Last year’s Cultural Focus, Metamorphosis, took us through a journey of change, transformations, and transition. We reminded ourselves that change happens all around us and that it is natural to adjust and reorient. We also reminded ourselves that healthy change embraces the old as well as the new. Change is how we survive!
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.
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.
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”.