Friend of Folklife HQ

CAN WE COUNT YOU IN?

Friend of Folklife HQ

Pictured: Friend of Folklife Headquarters, 45th Northwest Folklife Festival

For 45 years, Northwest Folklife has brought the Northwest Folklife Festival to Seattle Center and celebrated the incredible and diverse arts and cultures of the Pacific Northwest.

About 250,000 people each year come to the Northwest Folklife Festival. Over 5,000 artists perform on 25 stages during the four day Festival. Over 100 communities, representing the rich diversity of our community – artistically, ethnically, and culturally – work all year round to bring these performances to you at this Festival.

You are the Folklife family. You are friends, volunteers, donors, performers, community coordinators, leaders and vendors – the core group that makes Northwest Folklife possible. What is the value to you of a day (or two or three or four) of music, dance, storytelling, crafts and food? What does this experience mean to you and to your family? Your children?

Together, we believe in the two critically important fundamentals, the CAUSE,  that drives Northwest Folklife – that we celebrate, share and participate in ALL of the traditional and evolving arts and cultures of the Pacific Northwest AND that there shall be NO ECONOMIC BARRIER to participation.

While there is no ticket price to get in, Northwest Folklife is not free. It takes a full year and a a cash budget to produce the Festival and other programming. This is NOT a city program – all paid for in advance. It has only been made possible and can only continue with the support of those who come each year to experience it.

For the past ten years, revenue has NOT grown but expenses have. Each year, the organization committed itself to doing whatever it took to make sure that maintaining the programs were the first priority. Increased programming costs have been offset by cuts everywhere else. And those cuts added up as the costs mounted. Over the ten years, Northwest Folklife has cut non-programming costs by over 60% and never had the revenue to restore them. Frankly, there are no more cuts to be made. Indeed, too many cuts have already occurred to support the future operations. We need to change that pattern.

Your financial support is necessary or we won’t be able to continue. This year, to offset expenses, we must generate $1,300,000 in revenue. We will earn about $600,000 and we need to raise $700,000 to pay these expenses.

To do that, we have secured $45,000 from city and county sources. We have set a $350,000 goal to be raised at the Festival from the people who attend.

And, over the year, we need to raise another $300,000 from all of you – our Folklife family – our key supporters. Between now and May 26th – we need to raise $100,000 of that core supporter goal through our spring funding campaign underway right now.

What is at stake?

This Festival is one of the few remaining all access, all community folk celebrations left in America. We cannot take it for granted.

Folklife’s future is up to us. This is a community owned, community co-created event. If we value Folklife and want it to continue, we need to support it.

You understand and value what Northwest Folklife means to you personally, for your families and for our community. You want Folklife to continue.

Last year, less than 17% of the people who attended Folklife programs contributed in support. That is not enough. This lack of support has put Folklife at risk.

We need to expand our committed donor base and we need to increase our donation levels. Every arts and culture organization needs a core group of committed supporters to sustain the programs they create.

We need to do two things between now and May 26th, 2017. We need to meet our spring campaign goal of $100,000 so please, give in accordance to the value that Folklife has for us AND we need to share this message with our networks and build a more robust, expanded support community.

It’s up to us, we are the solution – can we COUNT YOU IN?

If so, please

  • Give online at nwfolklife.kindbase.com. Choose to make a one-time gift or recurring donation.
  • Send your check to Northwest Folklife at 305 Harrison Street, Seattle, WA 98109.
  • Make a gift of stock.
  • Remember to request your employer’s matching gift.
  • And ask others for their support as well!

Northwest Folklife Mythbusters #4

Co-creating and co-curating an annual festival with more than 5,000 artists, more than 800 performances on 25 stages with more than 100 community coordinators, while simultaneously managing the logistics of crafts vendors, food merchants, and sponsors AND making sure 250,000 visitors are safe, well served and have a great time is an enormous undertaking. It can really be boiled down to two words – Relationships and Logistics.

