Since its inception over 45 years ago, Northwest Folklife has been and remains dedicated to the creation of a public forum where the traditional and ethnic communities and the artists of the Pacific Northwest can present their music, dance, performances and crafts.
Folklife works with more than 100 communities and Community Coordinators to bring over 5,000 artists to 25 stages representing the full range of artistic and cultural expression found in this region. Yes, there are hippies and yes there is fiddling and we love them all! And there are hula dancers, spirituals, gospel and sacred music, Indie music and yodeling, Hip Hop, drum circles, powwows, contra dancing and Coastal Salish dancing. And so much more – there is not space here to describe the half of it! The variety and the opportunities for new experiences are so varied and plentiful, you simply cannot see it all.
Folklife is NOT just one style of art or culture. Folklife is ALL folk living – each in their own unique way and yet, each in a way that connects us all together. The steps of our dances may vary – but we ALL dance. The tempo, arrangement, and notes of our songs sound different but we ALL know that deep inner response to the sounds of our own cultures being played on instrument and in voice. Our foods, the spices and ingredients we use, the style in which we cook them, all have unique characteristics that speaks deeply to us of our heritages but we ALL know the joy and deep contentment of gathering as family, neighbors and friends to break bread and be in community.
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.” Folklife’s original vision remains as relevant today as it was in 1972.
Folklife is really a way to describe how people are living. The Festival is how we offer and share ourselves with others. It is a time and place where we can learn from one another. It is your Festival – it belongs to everyone. It is as diverse as the Northwest itself. It is the one time that all of us, from our own unique communities come together and create a new community together – a community of music, dance, storytelling, craft and food. It is a brilliant, diverse, welcoming community.