2012 Cultural Focus: The Next Fifty

Northwest Folklife is excited to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Seattle Center and the Seattle World’s Fair by making The Next Fifty celebration the Cultural Focus of the 2012 Northwest Folklife Festival.

Seattle Center is commemorating this important anniversary with The Next Fifty, a six-month series of events recalling memories of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair and encouraging dialogue about the future of Seattle Center. The Next Fifty events kick off April 21 with a full day of special guests, performances, music, food, and activities.

Northwest Folklife is proud to be a part of the Next Fifty by making it the Festival’s Cultural Focus. For the past twenty years, the Cultural Focus has provided Northwest Folklife’s staff the opportunity to learn more about a particular group or community, to share that knowledge with the public, and to make deep and lasting friendships with community members.

This year it makes perfect sense to focus on The Next Fifty—Seattle Center has been the Festival’s home since Folklife’s very first event, forty-one years ago.  It’s been a close relationship:  from the very beginning, Northwest Folklife and Seattle Center have shared the common goals of providing possibilities, bringing people together, and celebrating our region’s vibrant culture.  Many of the young people who came to the first Northwest Folklife Festival have returned over the years, first bringing their children and then their grandchildren.  The annual trek to Seattle Center has become a family tradition and ingrained as part of the Folklife experience.

Some of the groups that were at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair participated in the first Northwest Folklife Festival ten years later.  And some of those groups (or their children or grandchildren) are still involved with celebrations at Seattle Center. Many of the ethnic festivals that Seattle Center hosts throughout the year got their start as a showcase at the Northwest Folklife Festival.

With all of this shared history, part of our Cultural Focus programming includes retrospection.  For example, Jack Straw Productions, a multidisciplinary audio arts center, started its life fifty years ago as KRAB Radio, and KRAB, along with Seattle Center, helped produce the some of the first Folklife Festivals. Northwest Folklife celebrates Jack Straw’s fifty years with a special showcase on Sunday, May 27 on the Fisher Green that features some of the performers who used to appear on KRAB.  And did you know that there was a Hootenanny at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair? Jon Pfaff hosts a panel on Monday, May 28 on the Narrative Stage that includes some of the folksingers who were affected by the Folk Revival of the 1960s.

In keeping with The Next Fifty’s vision of the future, not all of Folklife’s Cultural Focus programming looks back. The Festival is spotlighting contemporary and cutting-edge performers and genres that could possibly be around for another fifty years. A Hip-Hop Competition will take place on Sunday, May 27 in the Vera Project, featuring the Massive Monkees and Robert Pastorok. The EMP Museum on both Saturday and Sunday (May 26-27) will host some of the best All-Ages programming around:  Saturday marks the first-ever collaboration between VJ and Chip-Tune artists who are using the fabulous EMP video screen for their performances. And Sunday is an all-day, All-Ages extravaganza and features some of the very best 21-and-under bands in the region.

Much has changed in Seattle Center in the past fifty years.  In fact, many of 2012 Festival visitors will be able to recall some of those big changes that have occurred to the grounds over that time, and how those changes were reflected in the Northwest Folklife Festival.  Those changes keep us vital and relevant. We celebrate Seattle Center’s last fifty years.  And we look forward to a continued relationship where we celebrate not only Seattle Center’s next fifty years but also Northwest Folklife’s next fifty as well.