trying to remember the name but you have the card there in front of you. It's the title, sorry. Can you read that for me?

José Cárdenas: Why don't you describe it for me while I look at it.

Julio Morales: This is a collective from Italy called Luca Fausto. So essentially, they're creating a procession that begins at 3rd and Garfield and it's going to end up inside St. Mary's.

José Cárdenas: It has a special significance because of deaths by automobile.

Julio Morales: Exactly. Because one of the main accidents and deaths that happen in Phoenix and one of the leading causes of deaths is car accidents. And so their profession and their project is a crashed car throughout the streets.

José Cárdenas: I want to talk about the ofrendas at St. Mary's and also the video presentation.

Julio Morales: At St. Mary's at the beautiful court yard that they have, we're going to have some local artists create some installations that will be variations on altars and we're going to have a series of projections onto the side of the Hyatt building by a Mexico City artist that CALA brought, Tania Candiani.

José Cárdenas: So Myra we only have a few seconds left but if people want more information, how do they get it?

Myra Millinger: They should go on the CALA Alliance, website, and click on a CALA Phoenix Fest or "like" us on Facebook.

José Cárdenas: And it's free right?

Myra Millinger: It's free!

José Cárdenas: Well, that's the best thing.

Myra Millinger: The whole event is free.

José Cárdenas: And thank you for joining us on "Horizonte" to talk about it.

Myra Millinger & Julio Morales: Thank you.

José Cárdenas: That's our show for tonight. From all of us here at "Horizonte," I'm José Cárdenas. Have a good evening.

Myra Millinger:Executive Consultant, CALA Alliance;Julio Morales:Artist

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