Relationships – Northwest Folklife works all year round with more than 100 community coordinators. These amazing volunteers represent the range of artistic genre, cultural influence and demographic origins that make up the Pacific Northwest. Coordinators provide the insight and experience within their coordinating areas to help staff make the most representative and balanced programming choices. It’s a big job and we are so grateful for their partnership.

Logistics galore!!!! Imagine setting up a system that allows anyone and everyone (remember – no barriers) to apply to perform or vend their wares that accurately gathers the information necessary to support their needs such as space, time, equipment, etc. Imagine the logistics involved with then coordinating all of those applications into the broad, cohesive festival that occurs each year. On top of that, there are all the logistics for vendors, security, volunteers, and facilities to support a quarter million guests. The list goes on and on (and on)!

Building and planning this event each year is a labor of love by an enormous group of dedicated staff, volunteers and partners. It is a vast undertaking, full of details and efforts that are invisible to most of us when we walk onto the grounds Memorial Day weekend. But, this labor of love is there when we experience the amazing breadth of the art and culture of the Northwest, become neighbors with strangers and go home with new experiences and perhaps, a little bit changed. For you – the magic happens in four days.  But it takes a year to make it happen!

Your Gift Ensures the Northwest Folklife Festival’s Lifeline

The 46th annual Northwest Folklife Festival is a community treasure that your gifts have created. The excitement and the pace of work continues to mount as we prepare to host over 100 cultural communities, 5,000 artists on 25 stages, the crafts booths, food vendors, and opportunities to participate such as over 90 hours of participatory dance, hands on activities for kids in the Discovery Zone, and jamming with musicians. It is going to be a blast.

Today, we are asking for your help to continue the tradition of artistic and cultural inclusion accessible to everyone. Please take a moment to give, renew and even increase your support as a Friend of Folklife donor.

Your support of Northwest Folklife is actually a gift to the entire community. Here, we share in our rich arts and cultural traditions: dance communities flourish at Warren’s Roadhouse, we witness Native American cultural practices and a powwow, and folks young and old mingle over music.

Northwest Folklife’s roots are deeply embedded in cultural inclusion. Recently, Phil Williams, one of our founders passed on. His widow Vivian shared with us that “Phil figured everybody should have a chance to get to know people from other communities, whether it was quilting or playing bluegrass or Japanese koto. His resistance to fences included a sensitivity to refugees in Seattle who’d had their fill of barbed-wire fences and being closed in. He thought some people wouldn’t be comfortable with that. He was very, very inclusive.” Your gift continues this vision which remains as relevant today as it was in 1972.

As you know, it takes resources to make this happen. Costs rise for everything and Northwest Folklife is not immune to that. We pledge to you that we will be effective and efficient stewards of your support! And there is a sober note to share. The Northwest Folklife Festival is one of the few remaining all-access arts and culture festivals in the country.  While other Festivals have folded, or adopted an admission charge to offset rising costs, we remain committed to the founding principle established 46 years ago, that this annual celebration shall be open to everyone in our community. The Festival belongs to everyone in our community – not just those who can afford a ticket.

Your generosity helps weave this community fabric of cultural inclusion. Only your continued support and support from others will ensure the lifeline of this community treasure.

Please consider a meaningful gift and make your donation today.

Your Support Creates Opportunities

Northwest Folklife Mythbusters #3

We sing, dance, play music, tell stories, teach our children, remember our ancestors, and share our meals all year long. Folk live life every day and Northwest Folklife creates opportunities for all of us all year long to celebrate, share, to be included and participate in the arts and culture of the Pacific Northwest.

Northwest Folklife has programming all year long – the Seattle Children’s Festival in October, the Cultural Arts Series and Folklife Presents. We work all year to support many of the 23 regional community organizations who compose the Seattle Center Festal Cultural Festivals. We work all year with over 100 Folklife Community Coordinators representing the unique needs of each community, their artists and culture bearers, and their audiences. And all year long, we celebrate with different communities with Nights for Folklife events.  And of course, the annual Memorial Day Festival.

Join us, join each other – every day.

