Maribel Alvarez

Associate Professor, Anthropology
Associate Research Social Scientist, Southwest Center

About Maribel Alvarez

Dr. Maribel Alvarez, Ph.D. is a Trustee of the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center. In 2009-10, she was a Fulbright Fellow in Sonora, Mexico researching agricultural practices and regional foodways. A nationally recognized public scholar named by Community Arts a “bridge” between academia and social engagement, she is also the Folklorist and Program Director of the largest folklife public event in the Southwest, Tucson Meet Yourself, which presents more than 300 traditional artists and folk communities and attracts more than 100,000 people. Maribel is credited for having led a major overhauled and transformation of this iconic 40-year-old organization, which now also offers an annual Ethnographic Field School and several cultural documentation projects. She co-founded and co-directs with ethnobotanist and local food movement pioneer Gary Nabhan the transborder foodways alliance “Sabores Sin Fronteras” (Flavors Without Borders). She teaches courses on methods and theories of cultural analysis with particular emphasis on objects and visual culture, foodways, oral narratives, and popular cultures of the US-Mexico border. 

Dr. Alvarez served as consultant for five years to various Ford Foundation initiatives focused on arts and changing demographics, including the grantmaking initiative “Artography” under Leveraging Investments in Community (LINC). She has documented the artistic practices of more than a dozen of the country’s leading community arts organizations from Los Angeles to El Paso, Honolulu and Maine. She has published essays on poetry and food, the visual culture of bordertowns, stereotypes and materiality, folklore and musical innovation, intangible heritage and pedagogy, and is the author of one of the  leading monographs in circulation about the “informal arts” as a measure of creative placemaking and vitality. She has served as faculty for nine years of the Leadership Institute for emerging arts leaders presented by NALAC (National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures).