Meet the TMY Staff
Tucson Meet Yourself is the result of many wonderful people working together to provide the public free and varied opportunities to experience, preserve and participate in folklife. From time to time BorderLore will spotlight behind-the-scenes staffers who help make Tucson Meet Yourself a reality. This month, we introduce office administrator Stephanie Papaefthemiou:
Traditions Tell Us Who We Are
Stephanie Papaefthemiou is a cultural enthusiast with international flair. After growing up in the DC area and earning her MA in Art History, Stephanie moved to London, where she lived and worked until settling in Tucson in 2010. Her professional life encompasses varied cultural and educational experiences, including Arts Council England and working currently at Pima Community College as an English/ESL tutor. Now, at TMY, Stephanie supports the executive director and the TMY team at large, with administration and special projects including databases and development.
“I enjoy being part of a vibrant team and a great, classic event like TMY, which I have attended or been a part of for the past several years,” says Stephanie. At TMY’s 2012 festival, Stephanie staffed a booth for FinnFest 2012 (in coordination with the Tucson Finnish-American Club which has a very long history with TMY).
“I love the live performances, and last year I loved the TMY Cultural Kitchen area demos,” she adds. “It’s great to see Tucsonans from all over sharing their skills, heritage and passion with all of us. Tucson is cosmopolitan, and TMY really brings that to the fore.”
Stephanie herself is an expression of multi-cultural traditions — Her parents came from Greece and her husband is from Finland.
“I grew up spending my summers in Greece, where my grandmothers and relatives brought us up in the thick of their traditions – stories, music, crafts, folk dances, and of course, lots of great food,” Stephanie explains. “I am so lucky to have experienced that richness that inspires me to this day. When I got married (in Greece) I had a traditional “village” party in Greece with folk musicians from Northern Greece and special dances thrown for me at my grandparent’s restored village house. It was surreal. My dad continued our traditions here in the US by having a 35-year career as a Greek folk musician on the East Coast. He even played at the Smithsonian Folklife festival several times. As an art historian also, I am extremely interested in human material culture and traditions because they tell us who we are in the form of human creativity.”
Working in the TMY office, Stephanie senses excitement building, as staff, volunteers and tradition bearers gear up for the 40th Anniversary TMY Festival. “Tucson Meet Yourself shows everyone, local and visiting, how many cultures we have living within Tucson,” continues Stephanie. “The Festival is opportunity for fun and also for exploration. People can explore and be enriched by all these beautiful customs and hopefully find some new things to become interested in and explore them further.”
On one Tuesday this month, glancing around the TMY office, with posters, programs and applications from past festivals surrounding her, Stephanie smiles, adding: “I am excited to be supporting the festival this year. It’s such a quality project infused with a lot of love for Tucson and its people!”