Cultural celebrations for the people, by the people

The community-curated, community-powered and community-driven Northwest Folklife

With some 250,000 people enjoying presentations by more than 6,000 performers over four days, the festival aspect of Northwest Folklife is a focal point for many, but in fact, its impact is so much broader – thanks in large part to its unique vision.

As the festival celebrates the evolving traditions of the Pacific Northwest at the Seattle Center May 25 to 28, it represents the year-round collaboration of the organization and more than 100 Community Coordinators to co-curate programs that represent the region’s diversity of cultures and traditions.

An authentic multicultural arts experience

As culture bearers, leaders and representatives of their communities, Community Coordinators present their voices and traditions on their own terms. They also ensure an authenticity of multicultural arts, including the festival as well as Northwest Folklife’s Cultural Focus and Our Big Neighborhood youth and family program.

“Community Coordinators are the lifeblood of all Northwest Folklife programs and these relationships are the heart and soul of the organization,” says Northwest Folklife Executive Artistic Director Kelli Faryar. “Our collaboration with Coordinators defines our commitment to cultural inclusion.”

Recognizing that communities already have their own powerful, dynamic and beautiful voices, the initiative partners individuals who know and represent their communities with program staff to build programming and events that directly reflects those communities’ wishes.

The aim is to create opportunities for those individual communities to express themselves and for the larger community to experience them, with the ultimate goal of a more just, empathetic and respectful society through those shared experiences and learnings.

Cultural Focus in focus

Each year, Northwest Folklife forges a year-long Cultural Focus partnership with a specific community to create more in-depth connections.

This year, Echoes of Aztlán and Beyond: Mexican American and Chicana/o Roots in the Northwest, will explore and celebrate both traditional and contemporary Mexican and Chicano culture and arts through stories, art, film, music, song, cuisine, dance and language.

With a goal of showcasing, preserving and recognizing traditional and popular arts and culture in Chicano and Mexican communities in our neighborhood, the program explores what it means to be Mexican and Chicano/a, from the indigenous roots to immigration to building communities to envisioning the future.

Guided by the community-driven Cultural Focus committee, this program will largely focus on providing youth a larger platform to explore their heritage and visualize the future.

“Today, more than ever, it’s important to share how communities evolve with the ever-changing societal and cultural shifts we face as a region,” Faryar says.

The Northwest Folklife Festival opens at 11 a.m. Friday, May 25 at Seattle Center and continues through the Memorial Day weekend to Monday, May 28. Enjoy music, dance, arts, crafts, hands-on children’s activities and much more. The suggested daily donation is $10 per person or $20 per family.

Northwest Folklife’s Cultural Focus Committee.

Northwest Folklife’s Cultural Focus Committee.