Dr. Cristina Benedetti
Public Folklorist & Instructional Specialist for the Ohio Field School Staff at the Ohio State University
Collaborator, Watch Me Grow
I am a folklorist based in Ohio. In my recently-completed dissertation I used ethnographic and archival methods to investigate contemporary and historical uses of the National Mall as a site of everyday activity and political performance. I focused particularly on how vulnerable actors used logistics strategically when planning their attention-drawing mass performances on a national stage. My research attuned me to the importance of material resources and enabling social infrastructures for sustaining livable, equitable lives with others. I completed an M.A. in Arts Policy and Administration in 2013 at OSU and worked for several years as a founding member of Opera Project Columbus, an arts organization that creates performance opportunities for Central Ohio’s many fabulous opera singers! I think I’m an arts administrator at heart, but I’ve been enriched by recent opportunities to work with university students in collaborative environments: I TA’d last fall for Dana Renga’s great Italian Cinema class for undergrads; I am currently co-teaching the Ohio Field School course with Cassie Patterson for an amazing cohort of undergrads and grad students; and I am observing Moriah Flagler’s Be The Street course, which is opening my mind to new possibilities for incorporating arts-based inquiry into the university classroom and beyond. In addition to working at the Center for Folklore Studies, I am currently doing contract work for the Ohio Arts Council on their Folk and Traditional Arts program, and I’m excited about the emerging enthusiasms around public folklore in Ohio!
Q & A
What makes more livable futures for you?
Trying to perpetuate abundance, generosity and asset-based thinking. I have benefitted tremendously from the care and generosity of others, and I strive to put that back into the world. It doesn’t always come easily or naturally, but I see the benefits so clearly that I try to make it a constant practice. And I cherish collaborative work–I really thrive on the multiplier effects of good collaboration. I am in awe of the human capacity to create beauty in so many forms, and I work to celebrate that whenever I can.
What are you reading, viewing, listening to right now?
For our Ohio Field School class I’m re-reading Doing Ethnography Today by Elizabeth Campbell and Luke Eric Lassiter and Wisdom Sits in Places by Keith Basso. At home, I’ve just started The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing. Some of my favorite Netflix binges in the last few months have been GLOW, Maniac, and Russian Doll. For podcasts, I’m loving Rhiannon Giddens’ Aria Code, where she brings together singers and other experts to dissect opera arias. Conversation-based entertainment industry podcasts (like Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams’ 2 Dope Queens, Pete Holmes’ You Made it Weird and Marc Maron’s WTF) were really helpful as I was writing my dissertation last summer – they made me feel less alone with the ups and downs of the creative process. I’m not listening to a ton of recorded music right now, but I do like scanning the car radio, and I often end up back at AM oldies stations.
What practices are sustaining you?
I can finally enjoy time with friends and family without thinking about how I should be working on my dissertation, which feels enormous. I return to textile-based projects when I can (knitting, sewing costumes or garments, and quilting), and I recently picked up my guitar for the first time in years to play music with others – that was exciting! I don’t have as much time to work on opera as I used to, but I still run supertitle translation projections during our shows which helps me feel connected to the production process, which I love so much. Planning projects with colleagues and friends is a thrill, and making new connections through my folklore jobs at Ohio State and the Ohio Arts Council is helping me envision (or at least hope for) a future of rewarding, caring, and creative collaborative work.