50th Annual Northwest Folklife Festival

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SEATTLE, WA (Jan. 13, 2021): Northwest Folklife is excited to launch the 50th Anniversary Northwest Folklife Festival with the unveiling of this year’s festival poster. Created in partnership with Seattle Center, Northwest Folklife’s 50th festival will take place virtually on the From Home to Home platform (nwfolklife.org) on Memorial Day weekend, May 28-31, 2021.

In honor of the 2021 Cultural Focus, 50 Years of Northwest Folklife: A Look Back, A Look Ahead, the festival will pay homage to the milestone of 50 years of stories, songs, and traditions of the Pacific Northwest region with a year-long community celebration. As Northwest Folklife looks towards a half-century mark, the organization celebrates the ways in which folklife is a part of each of our lives—past, present, and future.

“As we look ahead to our 50th annual festival, we honor the spirit of celebrating who we are in the Pacific Northwest and a festival that continues to be built by the people—by you,” said Kelli Faryar, Northwest Folklife’s Executive Artistic Director. “The 50th annual festival will bring us together to honor our past, explore our present, and look ahead to imagine the next 50 years. The festival will feature a special livestream channel with a gallery of memorabilia, town hall community conversations, interviews with local culture bearers, and interactive vision boards.”

“Providing a digital presentation of the beloved and storied Northwest Folklife Festival was something that gave us the opportunity to envision, stretch, and grow during an extremely challenging year,” shared Reese Tanimura, Managing Director of Northwest Folklife. “For the 50th anniversary, we hoped that we would gather again at Seattle Center on Memorial Day weekend. In light of current conditions, expanding our virtual offering is the best way for us to ensure that communities and their living traditions remain healthy and vibrant. We are grateful for this opportunity to connect right into the heart of people’s folklife from home to home.” 

Northwest Folklife is excited to unveil its official poster for this year’s festival, designed by renowned Pacific Northwest artist, Robert L. Horton. This special design was inspired by the people, songs, and sounds of the past 50 years of Northwest Folklife, while also painting a vision of the next 50. 

Robert L. Horton is a Seattle native and has worked as a professional artist for over 25 years, working with a variety of mediums such as pen and ink, watercolors, acrylics, airbrush, and glassblowing. Robert’s work has been featured in numerous art galleries and exhibitions throughout the Seattle and Northwest region such as the Onyx Fine Arts Collective art exhibits, the Bellevue Arts Festival, and the Edmonds Arts Festival. Robert has won numerous awards throughout his career including second place at the Onyx Fine Arts 11th Annual Art Exhibit in 2015 and “Best in Show” at the 2008 Art Merchant International Art Expo in Issaquah, WA.

Robert has been involved with several community-based projects including a 31’ x 17’ mural for the Seattle Rainier Beach Library called UnMask Your Mind! He has also designed several posters for local youth group programs and assisted as a set designer for Rainier Valley Youth Theater in south Seattle. Now, Robert shows his artwork with local art group Onyx Fine Arts Collective and has served on their Board of Directors for the past ten years.

“I had a great opportunity in designing and developing the 50th Annual Northwest Folklife Festival poster,” said Robert L. Horton. “I wanted to engineer the excitement from the past 50 years into the next 50 years of Seattle’s own cultural celebrations. I think I’ve done that with this poster creation.”

Click here to learn more about Robert L. Horton

Alongside the unveiled festival artwork, Northwest Folklife is excited to launch its redesigned website (nwfolklife.org), showcasing all that is to come within the 50th celebration.

“It is my distinct pleasure to serve this culturally important organization as we embark on our 50th anniversary,” said Michelle Demers Shaevitz, Northwest Folklife’s Board President. “I am proud of the engagement with and celebration of the many peoples, communities, and traditions that make up our region and are reflected at the festival. I want to ensure that the necessary work of Northwest Folklife continues for another 50 years and gives us—gives people like my young son—the opportunity to engage and celebrate the deep diversity of our region.”

Presented by Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, the 50th Annual Northwest Folklife Festival will take place virtually on Memorial Day weekend, May 28-31, 2021, at nwfolklife.org. The full list of participating artists will launch on May 1, 2021. #Folklife50

About the Northwest Folklife Festival:

The annual Northwest Folklife Festival is a community-powered celebration of the music, arts, and heritage that make up the brilliant cultural tapestry of the greater Pacific Northwest! The Northwest Folklife Festival was founded in 1971 by the Seattle Folklore Society, the National Park Service, the National Council for the Traditional Arts, and the City of Seattle, as part of the Park Service’s urban outreach program to encourage the people of the Pacific Northwest region to publicly present traditional, ethnic and folk arts. 

Today, with over 6,000 performers drawing from 150+ cultural communities, 20 stages, 200 food/craft/import vendors, this remains one of the largest access-for-all festivals in the nation. In 2020, Northwest Folklife pivoted the event to a virtual experience in response to social distancing mandates related to COVID-19. Attracting 39,000 online participants, the From Home to Home: Northwest Folklife Festival featured 6 program channels and a virtual marketplace that brought together local culture bearers, artists, creatives, sponsors, and merchants all on one platform.