This is Folklife Spotlight: Steve Sneed

Today we introduce you to the Managing Artistic Director of Cultural Programs at Seattle Center Productions, Steve Sneed.

Steve oversees Seattle Center Festál, a series of 24 cultural festivals throughout the year on campus.  In its 20th anniversary this year, he has developed a unique perspective on the cultural climate of the Center.

What role do you see Festál playing in the greater community? Why do you think Festal has endured for so long?

Festál as a convener of the ethnic organizations celebrating culture at Seattle Center, is a connector. We help the organizations get better at presenting festivals and we support that effort.

How does Festál nurture the role of ‘culture bearer’? 

I think the best way we do that is by putting these “culture bearers” in the same room together monthly and provide a venue for them to share with each other.

What has been the result of your partnership with Northwest Folklife on you and your community?

Over the years Northwest Folklife has proven a place where cultural groups can get a foot in the door at Seattle Center. They see the possibilities for a cultural festival by working in and with Folklife. Then, they want to continue so they come over to see me and in some cases join Festál.

What would you like to see for the future of Northwest Folklife?

I’d like to see the development of more ethnic folk music and arts at Folklife with the understanding that Folk music is not one kind of music. All cultures have folk traditions and Folklife has such a great platform to spread that news.

Please share a memory connected to Northwest Folklife that was meaningful to you?  

It’s actually working on the committee with the Traditional Roots of Hip Hop 2015 Cultural Focus. I learned a lot about the organization and just what the Cultural Focus is. I met more staff people and got to know them. That was a great experience.

Please finish this sentence: ‘folklife is…

…a major part of Seattle culture and character.

Mythbusters 2

Northwest Folklife Mythbusters #2

The Northwest Folklife Festival is not free. Our commitment to ensure that everyone has access to our programs without the barrier of an admission fee requires us to find partners and supporters that pay the costs of putting on the festivals.

This year, the Festival and other Northwest Folklife programs will cost about $2.8 million. The City provides about $1.5 million of support and we have to raise about $700,000 and earn the additional $600,000.

Northwest Folklife is community powered and can ONLY happen with the financial support of everyone who believes that the Northwest Folklife Festival is an essential part of what makes this region so unique and such a wonderful place to live, work and play. Folklife is not free. Please help. It really is up to all of you.

Catch up and read miss Mythbusters #1

Community Coordinator Spotlight: Bernice Maslan

Community Coordinators are an integral part of the Northwest Folklife’s mission and vision to celebrate, share, and participate in the evolving traditions of the Pacific Northwest. Their talent, time and expertise as a Community Coordinator create opportunities for folks of the Pacific Northwest to participate in arts experiences and learn about the living traditions that occur daily in our big neighborhood.

Today, we introduce you to performer, musician, Friend of Folklife, and former board member Bernice Maslan. In addition to coordinating the Big Jewish Show at the Northwest Folklife festival, you can find Bernice playing clarinet with the Ballard Sedentary Sousa Band or hosting one of the many Klezmer bands she organizes throughout the city.

What cultural traditions do you or your group share with the greater community?  

We present various flavors of Jewish music, including klezmer, vocal, occasionally singer-songwriters, Israeli, comedy.  We have a strong emphasis on Klezmer music.

What does it mean to you and to your community to be connected to Northwest Folklife and how long have you been involved? What impact has the organization made on your community?  

My co-coordinator Harvey Niebulski and I have been connected to NWFL for a long time.  Personally, I served on the board for about 10 years and Harvey is still on the board.  I’ve attended since 1973.  The Big Jewish Show has been a part of almost all the Folklife festivals since at least 2001.  I’m not sure how long before that.  I know many people look forward to the Big Jewish Show and our music.

How do you interact with Northwest Folklife outside of the Northwest Folklife Festival?  

My son is president of the board.  I participate in fundraisers from the contradance and folkdance communities, as well as making many many latkes for a Hanukah fundraiser for Folklife hosted by JoAnne Rudo.

Please share a performance memory connected to Northwest Folklife that had an impact on you?  

