If you’ve wondered how the annual Northwest Folklife Festival presents such a wide breadth of diversity and cultural inclusion each year, the answer lies in the innovative Community Coordinator Program, which brings cultural leaders into the festival’s planning process. Each coordinator is drawn from a specific community in the Pacific Northwest and is an integral partner in the fulfillment of Northwest Folklife’s mission to celebrate, share, and participate in the evolving traditions of this region. The goal of the program is to give space at the festival for these communities to present their arts and traditions on their own terms. An additional goal is also for the coordinators to invite their communities to attend the festival and to encourage all festivalgoers to participate and learn from each other’s traditions. The communities covered by this program range widely across Northwest demographics, including South Asian, Native American, Filipino, Arab, Irish, Latino, Hispanic, Scandinavian, African, African-American, Latin American, Canadian, and Eastern European communities. Northwest Folklife’s festival programming reflects the diversity of our region, much of it centered on immigrant communities.
“The Community Coordinator program at Northwest Folklife creates a co-curated, shared ownership of the Festival that defines Northwest Folklife’s commitment to cultural inclusion”, says Kelli Faryar, Programs Director. “Our collaboration with Coordinators is necessary to an authentic celebration of the multicultural arts, cultures and traditions of the region. They represent the lifeblood of our communities and these relationships lie at the heart and soul of this commitment.”
The Community Coordinator Program is an ongoing partnership that results in over 65% of the programming at both the Northwest Folklife Festival and the Seattle Children’s Festival (which Northwest Folklife also produces). With Coordinator guidance and co-curation, each showcase is put together with careful consideration of the unique needs of the community, artists, and audience, and with the goal of growing and embracing the ever-changing cultural traditions and landscapes of the region.
“The Northwest Folklife Festival has such a prominent energy in the arts and music in the city,” says Ali Ghambari, the Community Coordinator for the Northwest Folklife Festival’s Iranian Showcase. “For us, working with Northwest Folklife compliments what we’re doing, and Folklife gives us resources and the energy to build on. It’s a pleasure to work with Northwest Folklife, and at the same time it elevates what we do.”