Close Listening: A National Case for the Value & Impact of Folk & Traditional Arts


Portions of interviews with selected convening attendees, and illuminates the variety of ways that folklife and cultural heritage programs and practice enrich everyday life nationwide.

In the fall of 2018, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies co-hosted Close Listening, a convening to address the value and impact of Folk & Traditional Arts.

From October 30-November 1, we convened 120 people from 46 states, 2 territories, and several indigenous communities to showcase the breadth of Folk & Traditional Arts programs in the United States, and to articulate our collective value and impact.

We discussed how traditional arts practitioners, folklorists and cultural advocates, community leaders and festival directors, educators and museum curators work to honor and sustain the expressive cultures of our many communities. We identified significant innovations, accomplishments, and synergies. And we engaged in vigorous discussion about how to amplify transmission, awareness, understanding, and appreciation of cultural heritage.  Over the course of three days, we asked:

  • What are the common threads, tools, and programs that tie this diverse field together?
  • How and where do we develop new, interlocking infrastructure with allied fields?
  • What are the needs and priorities of the field?

The conversations among such a diverse group of cultural heritage practitioners and professionals revealed the critical roles Folk & Traditional Arts plays in building and maintaining a cohesive society. One intended outcome of the convening was to summarize and share the recommendations and conversations publicly in order to advance the field; you will find those materials here.