Certainly performing as part of the Big Jewish Show has always been a thrill, whether part of the Klezmer Balabustas, Klez Chaos, or the KlezKidz.  I remember sitting in the audience of Big Jewish Shows and being knocked out by the clarinet artistry of Liz Dreisbach and Carl Shutoff.  Now I am delighted to know many of the musicians personally.

What specific community in the Northwest do you hail from?

I live in the Greenwood district.

Please share the Northwest Folklife events you have contributed programming for?  

The Big Jewish Show! and any ancillary klezmer showcases

Perform at the 46th annual Northwest Folklife Festival!

Grace Love and the True Loves. Photo by Piper Hanson.

Grace Love and the True Loves. Photo by Piper Hanson.

Thank you for your interest in performing at the 2017 Northwest Folklife Festival. Applications closed on December 15th. There are many ways to participate in the festival – please visit our Get Involved page to be a part of the one of the largest community arts festivals in the nation.

Bringing your instrument to the festival? Great! There’s plenty of jamming around Seattle Center grounds and areas available for street performing. For more information about Street Performing, click here.

 

For Applicants – Additional Application Documents if needed: Please click on the following to download. Questions? Email programming@nwfolklife.org or call 206.684.4189

Stage Diagram – word document

Stage Diagram – pdf

Input List – word document

Input List – pdf

The annual Northwest Folklife Festival is Northwest Folklife’s signature event, gathering up to 250,000 people from across the region to participate in the four days of artistic and cultural illumination. The Festival is presented each year by Northwest Folklife, an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to creating opportunities for all people to appreciate, share, and participate in the evolving traditions of the Pacific Northwest.

Last year Northwest Folklife programmed over 5,000 performers in 65 different genres of music and dance, from Hawaiian hula to hip-hop and Ireland to India. Northwest Folklife believes everyone is a bearer of folk arts, and we encourage communities to share their cultural traditions, in the hope that interaction with new audiences will enrich the community as much as the audience.

The More We Celebrate Each Other The Better

Ryan Davis shares his personal perspective: It was Saturday night and I was watching The Banner Days perform at the Vera Project stage after having spent the entire day soaking in all the fantastic music and performances of the 2016 Folklife Festival.  In between songs singer Beth Whitney took a moment to thank the audience for “coming out to Folklife instead of staying home and watching Netflix.” The comment got a bit of a laugh and The Banner Days continued their fantastic set.

The Banner Days

Beth Whitney & Bradford Loomis are The Banner Days, soulful folk duo from shores of Seattle.

For whatever reason that simple statement about not staying home stuck with me. As I was enjoying the festival on Sunday it occurred to me that Beth was tapping into something bigger than Folklife or even Netflix. She was making a comment and thanking the audience for being present and celebrating The Banner Days’ music as a part of the larger celebration known as The Northwest Folklife Festival. It’s something I’ve thought about a bit lately. Before mass media, human beings entertained and celebrated each other with intimate performances to small audiences for thousands of years. They were called tribes, and all human needs had to be met within them including entertainment. Those thousands of years of conditioning created a yearning to be recognized by our peers and to celebrate them in a much more intimate manner than we tend to do these days. Rather than celebrate each other, we have celebrities: people we are highly unlikely to ever meet let alone actually have a relationship with, but there we are watching Netflix and other media and celebrating people we can’t know. This is detrimental to our relationships and how we view each other. Certainly we enjoy very high quality entertainment from incredibly talented individuals, but that’s not the same as cheering for your neighbor as they perform a song, poem, dance, etc. for your entertainment. Something has been lost in that change over the past 100 years or so after radio became common in most American homes.

Guerrilla contra dance breaks out to the tunes of the Charles Street Messengers. Photo credit Christopher Nelson

The Northwest Folklife Festival is one of only a few opportunities our regional community has to really celebrate one another. It gives me hope that there is a tremendous amount of people who are interested in seeing and celebrating their neighbors. The more we celebrate each other the greater the sense of connection and community. A virtuous cycle is started when we take the time to go out and support our friends and neighbors in their artistic and cultural pursuits. We are celebrating one another in a powerful way that lifts all of us and leaves us with a sense of community and connectedness that is very difficult to create in our fast paced always logged-in lives. These celebrations create opportunities for different groups in our community to collaborate and lift each other up, and hopefully in the process the relationships that get developed allow all of us to feel like celebrating–I know I do.

