A Letter to Our Participants

March 6, 2019

Dear Folklife Community,

The redevelopment of KeyArena into a world-class arena has begun under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City of Seattle and Oak View Group. The construction project will impact the scope of our annual Northwest Folklife Festival in 2019 and 2020, and tentatively for 2021. Rest assured, the 48th and 49th Annual Northwest Folklife Festivals will be held at Seattle Center and host an incredible weekend celebrating art, culture, and heritage. We continue to be in conversations with Seattle Center and Oak View Group concerning the redevelopment and will communicate any changes taking place on Seattle Center grounds as the project plans evolve and we as know throughout our media outlets. For the most up-to-date information, please visit: http://www.seattlecenter.com/arena/.

Please note the following changes will occur for the upcoming 48th annual Northwest Folklife Festival:

  • Limited use of Northwest Court and Alki Court: These areas will be a pass-through only. Programming previously hosted on the Trad Stage and Back Porch Stage will be relocated to stages throughout grounds and will be featured throughout the four days of the festival.
  • SC Pav (Hospitality), the Skate Park, and Restroom Pavilion are no longer available for public use. Performer Check-In and Hospitality will be moving to the McCaw Hall Lobby and Cafe.
  • The Folklife Café Stage, previously located in the McCaw Hall’s Cafe, will be moving to Cornish’s Alhadeff Studio just directly south of the Cornish Playhouse and will now be called “Folklife Underground Cafe.” This stage will showcase storytelling, singer-songwriters, and other intimate performances throughout the weekend.
  • The public will not have access to the Next 50 Annex (Volunteer Registration). Volunteer Headquarters and check-in will be moving to the the 3rd floor of the Armory in Loft 2.
  • Music and Dance Workshops, previously located on the 3rd Floor of the Armory, will be moving to the 4th Floor of the Armory.
  • The 1st Avenue Garage (Bressi Garage) is no longer available for public use. Parking is available at the Mercer Street or 5th Avenue Garages (Seattle Center), the lot between Memorial Stadium and MoPOP (Seattle Public Schools) or on regulated streets.
  • 2nd Avenue North and Thomas Street will be restricted to operational traffic.

Northwest Folklife is committed to bringing programming representative and reflective of our diverse Pacific Northwest communities. Though the construction has impacted our ability to keep the number of stages, showcases, and activities we have traditionally provided, we are confident that the 20+ stages, hundreds of craft vendors, and countless hours of dance, music and workshops at the Festival will celebrate the cultural tapestry of the Pacific Northwest as it has for the last 48 years. We look forward to celebrating the 50th Anniversary of our Festival on the beautiful and better-than-ever grounds in 2021! 

If you have any questions regarding the festival, please reach out: Programming@nwfolklife.org or call (206) 684-4189.


September 11, 2018

Dear Folklife Participant,

As a highly valued part of the Northwest Folklife family, we want to be sure that you are informed and aware of the impacts to our programs from the Seattle Center Arena (formerly Key Arena) undergoing construction, beginning in October 2018. This will affect the layout and programming areas for the 2019 and 2020 Northwest Folklife Festivals. We have been meeting with the Oak View Group, the company leading the redevelopment project, to make sure that our concerns are heard to minimize the impact on our Annual Festival. Because the general managers of the project are still in the process of hiring contractors, there are some still unanswered questions. What we do know is that the following areas of the Festival will not be available for use:

  • Northwest and Alki Courtyards; Seattle Center Pavilion and the adjacent courtyard (Hospitality and Performer Registration), The Next 50 Annex (Volunteer Registration)
  • Specific stages and areas that will be either relocated or absorbed include (to our knowledge at this time): Trad Stage, Back Porch Stage, Hospitality and Performer Registration. These changes will directly affect all stages as programming will be equally dispersed among the remaining 20+ stages.
  • We will lose a great deal of parking, including Thomas Street and the Bressi (1st Ave N Street Garage), and we are unsure if we will be able to use Gate 2/3 (where most participant vehicles load in/out of). Performers will have access to parking in the Mercer St and 5th Ave garages.

This construction will reduce the number of stages, showcases, and activities from what we have provided in recent years, but will not affect our commitment to having the vast array of vital cultural voices represented at the Festival. With the loss of the Northwest Court and the Alki Courtyard (where the Back Porch and Trad stages have been recently), roughly 300 performance slots will be eliminated. Programming that has been hosted on the Trad Stage and Back Porch Stage will find complementary and harmonious representation to join on other stages around Festival grounds. Resident organization partners bordering the Arena project – such as the Vera Project, KEXP and SIFF Film Center – will also experience direct construction disruptions and we are working closely with those entities to adapt to new information as it becomes available. Northwest Folklife is committed to showcasing programming representative and reflective of our diverse Pacific Northwest communities. Our staff will work closely with our Community Coordinators to navigate these changes in an equitable manner.

Northwest Folklife is working hard to provide ample opportunities for you and your communities to share your cultural arts, heritage, and traditions with our attendees. Though the grounds will look different, the 2019 Northwest Folklife Festival will be an incredible celebration of Northwest culture and traditions. Through our Cultural Focus: Youth Rising, the Festival will provide a national platform in 2019 for youth voices and the passing on of cultural traditions. Stay tuned for our full announcement of the 2019 Cultural Focus on November 7. We are excited to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of our Festival on the beautiful and better-than-ever grounds in 2021! 

One more note, Northwest Folklife’s office (the Blue Spruce building on Thomas) will no longer exist and our year-round operations will move into the Armory building on the 1st level.

We will continue to work with Seattle Center and Oak View Group to ensure that we maintain our reputation as a nationally recognized, highly treasured event.  At this time, while we are still building out the full picture of our 2019 year, we want to reassure you that the 48th and 49th Annual Northwest Folklife Festivals will be held at Seattle Center as they have for the past four decades.

Thank you for your continued support, especially during this transition. Northwest Folklife continues to be community driven and community-powered with your ongoing support! In an effort to be transparent and to address any concerns you may have, we will provide updates to the public as often as we are able, and please don’t hesitate to reach us with questions at programming@nwfolklife.org or at (206) 684-4189.

Kelli Faryar                                                                                    Reese Tanimura

Executive Artistic Director                                                              Managing Director