The director of Folklorama's newest programming is excited to see Manitobans excited about exploring aspects of other cultures.

Tuesday is Christian Hidalgo-Mazzei's first day as the new Ethno-Cultural Arts division, but he has spent the past 30 years with the organization. Heading up this division has been a dream of Hidalgo-Mazzei's, saying he had been pushing for programming like this for a long time.

"The festival puts a lot of attention on the song and dance, the spectacle, the show, which is great, (I) love it, but tangible cultural heritage also takes other forms," he says.

He says cooking, crafts, legends and other elements play important roles in culture too.

As an advocate for sharing cultures, he loves the song and dance shows of the festival but is excited to see cultures ing explored in a quieter tone.

"It basically hogs all the attention, media and otherwise because it is the world's largest multi-cultural festival. So every other programming that we did aside from the festival got lost," Hidalgo-Mazzei says. "You remove the festival from the equation because of the pandemic and everybody is looking at the good things we do year-round."

christian hildalgo mazzeiHildalgo-Mazzei began working with Folklorama as a volunteer. (Folklorama/Facebook)

Combining the highly-successful Folkorama At Home, Folkorama At Work, Folkorama At Play, and Folkorama At School, the distanced Ethno-Cultural Arts division was born.

Similar to the free programming they were able to offer thanks to a Stay At Home grant from the province, Hidalgo-Mazzei found there was a demand for the at-home workshops.

"What we did was survey those people that attended and streamed the videos and most of them, a lot of them, 80 per cent were comfortable with paying for a workshop."

The paid experiences will offer kits to help people participate, including experiences such as the first one on April 9. This also allows the artists to be recognized across the world.

Cultural appreciation is key for Hidalgo-Mazzei, saying most groups are excited to share their traditions with others.

"I've asked that question to a lot of performers, 'how do you feel when somebody else is trying to do what you do' and they go 'this is great."

He says it is a positive thing to see other cultures being appreciated by people who are not originally part of it. He says for the most part people who embrace parts of cultures are appreciative and do it respectfully. He does not want people to avoid other cultures over the fear of doing it wrong.

"Any cultural group that really wants to share and preserve their culture would be more than happy to have other people join in."

In the spring, Folklorama pivoted to offer online programming as they were uncertain of the future of the pandemic. Live festivals are on pause for the time being.