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Laulima:  Creative Ecosystems Summit


After much consideration, we have made the difficult decision to postpone our Bites for Folklife and Creative Ecosystems events until the fall of this year.

While challenging, rescheduling is in the best interest of our partners, vendors, presenters, attendees, supporters, and staff. We are a passionate, ambitious bunch and look forward to focusing our full attention and efforts on these events after the 53rd annual Northwest Folklife Festival. We hope you can still join us at the rescheduled events this fall!

The tentative new date for Bites for Folklife is Saturday, September 21, and the tentative new date for the Creative Ecosystems Summit is Friday, October 11. Locations and times will be announced in the coming weeks, and purchased tickets will be honored for the rescheduled dates.

Fear not! We will host three sessions next Friday, May 24, in the KEXP Gathering Space as a precursor to the Summit. Registration for these sessions is not required, outside food is welcome, and light refreshments will be provided.

  • 12:00 - 1:30 pm: Incubating Creative Ecosystems

  • 2:00 - 3:00 pm: Financial Fitness for Gigging Artists presented by Sonic Guild

  • 3:30 - 4:30 pm: Social Media Marketing - Building a Campaign presented by Sonic Guild

For Bites for Folklife questions, please email bites4folklife@nwfolklife.org. For Creative Ecosystems Summit questions, please email summit@nwfolklife.org.


Northwest Folklife presents Laulima: the first Annual Creative Ecosystems Summit. This assembly brings together an amalgam of creative constituents to discuss tools, strategies, and collaborations for building a resilient and prosperous creative ecosystem. This summit will include presentations, workshops, and panel discussions propelled by the joy, comfort, and humanity we derive from art and culture and the power transmitted through storytelling and imagination.

WHEN: October 11th

WHY: The Creative Ecosystem is a priority, and when it is healthy, supported, and cared for, then we all benefit from its rewards. This convening is propelled by the joy, comfort, and humanity that we derive from art and culture and the power that is transmitted through storytelling and imagination.

WHO: Calling all changemakers! We invite artists and artisans, culture bearers, teachers, students, emerging professionals, industry leaders, policymakers and conspirators from across all sectors to come together to envision the future.

HOW: Participants will share skills, resources and ideas, learning from and networking with the diverse and dynamic community which makes up our creative ecosystem. Through intentional cross-discipline thought partnership and collaboration we can collectively increase the value proposition of arts and culture in our city, region and beyond.

*Laulima is a Hawaiian term, literally meaning “400 hands” or essentially “many hands.” Our ecosystem will thrive when we collectively contribute the wealth of creative skills and cultural knowledge towards the larger whole.

The summit will be organized into 4 themes:  

    The Summit will be organized into 4 themes:

    Investing in Human Capital:

    • Holistic health and wellness for creatives and cultural workers.
    • Exploring the synergies of artistic expression and technology.
    • Skill building for working artists.

    Place-making in Changing Places:

    • Sustaining, reimagining, and developing Cultural Space
    • Festival and event strategies for Social Impact and Placemaking
    • Reimagining belonging and preservation


    • Advancing human-centered cultural policy
    • Coalition and Movement Building
    • Building strategic collaborations across disciplines and organizations

    Capacity Building:

    • Mentorship, apprenticeship, and workforce development
    • Nurturing culturally relevant and just food systems
    • Systemic support for working artists, eg. universal healthcare, guaranteed basic income, tax incentives, affordable live/work space.

    Meet Our Session Leaders

    Dena Ross Jennings

    Dena Jennings, D.O. is a luthier, musician, writer, Virginia Master Naturalist, and an Internal Medicine physician with certification in Ayurvedic practice. In addition to over 30 years of medical practice, she completed a 4-year apprenticeship with a sculptor and luthier in Ontario, Canada where she learned to design and built the gourd instruments of cultures around the world.  

    Dr. Jennings conducts conflict transformation workshops including one for artistic ambassadors through the US State Department in Washington, DC. She has developed accredited curricula of meditation for racial justice, for compassionate listening, and for cultural sensitivity in artistic performance. In 2019, she was appointed by the governor to the Virginia Commission for the Arts where she currently serves as the chairperson for a second year. Previously, she served on the boards of the Arts Center in Orange, The James Madison Museum, and worked with the Boys and Girls Club on their annual Juneteenth performance at James Madison’s Montpelier while maintaining her solo medical practice in downtown Orange.

    Since 1996, Dr. Jennings has been the Executive Director and founder of Imani Works Corporation, a human rights advocacy group that holds consultative status with the United Nations Department of Social and Economic Affairs. Through Imani Works, she provides physical and mental evaluations for asylum seekers, conducts an annual music festival to celebrate Black Appalachian culture, and advocates for justice in communities around the world that are in crisis.

