Saying goodbye: Former director moving to pursue other projects

AUSTIN — Cristina Balli, who promoted her Rio Grande Valley roots across much of the United States as executive director of Texas Folklife, has resigned to pursue “cultural” projects.

A Brownsville native who served as director of San Benito’s Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center, Balli served as Texas Folklife’s executive director since 2012.

“I will miss all the friends, colleagues, and contacts I have made throughout the state and, indeed, the country in this role,” Balli said yesterday.

Balli said she will work as a consultant on projects that include grassroots folk music.

She also will organize and teach workshops in feminine spirituality.

“It’s exploring the feminine face of God that’s been ignored because of patriarchy,” Balli said. “I’d like to take it to the general population outside academia.”

At Texas Folklife, Balli first worked as program director, launching the Big Squeeze accordion contest, a statewide competition that spotlights young accordionists who hold on to Texas’ diverse cultural roots.

Through eight contests, the program has showcased many young Valley accordionists.

In 2004, Balli began showcasing the Valley’s arts and culture as director of the Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center in San Benito.

Three years later, she took a job with the city of San Benito, working as its tourism and fund development coordinator.

Later that year, she led a drive to open the museum that houses the Freddy Fender Museum, the Texas Conjunto Hall of Fame and Museum and the San Benito History Museum.