Elaborately costumed figure in parading down a city street surrounded by a large crowd

National Folklife Network

Launched in 2021, the National Folklife Network (NFN) is a strategic initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in cooperation with the Southwest Folklife Alliance and in collaboration with the Alliance for California Traditional Arts and the First People’s Fund to advance cultural equity by strengthening the folklife infrastructure in both rural and urban communities across the United States.

Man in an elaborate costume performing in a city street festival

A scene from the Museum at Eldridge Street’s Egg Rolls, Egg Creams and Empanadas Festival. Photo by Kate Milford

In 2019, the National Endowment for the Arts conducted the first-ever analysis of its Folk & Traditional Arts awards portfolio. The effort explored the program’s geographic reach, its capacity to address historically underserved populations, and the activities and achievements of its grantees and partners. The resulting report, Living Traditions: A Portfolio Analysis of the National Endowment for the Arts’ Folk & Traditional Arts Program, identified significant gaps in the map of national arts funding for the folk and traditional arts and highlighted the need to connect related organizations and individuals to promote and strengthen the folk and traditional arts field. Those area are Alaska, Rocky Mountain West, Northern Plains, Southern Plains, and the cities of Memphis, Tennessee, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Washington, DC.

The National Folklife Network aims to:

Uplift the practice of heritage artists, community knowledge-keepers, cultural organizers, and advocates for places and ways of life in seven designated areas across the United States.

Connect artists and a wide range of narrators of place, cultural assets, and identity in these regions to tools and resources like funding, training, and regional and national support systems.

Nurture ideas and initiatives that help strengthen and sustain the traditional arts across sectors through documentation, collaboration, and learning exchanges.