Art Talk: Division Staff Member Tim Storhoff

by Jennifer Hoesing

Tim Storhoff joined the Division of Cultural Affairs staff last month. He works with the Division’s programs for individual artists, including the Individual Artist Fellowship program, Capitol Complex Exhibitions and the Department of State Art Collection. A native of Fargo, North Dakota, Tim is a doctoral candidate at the Florida State University College of Music. He is currently writing his dissertation on U.S.-Cuban musical interaction. Tim took time to answer a few of my questions about his background in the arts, the importance of individual artists and his belief that Culture Builds Florida.

DCA: What’s the first arts experience you can remember?
Tim: The first arts experience I remember was seeing and hearing my grandfather play the harmonica and then playing with him. He’s a self-taught performer who will occasionally play just for fun. It was a great instrument for a three-year-old me to put to my mouth because it’s easy to make a sound and feel like you’re doing something right. Making an early musical connection with someone important in my life that way was a great, formative experience.

DCA: You’re working on a PhD in musicology with an emphasis in ethnomusicology, and I know this work has taken you to Cuba. What was your most surprising discovery researching music outside of the US?

Tim rehearsing drum patterns with a member of the Conjunto Folklórico Nacional in Havana, Cuba. Photo submitted and used by permission of Tim Storhoff.

Tim: One thing that really surprised me was how common it was to hear people listening to pop music from the United States. I heard Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga all over Havana. Cuban music was pervasive too, of course. It seemed like whoever I started a conversation with on the street gave me unique advice when I mentioned I was there to learn about music. Everyone knew different dance instructors (or were instructors themselves), suggested different venues to visit each night, and recommended other musicians that I should talk to. It was almost dizzying trying to keep up. I can’t wait to go back.

DCA: Why have you decided on a career in the arts? What’s your ultimate career goal?
Tim: The arts are a huge part of what makes it worth getting up every morning, and they enrich all of our lives. Because they have always been such a major part of my life, choosing to pursue a career in the arts was easy. I love teaching and writing about music and popular culture, so I hope to pursue a career that allows me to do that. Ultimately, I would like to work with the arts in a university setting.

Tim building a djembe. Photo submitted and used by permission of Tim Storhoff.

DCA: You’re working with the Division’s individual artist programs. What do you believe individual artists contribute to the fabric of American culture? What do you believe is most important about their work?
Tim: Individual artists are very important to American culture, and we have historically celebrated the achievements of the individual with good reason. Not to discount the institutions and collaborators that contribute to artistic work, but we typically look to the individual to give art its definitive voice and make an artistic statement. I’m really happy we have programs to support individual artists and the work they find personally meaningful, because in the end it is those creations that enrich our communities and the world around us.

DCA: The Division of Cultural Affairs believes in the motto “Culture Builds Florida.” What do you think when you hear that phrase? Why do you believe arts and culture are important to our state?
Tim: I think that is a great motto because the arts and culture are really important to our state socially and economically. Florida is extremely diverse, and the arts are the best way to showcase the cultural diversity our state has to offer. At the same time, art is great at bringing people together and building bridges between individuals and groups that otherwise might not interact. Culture makes Florida the vibrant state that it is, and embracing it opens up all kinds of new possibilities.

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