Rooted in Community: An Interview with Susan Shortill

Here at Folklorama, we are a proud member-based organization that helps individuals, performers and artists, and organizations connect to Winnipeg’s diverse multicultural community. Folklorama is fortunate to connect with a network of amazingly talented and passionate Manitobans.

We would like to introduce you to Susan Shortill, a new (and returning) Folklorama member who has a long-standing relationship with the organization and is passionate about remaining rooted in community.

Getting to Know Susan:

I believe you can travel all over the world and wherever you stop, you can find someone who misses Winnipeg. And in Winnipeg, you can find the world. This is certainly true for me. I started to find the world through my parents, their friends, and their stories, then at University (U of W; BA in Anthropology and Classics, and a certificate in Museology) and through various travel and work experiences. My interesting professional voyage expanded from Museums to a staff position in 1988 with the Folk Arts Council of Winnipeg, which also became a source of many friendships, and one marriage (to my husband, originally from Chile). This expanded my culinary, travel and parenting skills, and allowed me to become the Queen of Spanglish!

I have a professional musician stepson; Victor Hugo Lopez Bustamante, and a professional teaching daughter; Lita Lopez-Shortill (and former Celtic Ireland Youth Ambassador) who works with young students learning English in Busan, South Korea. You could say we are a strong not-for-profit family, both in employment and hobbies! My professional career has been very connected to event and volunteer management with non-profit organizations. After leaving Folklorama, I managed the volunteers for the 1999 Pan American Games, did a Marketing stint for Women’s Television Network, contracts at Heart and Stroke and Manitoba Theatre for Young Children, and 11 years at Misericordia Health Centre managing the volunteer program. In 2014, I left Manitoba for Victoria, BC to take care of my mother. I returned to Manitoba in the spring of 2020. I missed friends and family here, and the vibrant multicultural, artistic, culinary, and multigenerational scene of Winnipeg.

In my personal time, I enjoy volunteering for local events and organizations, notably Folklorama and the Winnipeg Folk Festival. I believe you rarely learn anything interesting if you always think you are right, or if you won’t try something new.

Why did you want to become a member of Folklorama?

I became a member to support the organization and to receive regular information on activities and programs. Also, to become aware of volunteer opportunities. Still interested in that! I believe strong volunteers can help organizations become stronger and assist staff in areas of expertise. Not take over…but work together to make a better final product.

What does being part of Folklorama mean to you?

Originally, being part of Folklorama meant “making a difference” to an event – helping it grow and stay current. And making a difference to members of that organization – helping them navigate rules, regulations, and expectations. Helping them access resources for their community. Helping them grow. It still means that to me. But it also means “Fun”. I have had such memorable times working and volunteering for this organization. Lots of laughs and made lifetime friends.

Favourite Folklorama Memories:

Maybe too many favourite Folklorama memories! But probably my outstanding one for me and my family was becoming an Ambassador General. Kind of a full circle thing, after working on staff and then as a volunteer for the organization, as well as two pavilions. I was a step on guide for many years, and s presenter at youth conferences. I volunteered for the Chilean Pavilion in cultural display, and then when my daughter joined Brady Academy of Irish Dance, I was a dance mom, then Assistant Coordinator for 3 years, finishing with cultural display before Lita retired from dance and then we moved… So 1988 – 2012 continuously. A recent favourite memory is taking part in two online programs during covid. Really well done project, by the way. I did Metis Beading and Latin Painting. Loved them both.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I look forward to the return of Folklorama…and hopefully being involved in some way. I believe Folklorama has not only helped keep cultural groups vibrant in our city, but has been a huge part of the culture of volunteerism in Winnipeg. I have lived in other cities. The volunteer vibe is not the same. There is something here in our city that makes people say “I can help with that”. And then you learn, you make friends and contacts, and grow.

If you would like to join Folklorama family as a member, contact Katie Green at [email protected].