Central to the values of Northwest Folklife is for communities to have voice and agency in the representation of their cultural expressions. More than 150+ Community Coordinators—including prominent artists, educators, culture bearers, and leaders throughout the region—work closely with Northwest Folklife to co-create and co-curate programs including the Northwest Folklife Festival as well as the annual Cultural Focus and Our Big Neighborhood youth and family program. Throughout the year, Community Coordinators work in partnership to co-curate programs that are by the people, for the people that present the diversity of cultures and traditions within the region.
Each year, Northwest Folklife presents a Cultural Focus, a year-round exploration of a Pacific Northwest community through curated performances, panels, workshops, exhibitions, demonstrations, and educational materials. This program allows Northwest Folklife to connect in-depth with the communities we serve while supporting the cultivation of their artistic expressions and cultural traditions.
Northwest Folklife presents the 2021 Cultural Focus, 50 Years of Northwest Folklife: A Look Back, A Look Ahead. As we look towards a half-century mark, we celebrate the ways in which folklife is a part of each of our lives - past, present, and future. These stories are the powerful expressions of culture, that strengthen us as a community by connecting us to our roots, grounding us firmly in the present, and supplying us with a sense of identity and purpose for a future, together.
The annual Northwest Folklife Festival is a community-powered celebration of the music, arts, and heritage that make up the brilliant cultural tapestry of the greater Pacific Northwest. With over 5,000 performers on 20+ stages, 200 food/craft/import vendors, and 500 volunteers, this remains one of the largest access-for-all festivals in the nation. Since 1972, the Northwest Folklife Festival has brought together upwards of 250,000 community members to Seattle Center during Memorial Day Weekend to celebrate the ever-growing arts and cultures of the Pacific Northwest.
The 50th Annual Northwest Folklife Festival will take place on Memorial Day Weekend (May 28-31, 2021) online at nwfolklife.org.
Our Big Neighborhood is the place for youth and families of Northwest Folklife! A multicultural, intergenerational program that fosters the sharing of traditional and evolving cultures among people of all ages and backgrounds, it promotes greater social understanding and encourages families to stay active. 2021 will bring OBN online starting in February. Previous in person programs include Movin’ Around the World: Winter/Spring, Global Playground, and Seattle Children’s Festival.
To best serve our communities of young artists, Northwest Folklife has launched two youth residency projects: Próxima Generación and Unbroken Circle. Each residency brings together youth ages 13-18 to collaborate on various forms of artistic expression and to foster their growth as agents of change.
Próxima Generación provides a space for Latinx-identifying youth to collaborate, share ideas, and explore their artistic expression. Youth collaborate with local culture bearers, artists, and activists to envision a new future while amplifying and nurturing pride of heritage and community.
Unbroken Circle empowers students to transmit their personal, local, and cultural history through their art. Students study with a range of blues, jazz and roots musicians, artists, and activists to develop a program of music and art that reflects the diversity and history of Seattle’s Rainier Valley.
From Home to Home
Northwest Folklife’s digital platform, From Home to Home, serves as a virtual platform to continue showcasing local artists and culture bearers, creating a space for cultural exchange and community connection. From Home to Home hosts Northwest Folklife’s programs, providing a space for our collective voice, arts, and traditions to be shared and celebrated.
Launched in May 2020 with Northwest Folklife Festival, From Home to Home introduced the Festival to a global audience, reaching 86 countries for an estimated 40k viewers.
With the introduction of the virtual Seattle Children’s Festival this past October and expanding with other family and youth virtual programs such as Our Big Neighborhood and Próxima Generación, From Home to Home will expand to become a greater resource and host for a collection of ongoing content that encourages participation of audiences of all ages to discover, learn, connect, and create.
Northwest Folklife, in collaboration with the Office of Economic Development and the Office of Arts and Culture, has developed a pilot program that provides paid internships for Seattle’s young creatives. The Cultural and Creative Workforce Development Program (CCWD) directly responds to the expressed interests of young people for hands-on, creatively-centered work experiences. In addition to skills training and mentorship, interns have regular check-ins, cohort meetings and guest speakers as a part of a comprehensive approach to developing their depth of knowledge, understanding of career pathways and professional networks.
Circle of Indigenous Peoples
The Circle of Indigenous Peoples is based in the rich collective of Native tribal members in Seattle and Washington State, with a goal to broaden the reach to other Native and First Nation communities in the Pacific Northwest. The Circle of Indigenous Peoples Celebration gathers artists, performers, dancers, and culture bearers with the intention of directly involving non-Native audiences in cultural welcoming, education, and a celebration of Native cultures during the Northwest Folklife Festival.
Crossroads Cultural Arts Series is a sequence of curated, family-friendly cultural arts performances on the Eastside at Crossroads Mall’s Market Stage in Bellevue. On the third Saturday of each month, a different culture or region is highlighted through a performance by local artists and musicians.