A Tribute To Mimi Fariña
1945 - 2001
Every successful organization starts with a visionary founder. Ours was Mimi Fariña. She was the energetic, goal-oriented, passionate person who had the idea, was willing to take the risk, and was able to sell the vision of Bread & Roses to others.
Mimi was a petite ball of fire, a meticulous writer, an inspiring speaker, a fine songwriter, and a fabulous performer. As a child, she was an excellent dancer, and played the violin. As a teenager, she mastered the guitar. With her late husband, Richard Fariña, she entertained and inspired audiences in the 1960´s with original folk music until Richard´s untimely death in a motorcycle accident in 1966. Mimi continued to perform professionally for many years - both solo and with others.
In 1972, she attended a live concert with B.B. King at Sing-Sing Prison in New York, and she was deeply moved. She had seen the healing exchange that occurs between performer and audience at least once before at a performance for patients in a mental hospital. Not long after the B.B. King concert, her cousin invited her to perform at the halfway house that he managed. This time, the seed for Bread & Roses was planted. Mimi began to think seriously about creating opportunities for performing artists to bring the joy of live entertainment to people shut away from society. She said it was like writing a song.
Mimi started Bread & Roses in Mill Valley, California in 1974, working out of her home. She recruited fellow performers and matched them with facilities serving the sick, homeless, disabled and imprisoned. Eventually she rented a tiny office, hired a staff and really put the show on the road. From the beginning, she established a few fundamental principles that still guide the organization:
- Recruit high quality professional and amateur artists who (a) have a natural rapport with their audiences, and (b) will volunteer their time.
- Provide all performances free of charge to client facilities.
- Garner other volunteer resources, sound and light technicians, photographers, and the like, to reduce production costs.
- Treat volunteers, donors, and clients with grace and gratitude.
Not everybody can do what Mimi did; take a powerful idea, keep the principles simple, and execute with heart and soul. Mimi created a successful, nonprofit organization that serves other nonprofits and uplifts tens of thousands of people every year. Her accomplishments were recognized by many organizations over the years, including The Easter Seal Society (1989), National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (1993), League of Women Voters (1998), and the National Association of Women Business Owners (2000).
Although Mimi had planned to retire in 2000, she suspended participation in the daily affairs of Bread & Roses in November 1999 when she was diagnosed with cancer. However, she continued to assist the organization in many ways. In March 2000, she served as the beautiful and eloquent hostess for our 25th Anniversary Celebration. She continued to inspire and uplift the staff and board with her ideas and her humor. She illuminated our path, set an example of excellence and kindness, and reminded us how important our work is to our audiences and to our volunteers.
Mimi died on July 18, 2001, at her home on Mt. Tamalpais in Mill Valley, California, surrounded by her family and close friends.
We remember Mimi Fariña - our founder and the light of Bread & Roses. We thank her for more than 25 years of devotion to our mission, to our audiences, and to those who traveled with her. We hold her banner high, promise that the love that she gave to others through Bread & Roses will be multiplied many times over in the years to come.
A public memorial and celebration of Mimi's life was held at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco on August 7. An article describing the event can be read by clicking here.