Northwest Folklife’s 2022 Cultural Focus, Metamorphosis: In with the Old, In with the New, celebrates people’s natural propensity for change. This pandemic has proven to be one of those unique moments in our time; a turning point where we can point our compass true north, see the writing on the wall, and meet the challenges ahead.
A once-in-a-lifetime challenge offers us the opportunity for a once-in-a-lifetime solution. It is in moments like these when emerging ideas, movements, and practices can become new conventions; when new thoughts branch from older ones, connecting us to our past, and propelling us to our future; where changing perspectives can be fostered, not feared, or ignored. In with the old, and in with the new!
This year’s cultural focus looks to our present, the urgency of now, and how that paves paths for our future. How do we translate the legacies and traditions of our fore-bearers and reflect them in our current selves, with our current identities, and our current conditions? How do we prepare and propel our current selves for the future we want to see? How is this unbroken circle reflected in the common good that exists in all cultures?
NW Folklife sits at a junction where arts from all forms collide in a festival that lasts 4 days on the enchanting Seattle Center campus, but exists every day and all year back in our various communities. We are part of a larger conduit of venues, schools, organizations, studios, and galleries that make up our city’s creative economy.
The creative economy is us! We’ve seen what happens when we’re forced to stay inside. These creative collisions happen in our homes and in our communities. They exist in our songs, our crafts, our words, and our cooking. They’re made in our own little ways, and places, and configurations, where we try to adapt to a changing world around us. We hybridized and found new ways to connect to our communities, new and old.
There have even been surveys and studies like the Creative Economy Road Map Report, Creative Economy Report, and the Creative Economy and Economic Recovery Case Study Report. There have been tremendous gains in our city and various communities due to suggestions and insight that were outlined through these surveys and reports, and much of the data and recommendations came from you! The community. Folklife doesn’t exist in Seattle Center, folklife exists where you tell your stories.
This year’s Cultural Focus will join that exploration. What are the old things becoming new things, and new things becoming old things? Where can Folklife support emerging ideas in community arts, arts education, and our creative economy? How can Folklife preserve our stories and our songs? Whose voices can Folklife amplify?
Join us this year as we host panels, discussions, performances, workshops, and more, that explore these emergent concepts for arts, as well as the roots that feed these developing ideas.
Festival Poster Art
This year’s approach to our annual poster design is going to emulate our cultural focus in a few ways. Metamorphosis is the process that a caterpillar goes through to become a moth or a butterfly. There is inevitability in that change; there is growth in that change; there is spontaneity in that change; and, there is transformation in that change.
We have invited 4 artists to collaborate on this design process, which will be split up into respective phases. Each artist will contribute a layer, each layer building on the previous artist's contribution. Like a relay race, not only will each artist be responsible for their own leg of the race, but the interim moments of passing the baton, and that exchange of ideas between each artist's transition, will equally influence the direction of the art.
By the end, we’ll have a highly collaborative design piece that can also be shown in its separate forms.
Channeling subjects such as dream imagery, mycology, the psyche and outer space, Tran explores the shapes of nature, with the infusion of fantastical, pulsing synthetic hues. Through a variety of media and cross disciplinary practices and collaborations, she creates atmospheres that aim to activate.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, California during the turbulent 60’s and 70’s civil rights movement, Terence L. Smith, is a self taught artist who has been drawing and painting since he was a young child. This creative escape later turned into a means of relieving stress as he built a successful career in aviation as an electrical engineer, culminating as an executive with The Boeing Co. Until recently only his immediate family knew what a prolific portfolio of drawings and paintings he had accumulated over the years. He paints mainly in watercolor, pen & ink, but also works with acrylics on canvas.
I hope to show how much colors speak to me and to express their vibrancy and to push the emotions they can tell. I paint, draw, sew. I first began with watercolors, then to acrylics. I hope to continue live painting and seek mural opportunities and collaborations for those who need help expressing a story. I will always seek learning and exploring.
Rae Akino uses bold colors and expressive form to explore identity, sexuality, Afroncentrism, spirituality, mental health & awareness, consciousness, and self. Centering the viewer into an emotional, mental and spiritual connection with themselves opens the door to endless possibilities. Awakening desensitized emotions lead to the questions that spark conversations.
Living in a society where boxes and labels are a way of life forces one to hide and resent the parts of themselves that are not accepted. Never being strictly one thing or another fostered the realization that “I am all things” and “we are all things”.
Cultural Focus Components
There are 3 components to this year’s cultural focus. But it’s not as cut and dry as all that. Like an actual metamorphosis, there’s nuance and tension before transformation can happen. The music that is played at Folklife is both very new and very old. The dances move in and through styles over years and generations. These are our art forms that have been practiced, tested, reshaped, worn out, and advanced over a millenia. Some changes take time, and some happen in an instant. Sometimes these changes in our music, or our dance, or our craft, are by accident, while others are influenced by outside forces. Metamorphosis is an expression of that change and how we absorb or reflect it. There are shifts happening all around us.
Creative Ecosystems, Cultural Economy & Workforce Development
Building upon the work accomplished, particularly over the past few years, Northwest Folklife is in the process of developing a strategic vision and plan to launch into “the Next 50.” We honor the legacy of our culture bearers by ensuring that cultural and creative work is truly sustainable; not simply a product, but rather a foundational asset of healthy and vibrant communities. Northwest Folklife will continue to use our positionality as a cultural “institution” pushing both ourselves and our civic leadership to reimagine policies and resources to uphold a robust support system for artists, community-led organizations, and small creative businesses. In our larger quest to reclaim “folk” as both global and local expressions of shared values, ever evolving traditions, collective transformation, and people-centered progress, we ask that you reflect with us on how living our best folklife can propel us to a more inclusive and thriving society.
Digital Storytelling, Innovative Archiving & Hybridization
As we re-emerge from the confines of stay-at-home mandates, turbulent public health conditions, and life in little on-screen boxes, it is important to recognize the power and positives of digital engagement that has been steadily growing from long before 2020. The platforms may change, but the online space will continue to be an important medium for accessible communication, community storytelling, cultural preservation, and artistic innovation. Northwest Folklife is working to digitize a 50+ year history of community-powered festivals while simultaneously capturing and broadcasting our present “folk.” We dream of creating a readily usable archive of thousands of culture bearers in the Pacific Northwest that can help us stay connected and grounded by nurturing our roots as well as our curiosity about the many cultural traditions and practices we live amongst. In preparing the hybrid offerings for the 2022 festival, we have started to build out a production space within our offices so that we can continue to amplify the incredible work and knowledge of our local creators. As we continue to expand the locations of our programming, we are also developing a mobile AV kit so that we can capture folk “in the field” - everywhere people exist, folklife lives!
Folklife In Community
Finding your folk is a journey that can begin at or be reinvigorated by a four-day festival, yet if we have learned anything living through a pandemic it is that we need to lean into the strength, agency, and creative expression that our folklife can give, 365 days of the year. While our organization is most recognizable for the Annual Northwest Folklife Festival at Seattle Center, our work has extended beyond the bounds of Memorial Day weekend for many years - whether through partnerships with artists and community organizations, supporting events throughout Seattle and further, or by providing culturally relevant artistic programming for youth. We know we still can improve how we engage in greater outreach and as we envision the next 50 and beyond, we are deepening our commitment to connect – particularly to harder-to-reach and underrepresented communities – by listening and learning, by building and rebuilding relationships, and through the continued co-creation of inclusive and enduring opportunities to live our best folklife.