A basket weaver in the Gullah tradition, Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Photo John Korb

Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

$10.3 Million raised

Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

Preserving Music, Sustaining Languages

The Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage promotes the understanding and sustainability of traditional culture and the vitality of grassroots communities in the United States and around the world. For half a century, the center has brought millions of people together in celebration of cultural heritage through the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings—the institution’s nonprofit record label and part of the center—is an innovative leader in documenting, preserving and disseminating traditional music.

Through the Smithsonian Campaign, a $5 million in-kind gift from the Sage Foundation made it possible for Smithsonian Folkways Recordings to acquire a national treasure of recorded music, Arhoolie Records. The acquisition included more than 350 Arhoolie albums—covering blues, folk, jazz, country, gospel, Cajun, zydeco, Mexican American and world music recordings—together with archival materials and master tapes. The collection features seminal recordings by artists such as Bukka White, Big Mama Thornton, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Clifton Chenier.

In addition, Ferring Pharmaceuticals donated $1.24 million to fund the center’s five-year Sustaining Minority Languages in Europe project. Thanks to the gift, researchers will be able to conduct a deep analysis of factors that drive language revitalization, comparing linguistic and ethnographic data from across several minority language communities.

Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
Leadership Message

Leadership Message

For half a century, we have brought millions of people together in celebration of cultural heritage through the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival. We have shared more than 44,000 songs and 3,000 albums through Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.

Our work in cultural heritage policy and at the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections has resulted in substantive collaborations with hundreds of diverse communities. These combined efforts have positioned the Smithsonian as an innovative leader in preserving traditional culture and music.

The Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage strengthens understanding, appreciation and sustainability of diverse cultures of, by and for the people. Join us by participating in the Smithsonian Campaign, as we pursue an exciting new vision — a world that honors the principles of cultural democracy, where the arts that people create help them determine their future.

We see a future in which our staff, fellows and interns deepen their commitment to and participation in the dynamic exchange of ideas, traditional culture and artistic expression. Our storied past — including a who’s who of the world’s most iconic folk artists and musicians — is the foundation on which we base this marvelous future.

Please help us safeguard what we have achieved and expand public engagement using new media to reach people everywhere. Your collaboration is key and we invite you on this exhilarating journey.

  • Michael Atwood Mason, Ph.D.
    Director, Center for Folklife and Cultral Heritage
Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
Campaign Case

Expanding Cultural Understanding

The Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage is deeply engaged in collaborative research and the continuity of traditional knowledge and artistry of diverse contemporary communities. We present this cultural scholarship through music, exhibitions, documentary films, symposia, publications, educational materials and major national events.

Our Smithsonian Folklife Festival, now in its fifth decade, connects visitors with exemplary practitioners of diverse, authentic, living traditions, old and new. We will expand these offerings and add important works to Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, which document “people’s music,” spoken word, instruction and sounds from the United States and around the world.

Training Cultural Heritage Professionals
Campaign gifts will enable us to advance the scholarship of fellows and interns who enliven the center with new energy and ideas. Our scholarship, strong community participation and educational outreach lead to activities that affect cultural heritage policies and practices locally, nationally and globally.

Immigration and Migration
We seek to better understand how the forces of immigration, migration and cultural identity are transforming contemporary communities.

A new program fund will support projects such as Folklife 360, a year-round extension of innovative Folklife Festival programming and The Social Power of Music, which includes the acquisition of 6,500 recorded tracks of zydeco, folk, global and other music, new multimedia lesson plans on our website, new teacher certification workshops in world music and the publication of original recordings with cultural and social significance.

Cultural Sustainability
Gifts to this new fund will enable us to create sustainable livelihoods for traditional artists. Support is needed for cultural leadership training in the communities with which we partner. Our goal is to increase the vitality and visibility of culture bearers, artists and traditions as we promote cultural expression critical to human well-being and community health.

Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

is raising $4 million of the Smithsonian Campaign’s overall $1.5 billion goal. 

Campaign Priorities

Endow Fellowships and Internships

$1 Million

We seek a total of $1 million to establish an endowment to train the next generation of cultural heritage leaders. Gift opportunities include $100,000 to support 50 interns for a summer term. We also seek funding to create a Junior Curators Program and to offer stipends to our fellows and internships to young students in underserved communities in Washington, D.C., and beyond.

Immigration and Migration Program Fund

$1 Million

Investments totaling $1 million will enable us to create this fund and will support research, mini-documentaries, music-related projects, women’s cultural heritage forums, events, publications and partnerships across the Smithsonian and with other organizations. Gift opportunities start at $25,000.

Cultural Sustainability Fund

$2 Million

Gifts totaling $2 million will enable us to produce Folklife Festival programs focused on the revitalization of endangered cultural traditions. We seek $100,000 to train emerging scholars from diverse disciplines. Gift opportunities include $200,000 for archival digitization and preservation and $200,000 for training of culture bearers through artisan initiatives.

Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

Contact Us

Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage Campaign Officers

Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage Board

  • William Ivey 
  • Dawn McCall
  • Ellen McCulloch-Lovell Chair
  • Susan Norton   
  • Dr. Ana Maria Ochoa        
  • George Papagiannis     
  • Dr. Frederik Paulsen 
  • Jennifer Cover Payne   
  • Ann Elizabeth Sheffer   
  • Dr. Deborah Wong
  • Dr. Richard Kurin Ex-Officio
  • Dr. Michael A Mason, Ex-Officio
  • David Skorton, Ex-Officio
  • Patricia Shehan Campbell Ex-Officio
  • Libby O’Connell Honorary member
  • J. Scott Raecker Honorary member

Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

Total Goal:
$10.3 Million


$10.3 Million Raised

As of November 30, 2017

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