Ryan Davis
Northwest Folklife Board Member

Ryan DavisRyan Davis joined the Northwest Folklife Board of Directors last year. He is the Director of Business & Operations at Pratt Fine Arts Center. As a local musician, Ryan has performed at venues large and small all over the Puget Sound with a number of different groups.

Northwest Folklife Executive Director Robert Townsend To Retire in Fall 2016

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 6.04.13 PMNorthwest Folklife Board of Directors today announced that the nonprofit’s executive director Robert Townsend will retire after nearly a decade at his post. Townsend’s tenure has been a remarkable period of inclusion and evolution for the organization that has actively kept pace with the evolving cultural communities of the Pacific Northwest. 

“Robert Townsend’s leadership has made Northwest Folklife relevant and inclusive over the past nine years,” Board President, Rafael Maslan comments. Townsend believed in the importance of reflecting the region’s cultural evolution in the implementation of the organization’s mission. “Rob has laid the foundation for us to move boldly into the future.”

The organization will work to continue strengthening the community through arts and culture as it approaches Northwest Folklife’s 50th anniversary in 2021. The Board of Directors will work strategically to maintain current operations and to recruit a new Executive Director who is committed to the vision of the organization, which is to engage the greater community in sharing and celebrating our respective arts and traditional cultural practices.   

“It has been an honor and a privilege to lead Northwest Folklife,” Townsend comments. “The organization’s crown jewel is and always will be the annual Northwest Folklife Festival, the country’s largest community-powered arts and culture Festival. With the enduring support of our dedicated donors, and by working in close private-public partnership with Seattle Center, we’ve been able to maintain our deeply held ethos of all-access. Today, we have grown beyond the Northwest Folklife Festival and we are fulfilling our great capacity to be the go-to resource for multi-cultural programming through our complement of performance events and community partnerships. While the organization continues its upward trend, the time is right for me to move on and to transfer Northwest Folklife’s helm to a new generation of leadership. I look forward to working with our stellar staff and our dedicated Board of Directors during the succession period through the end of September, and then to volunteering at the third annual Seattle Children’s Festival on October 9.”

Townsend’s commitment to self-expression and participation for all has created Northwest Folklife’s culture of inclusion in which communities and artists are encouraged and invited into key planning processes. He was the key driver for Northwest Folklife to establish the Seattle Children’s Festival, now in its third year. The organization believes that inspiring a child’s cultural IQ is an important factor in strengthening communities and families. In all, Townsend’s leadership has created space for Northwest Folklife’s evolution to reflect and engage all people of all ages and backgrounds, enhancing quality of life and creating a big neighborhood of the Pacific Northwest. 

Northwest Folklife’s Board of Directors will work with Third Sector Company, a firm dedicated to the continuity of nonprofit leadership, to hire an Interim Executive Director in the short term to conduct the process of selecting Townsend’s successor. They will consider both local and non-local candidates for the position.

READ THE SEATTLE TIMES STORY HERE.

Balkan Performers

Mary Sherhart Shares Her Joy for Folklife 2016

Balkan Performers

L-R Aglika Ivanova VanHorn, Violeta Tihova, Penka Encheva. Photo by Mary Sherhart.

The Northwest Folklife Festival was particularly joyful for me this year and that’s saying something, as I have been involved as a performer in almost every Folklife Festival over its 45-year history. Folklife always offers an opportunity to see friends from near and far as all the different communities in my Balkan music and dance scene converge – Croatians, Bulgarians, Balkan dancers, Balkan choirs and more. Whether it’s meeting for a beer in the beer garden, attending friends’ performances or getting on stage myself, so many new and joyful memories are created each year.

