Go anywhere in North East Philadelphia and you might just spot Mikhail Zorich, a jovial looking man with a warm smile and friendly voice. You might see him at piano concerts, dance festivals, musical productions, or even street fairs, dressed in a sharp suit or his “I’m a Project Manager” shirt (the caption reads “I solve problems you didn’t know you have in ways you can’t understand”). He is always striking up conversations with those around him.
Mikhail is Project Director at Multicultural Arts Exchange (MAE). He spends his days developing performing arts programing from the beginnings of an idea to real performances. “Visual and performing arts first and foremost, human connection,” Mikhail says. “You meet so many interesting, talented people. You participate and involve in creation of project. It all starts with a conversation. Through the development to the performance.” He talks with performers, venue management, guests at MAE performances, and passerby at public events. He connects the right people, places, and audiences to foster the local arts community.
Even before MAE, Mikhail found himself in the world of the arts. He went to school for archeology in Ukraine and business management in the United States, but ultimately found himself working Russian Mosaica Heritage Festival. Unfortunately, his time with the festival eventually came to an end. However, he kept doing what he loved--connecting performers with audiences. As he puts it, “I got bit by the performing arts bug.” He started small, putting on events. Mikhail himself was already connected to the local arts community, being nominated as a Creative Connector by the Leadership Philadelphia in 2011. His friend Harrington “Kit” Crisseya, a professor and concert organizer of 13 years, helped by introducing him to more local artists and performers. Mikhail built a pool of artists to perform at his events, at first for free and eventually for pay as the project grew in reach and audience. His biggest event, in 2016, brought both the Russian Kauriga Balalaika Orchestra and the Italian Munier Orchestra of guitars and mandolins to one concert to the Manayunk Performing Arts Center.
During this time he made the arts his full time job, officially establishing the Multicultural Arts Exchange was in 2015. Reflecting on his experiences at all of those concerts and festivals, Mikhail realized that the impact of the artists he promoted went beyond their Russian origins. “There were elements that resonated with everyone,” Mikhail says. He strived to support to the elements that were unique to the performer’s culture but universal in impact. “I pushed for more diversity,” Mikhail explains, “and came to the name Multicultural Arts Exchange.”
Pick up the conversation next week with Part 2!