    You can read more about her work at www.ImaniWorks.net

    Ashley Shabankareh (she/they)

    Ashley Shabankareh (she/they) is a musician, arts administrator, and music educator. Ashley serves as the Director of Operations and Programs for Trombone Shorty Foundation, and also works as an Adjunct Professor at Loyola University, New Orleans, Xavier University, and Tulane University. Ashley is a curriculum writer and recently wrote the curriculum for Take Me to the River New Orleans, released via Berklee PULSE, and Embracing Arabic Popular Music in the Music Classroom, released by F-Flat Books. Ashley has worked with numerous arts organizations in their career, including Preservation Hall Foundation, Artist Corps New Orleans, New Orleans Jazz Museum, New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, and Upbeat Academy. Ashley is the Board President of Folk Alliance International, Vice President for the Jazz Education Network, Board Member for Decolonizing the Music Room, Chapter Governor for the Recording Academy Memphis Chapter and Board Secretary for Second Line Arts Collective. Ashley is a trombonist and vocalist and has performed with notable musicians including Aretha Franklin, Allen Toussaint, Jimmy Buffett, and Theresa Andersson, and in her own projects, Marina Orchestra, The Asylum Chorus, and Bra’s Band Brass Band.

    Junious Lee Brickhouse

    Junious L. Brickhouse is an internationally recognized scholar practitioner dedicated to the sustainability of Hip Hop Cultures. As a researcher, folklorist, cultural ambassador, mentor, and logistician, Junious currently serves as Director of Next Level, driving the strategic direction of the program’s cultural diplomacy and global conflict transformation initiatives, activating 30+ years of community engagement in over 60 countries.

    Upon his return to the United States, Junious founded Urban Artistry Inc. (www.urbanartistry.org), inspiring and creating a movement of artists dedicated to the preservation of street dance culture, specifically within communities of practice. As Urban Artistry’s Executive Director, Junious produces projects such as The International Soul Society Festival, The Preservatory and the UA Digital Archives to encourage other artists to research and document tradition bearers and their contributions. Today, Urban Artistry continues to flourish as a model for community-focused arts programming and cultural preservation with international reach.

    Junious’ daily focus on mentorship is the backbone to his international impact and success. Having the honor of being mentored by two NEA National Heritage Fellows (John Dee Holeman and Phil Wiggins), Junious invests and advises his mentees in sustainability as tradition bearers, and creating accessible pathways to institutional investment within arts communities.

    Advocating for greater inclusion of Urban Dance and Music Cultures as American Folklife Traditions on a national scale, Junious is an Executive Board Member at The American Folklore Society and serves on the Board of Directors at the National Council for the Traditional Arts.

    Heather Day

    Heather Day is co-founder and Executive Director of Community Alliance for Global Justice. In 1999 she helped to organize the protests against the World Trade Organization when was working for CISPES, Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador. Inspired by these creative and historic actions, she co-founded CAGJ with others to build a membership-based, multi-sectoral organization for global justice in Seattle. Heather has a BA in Political Economy and Social Change from The Evergreen State College and a Masters in Geography from the University of Washington; her research focused on how the FTAA- Free Trade Areas of the Americas- was defeated by activists collaborating transnationally in the Hemispheric Social Alliance. She is passionate about food sovereignty and building global alliances of solidarity. She lives in Seattle with her son Henry, dog Bowie and cat Neva.

    Chevon Powell

    Chevon Powell is the founder of Golden Bricks Events (GBE) a company addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the outdoors and conservation via special events and festivals. In 2018 she launched the Refuge Outdoor Festival—an annual multi-day camping experience that is geared toward Black, Indigenous, People of Color to build community through outdoor recreation, conversations, music, and art. Each year, the festival has grown, and Chevon has expanded her events to other community-building activities that provide an opportunity for everyone to connect with the outdoors and make friends in a safe and welcoming environment. Chevon’s love of nature and the outdoors began in childhood at Camp Janus, a camp for burn survivors, where she learned to fish and loved looking at the stars; those experiences sparked a life-long love of hiking and camping. Chevon’s personal experience as a Black woman in the outdoors has fueled her work as a community advocate for outdoor access and environmental justice, dispelling myths that race, ethnicity, gender, or ability should dictate who belongs in nature and what kind of experiences people can have. Chevon serves as a mentor for Young Women Empowered and recently served on the board of Bike Works and the Governors Workgroup on Black Washingtonians Outdoor Recreation Experience. Chevon is an avid hiker, backpacker, napper and splits her time building community and connecting with family and friends in Seattle and Houston.