What was so extra special about this year? For one, I was invited to emcee the cultural theme showcase concert at Bagley Wright Theatre, “The Power of the Human Voice through Song,” fabulously curated by Folklife Programs Director Kelli Faryar. As a life long singer, choir director and singing teacher, this theme is particularly close to my heart. This is one of a very few universal themes that unifies humans in a ever more divided world. It was so much fun meeting the artists before the show to ask them questions mining for interesting tidbits to use in my introductions. Icing on the cake, I couldn’t have been more proud to introduce my own choir, Bulgarian Voices of Seattle Women’s Choir, as part of the show. Golly, I was practically bursting with pride. All the women in this choir were born in Bulgaria. They range in age from 25-82 and have developed a close bond through singing and sharing our lives. They looked so beautiful in their traditional costumes and sounded fabulous in that excellent theater. 72-year-old Penka Encheva even received a standing ovation from the audience for her solo. What a moment!

Baba Penka

Baba Penka

Speaking of Grandma Penka, here’s another reason I found Folklife so extraordinary this year. She was featured in two more events! First, she taught a traditional Bulgarian singing workshop attended by 67 people. It was deeply moving to see her surprise and delight. This is a woman who came to the United States in 2010 at age 67, leaving everything and everyone behind in Bulgaria, to help care for her grandsons in Renton. She had been a singer in Bulgaria as a young woman, but followed a different professional path, becoming a middle school biology teacher in Bulgaria. She thought her singing life was long over, but joining our choir brought it back to her. Can you imagine how it felt for her to see 67 mostly Americans turn out to learn songs from her, to receive a standing ovation at a major festival AND have a documentary film about her screened at SIFF.

The Bulgarian Cultural and Heritage Center of Seattle and I produced a 30-minute documentary about Penka entitled “Tazi Baba / This Baba” directed by the talented local filmmaker originally from Bulgaria Bogdan Darev. Folklife screened the film on Monday after Penka’s singing workshop. She was absolutely beaming as she answered questions from the audience in a panel with Bogdan and me. All of this is like a miracle to our Penka.

Finally, it was an incredible privilege to be able to share my insights and experience on a panel entitled, “Building Community By Singing.” Janet Stecker, Fred West, Earle Peach and I have years and years, basically our entire lives, worth of creating and leading people in song. How wonderful to have the opportunity to speak on something that we believe in so deeply. Where else but Folklife?

Come Monday night I was completely exhausted, saturated, fulfilled and basking in a rosy glow. Thank you to the staff, board, artists, volunteers, donors, sponsors, audiences and families. We are so lucky to have this community-powered festival in Seattle!

Balkan Performers

Balkan Performers. Photo by Mary Sherhart.

Blog post by Mary Sherhart, Friend of Folklife. Mary Sherhart is one of America’s leading teachers and performers of traditional Balkan vocal music. Learn more about Mary’s folk art.

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Welcome to Our Native Land Powwow and Coastal Day Celebrations

MetisNorthwest Folklife will host the 3rd Annual Coastal Jam and Traditional Powwow on Sunday and Monday of the upcoming Northwest Folklife Festival. This exciting two-day programming will include participatory Native American Powwow and Coast Salish dances, drumming, singing and storytelling, along with traditional crafts and Totem Pole teachings. Featured participants will include Coastal canoe families, powwow participants, elders, veterans, artists, singers, performers, youth, families, and tribal leaders.

A highlight of this year’s programming will be the Honoring of Metis Nation Chief and President Bruce Dumont from British Columbia. President Dumont is President of over 70,000 Metis Nation members in Canada and the Pacific Northwest and his visit to Folklife is sure to be a momentous occasion.

The Native-led Welcome to Our Native Land Group collaboratively partners with Northwest Folklife to offer ways for communities to join in cultural celebration, and to program, produce, promote, and facilitate these celebrations. Both days create a supportively respectful place for local Native community and Northwest Folklife Festival attendees alike, thus strengthening a Native presence while offering cultural traditions, practices, protocols, and teachings that will benefit all who participate and observe. Working together, leaders from both organizations strive to deepen collaborations, develop partnerships, break down stereotypes and foster understanding.