The Business of Culture

Community-Building through the National Folk Festival

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Bluegrass band Sierra Hull & Highway 111 from Byrdstown, Tennessee, performing at the 71st National Folk Festival in Butte, Montana, July 10-12, 2009.

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2006 NEA National Heritage Fellow Henry Gray with his band the Cats performing at the Lowell Folk Festival. (Photo courtesy of Lowell Folk Festival/Jim Higgins)

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Eddie Pennington, a 2001 NEA National Heritage Fellow, is a thumbpicking style guitarist.  Developed in western Kentucky, this complex instrumental technique was popularized by musicians including Merle Travis and Chet Atkins. (Photo by Michael G. Stewart. Courtesy of the National Council for the Traditional Arts)

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Puerto Rican carnival maskmaker Angel Sanchez Ortiz demonstrated his craft at the Lowell Folk Festival. (Photo courtesy of Lowell Folk Festival/Jim Higgins)

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Martha Spencer of Whitetop Mountain Band performing at the Lowell Folk Festival in Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Higgins, courtesy of Lowell Folk Festival)

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The National Folk Festival not only highlights a range of traditional arts practiced across the U.S., but it also showcases those arts and crafts that are characteristic of the host region. For example, an American Indian horse parade opened the festival during its second year in Butte, Montana. (Photo by Laura L. Lundquist. Courtesy of the National Council on Traditional Arts.)

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The national folk festival highlights both older and newer folk traditions, such as breakdance, which has its roots in older dance traditions such as capoeira. Seattle-based breakdance crew Massive Monkees performed at the National Folk Festival this past July. (Photo by Laura L. Lundquist. Courtesy of the National Council on Traditional Arts.)

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The Great Lakes Folk Festival, presented by Michigan State University Museum, includes Meet the Artist sessions in which the public can interact with the festival's featured artists. (Photo courtesy of MSU Museum)

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The Asian art of Mehndi, the application of henna to the body to create temporary designs, is one of the activities at the Great Lakes Festival in Michigan.

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A dancer with Nadia Dieudonne & Feet of Rhythm performs at the American Folk Festival in Bangor, Maine. (Photo by Kevin Bennett)

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One of the hallmarks of folk and traditional arts disciplines is that they have often been passed down through families. For example, blues singer Shemekia Copeland, pictured here at the 70th National Folk Festival, is the daughter of the late master blues guitarist Johnny Clyde Copeland (Photo by Michael G. Stewart. Courtesy of National Council for the Traditional Arts.)

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More than 180,000 people attend Richmond, Virginia's Folk Festival each October. (Photo by Skip Rowland)