    Erika Lundahl (she/they)

    Erika Lundahl (she/they) is a musician and creative culture worker living on Coast Salish land in Seattle. She serves as deputy director of Braided River, an arts and environmental justice multimedia nonprofit based in Seattle and is on the leadership team for Conor Byrne Cooperative—a historic bar and venue that as of Spring 2024 has transitioned to a member-owned cooperative model. Over her last decade in the Pacific Northwest she has worn hats as a journalist, publicist, writer, media developer, development professional, event planner, exhibit content creator for venues like the Burke Museum and the Seattle Aquarium, and recently, film impact producer for the IMAX film The Arctic: Our Last Great Wilderness. She also serves as board co-chair of Salish Sea Cooperative Finance—a Washington State financing cooperative founded in 2015. She has a BA in writing with a minor in music from Ithaca College. She can be found playing music many evenings with her salf-named project, as well as with the Seattle bluegrass band Inland Seaway. Her newest album "messy, blessed infinity" will be out Summer 2024. On Instagram @erikalundahlmusic and www.erikalundahl.com.

    Learn more about Conor Byrne Cooperative www.conorbyrnecoop.org

    Tiara Amar (they/them)

    Tiara Amar (they/them) is a Bengali multidisciplinary artist and organizer based in Oakland, CA. As Director of Advocacy and Fellowships at Whippoorwill Arts, their work reimagines a just and equitable music ecosystem that nurtures the creativity and livelihoods of working musicians. Under the mentorship of Hilary Perkins, co-founder of Whippoorwill Arts, and in partnership with the Center for Music Ecosystems and 4A Arts, Tiara co-authored the Recommendations for Live Performance Pay and Professional Protections for Working Musicians (September 2023). Their advocacy at Whippoorwill Arts asks musicians directly what they need, using data to inform decision-making, and thinking outside the box to work towards ethical pay and professional protections in the music economy.

    Tiara is also currently a teaching artist in Mixed Media at NIAD Art Center for artists with disabilities. Their creative practice explores magical realism & the deep sea through percussion and moving/still images. They have contributed to exhibitions and performances at Medicine for Nightmares, the San Francisco Film Festival, the National Queer Arts Festival, the San Francisco Public Library, and the California Arts & Culture Summit.

    Karen Toering

    Karen has a background as an organizer, cultural worker and consultant for non-profit arts and social justice organizations that is borne out of her passion for connecting people to ideas and action. Her work includes, social justice philanthropy, base-building and collaboration on media justice and media policy initiatives, strategic engagement in equity-based collaborations. 

    She also served 8.5 years in social justice philanthropy at Social Justice Fund NW, moving millions of dollars to grassroots organizing in 5 states in the Pacific NW, and most recently led effort to move $11.8 million in funding to over 300 BIPOC organizations through the Washington Equity Relief Fund. Karen is currently Director of Advocacy at Magic Cabinet Foundation, a philanthropic organization whose goal is to forge new paths in philanthropy.

    She served 14 years as Consulting Producer for Seattle’s Langston Hughes African American Film Festival and is the founder of the Gary International Black Film Festival in her hometown of Gary, IN. She is also co-founder of Sankofa Film Society in Seattle, WA and enjoys reinvesting in her community as a partner at Black and Tan Hall.

    Yuliya Bruk (she/they)

    Julia (Yuliya) Bruk (she/they) is a creative director, new media artist, and community facilitator. She has crafted interhuman experiences through the lenses of cameras, curation, and public programming since before the internet. Her love for cinematography and filmmaking has led her around the world, showing at over 22 festivals and award-winning advertising multi-media campaigns during her 8-year stint in the corporate realm. She is passionate about bringing together intersectional voices and inspiring future generations to live a more accessible and creative life through the use of technology.

    In 2021, Yuliya founded a Seattle based, global community arts and technology organization, Future Arts, building dignity for artists working with technology. Womxn lead, Future Arts blurs the lines of inclusive opportunities across ages, cultures, and industries, keeping natural systems as a grounding ancestral force. Julia enjoys animals, fuzzy things, and dialing rotary phones through her VR headset.

    Abe Claiborne

    With over 20 years in the music industry under his belt; Abe Claiborne is a premiere leader in the entertainment business working with top-tier companies such as Universal and Harley Davidson. Spending the last 6 years as an entrepreneur helping tech businesses integrate music strategy into their portfolios, he brought successful outcomes to dozens of startups and media companies.

    He has developed music strategy and licensing partnerships for major household brands such as Harley Davidson and American Eagle. He has worked with hundreds of labels and artists, building and cultivating innovative solutions.

