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.
Annual Cultural Focus
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’s 2022 Cultural Focus, Metamorphosis: In with the Old, In with the New, celebrates people’s natural propensity for change. This year we explore themes of transition, transformation, and growth–themes central to the folk lineage and process.
Northwest Folklife Festival
Since 1972, the annual Northwest Folklife Festival has been a community-powered celebration of arts, culture, and heritage that make up the brilliant cultural tapestry of the greater Pacific Northwest! Created for and by 150+ Community Coordinators, the festival hosts over 6,000 artists and culture bearers across 25 stages and 200 food and craft vendors annually. The festival remains one of the largest community-powered festivals in the nation.
The 51st Annual Northwest Folklife Festival will take place on Memorial Day Weekend (May 27-30, 2022) in person at the Seattle Center and online at nwfolklife.org/festival.
Seattle Children’s Festival
Since 2013 the Seattle Children’s Festival has been the place to be for youth and families. Celebrating evolving cultures and traditions of the pacific northwest, the Seattle Children’s Festival introduces young folk to arts, music, dance, storytelling, movement community, and more. Happening annually each fall at the Seattle Center, and virtually at nwfolklife.org/scf.
Our Big Neighborhood
Our Big Neighborhood is an intergenerational, multicultural exchange aimed to develop minds and bodies through movement, rhythm, food, craft and storytelling. Our mission is to empower artists by giving them a platform to share their art, their craft, and their culture with the community. Through partnerships with businesses, organizations, and everyday folx throughout Washington State, Our Big Neighborhood reveals that folklife happens every day—in customs, conventions, and practices that we live out actively and subconsciously, and the interactions that evolve those traditions on a regular basis.
Youth Empowerment through Arts and Heritage (Y.E.A.H.)
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.
Cultural and Creative Workforce Development
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.
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.
Crossroads Cultural Arts Series
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.
Northwest Folklife offers and supports numerous community events each year. To see what’s going on, or to share your community’s event, visit our Community Calendar here.