Under the new banner of the Multicultural Arts Exchange, Mikhail continued his work, but it wasn’t always easy. Mikhail became involved in the Northeast Mural Campaign when approached by a local artists Ludmila Makarova. Her student wished to create the first mural in the North East Philly area, dedicated to the local Russian community, but “we ran into a wall of hatred,” Mikhail says. The project was plagued by political problems and anti-immigrant sentiments. “People called it trash, junk, graffiti,” Mikhail explains. The project was abandoned after two months. However, Four years later, another organization succeeded in creating a first mural in Mayfair, Philadelphia. “Story of my life,” Mikhail comments, “Whatever we’re starting, even if we don’t finish it, it continues.”
So Mikhail continues his work at MAE, bringing performances from all walks of life to North East Philly. And those who share his passion find him. “It can be an audience of 200, 300 people, or just 10 or 15,” Mikhail says, “but you feel an energy, an actual energy field in the auditorium. You see it in people’s eyes. You talk to them after the event. You need to feel it.”
And people feel it. At these events the future supporters, volunteers, and artists of MAE find Mikhail. The organization received a three-year grant all because an ambassador of the Philadelphia Cultural Fund happen to attend a performance of poetry, on a day snow poured down and only a few attended. At a 7-string gypsy performance with a much larger audience, two gifted sopranos attended. Soon the pair will be performing at their own MAE event.
The future of Mikhail and the Multicultural Arts Exchange remains clear, to make Northeast Philadelphia a cultural destination. Mikhail is doing what he does best--talking to people, genuinely connecting--while he designs the upcoming MAE season. “It’s a natural process when you are in the community, in that network. People are coming to you,” Mikhail explains. “The power of a local network is the power of connection and coincidence.”
Next time you’re in Northeast Philly, and you happen to spot Mikhail Zorich, strike up a conversation with him. It may just lead to unexpected places.