    Abe has a lifelong passion for music and has worn nearly every hat in the industry from booking tours to artist management, to licensing, marketing, and sales. Always one to wear a smile and share a good laugh, Abe is a consummate professional whose positive reputation opens doors.

    Elisheba Johnson

    Elisheba Johnson is a curator, public artist, administrator, and disruptor. Feeling left out of the traditional art world, Johnson has dedicated her career to building bridges for artists of color to grow and thrive in our local arts community.

    Johnson currently co-manages Wa Na Wari, a Black art center in Seattle’s Central Area that uses the arts to build community and resist displacement. In 2022, Johnson was honored as part of Seattle Black Arts Legacies project for her 20 plus years as community curator and for her work at Wa Na Wari, using art and culture to change housing policy. In 2023 Johnson was invited to participate in Harvard’s Young American Leaders Program (YALP), a project to build cross sector collaboration around the country.

    Johnson’s personal art practice examines the beauty and triumph of Black life in America through mixed media and poetry.

    Shannon Halbertsadt

    Shannon Roach Halberstadt is the Creative Economy Sector Lead at Washington Commerce, cultivating partnerships and policy to grow creative industries and jobs in Washington State. Her previous experience includes leadership roles for Keep Music Live WA, Artist Trust, Spokane Arts, PNW Chapter of The Recording Academy (The GRAMMY’s), and The Vera Project. She has served on many Boards and Commissions, including Board Chair at Whipsmart!, Executive Committee at Inspire Washington, Curriculum Committee at Leadership Tomorrow, and Mayoral appointee at both the Seattle Music Commission and the Seattle Center Advisory Commission. Shannon envisions a Washington State recognized as the epicenter for a thriving Creative Economy.

    Makaela Kroin

    Makaela Kroin is a folklorist and lover of the outdoors. She is the Folk & Traditional Arts Program Coordinator at Washington State Parks & Recreation Commission. She collaborates with a variety of cultural communities, artists, organizers, and other partners to produce programs that center cultural heritage at parks. A public folklorist employed by a state agency, much of her work involves addressing systemic barriers. She is passionate about connecting others with information and resources to cultivate their own relationships with nature.

    Carolyn Hitt

    Carolyn Hitt is a mixed-media, multi-disciplined abstract/graphic expressionist with an emphasis on murals, fabrication, and installation work. As founder of Blue Cone Studios (est.2015) and Co-Founder of Forever Safe Spaces & On the Block Seattle, her creative work is directly linked to the social practice of seeking out, holding space, mentoring and supporting emerging artists from underserved communities. When she’s not building physical spaces for gathering/creating, she is looking to produce custom installations and connect with individuals, organizations, and institutions looking for creative solutions to community engagement. You can find her on most social media platforms @cmehitt


    Julie Chang Schulman aka Julie-C is an autonomous anomalie who surfs the cataclysmic waves of cultural alchemy through art, organizing, and the movement of stories, bodies, energies, and space time. With roots in Seattle Hip Hop and a passion for community upliftment through self-determination, she emcees, weaves, and conceives by any and all means necessary towards creative resilience and collective liberation. Forever Safe Spaces, Blue Cone Studios, On the Block Seattle, South Seattle Emerald, and Converge Media are among the initiatives she holds dear in these missions. Julie is also a certified coach, yoga teacher, and reiki master as well as a qi-gong practitioner and amateur stargazer. Her dog Eevee is a Virgo, and her most recent musical endeavor - Sovereign Queendom Archives Volume 2 - is available everywhere music is streamed and sold. Follow her @JouleSea on all platforms in the matrix.

    Bran Thomas

    Bran Thomas Living through the lens of a queer, "mixed-race" Black person, I have always been keenly aware of fusions, duality and the status quo, which informs my Pop-Surrealistic Visual Storytelling. My artwork is filled with attention-grabbing visual portmanteaus: bending expectations with a juxtaposition of styles and media. As I have been a professional Painter since age 14, 2-dimensional design has continued to be the strongest area of mastery as I’ve entered my 30s, but I practice and excel in most Fine and Performing Arts. And beyond the Arts, I do my best to live a well-rounded Renaissance lifestyle.

    Realizing Artists provide a special niche in mental health and wellbeing, and especially given the inadequate representation of Black tattoo practice in Seattle, it has recently become my mission to expand my art practice to include Tattooing. As something so intimate as tattoo, I want to ensure that everyone, but especially Black people, get the respect and bedside manner they deserve.

    I remain steadfast in my art practice in a communal BIPOC run art studio in Capitol Hill, Blue Cone Studios, where we likewise mentor youths in the arts and partner with local businesses to make Seattle more beautiful.