It’s a Learning Experience: Inside Participant Orientation for the Citified Program

Curators Olivia Cadaval and Diana N’Diaye introduce participants to the festival program.

In preparation for this summer’s Folklife Festival, the Citified staff team met up with the program participants at the Anacostia Community Museum on Saturday, June 9, to explain some logistics of the upcoming event.  From all the email and phone conversations that we have had prior to this meeting, it was clear that people had lots of questions about how the Folklife Festival operates and what they will be expected to do at it.

The participant pre-orientation was very successful in clearing up uncertainties and in clarifying what will actually happen when we’re out on the National Mall.  We began the morning with a history of the Festival and an explanation of how a community is created among the program participants on the Mall over the event’s ten days. We then delved deeper into specifics about the types of sessions and settings within the Citified program and shared information about the other two Festival programs, Campus and Community and Creativity and Crisis.

Participant staff Shyra Peyton and Stella Braudy talk to Folklife Festival participants in the pre-orientation.

Participants learned that the Citified program will be comprised of a series of stages and tents along the National Mall and that these venues host different types of performances.  The “Panorama Room” is the main stage within the Citified program, and it hosts large musical and dance performances. The narrative stage of “Good Hope and Naylor Corner” hosts a variety of more intimate performances than what would be seen at the Panorama Room. These narrative sessions encourage audience participation as well as interaction among participants. Finally “Douglass Hall” is the craft tent. Artists will have a chance to do open air demonstrations of their work and engage volunteers who will also be able to make some pieces of their own.

Participants Head Roc and Melani Douglass look through their orientation folders.

We wrapped up the day with other Festival logistics that are crucial for all participant to know–everything from where to check in for lunch tickets to when information for stage “backlines” are due. This was an invaluable meeting for staff and participants, and everyone left with a greater understanding about what the Folklife Festival is trying to create and the part that they will play within it.

Kate Aebischer is an intern with the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, where she is working on the Citified: Arts and Creativity East of the Anacostia River program. She is studying anthropology at The College of New Jersey.