Cultural traditions—from basket weaving to hip hop—help to tell people’s stories, and are expressions of communities’ identity and heritage.
They are rooted in the past and evolve over time. Though sometimes affected by the insights and innovations of individuals, they reflect the greater evolution of a place or people, such as changes in the natural environment, migration, popular trends, political tensions, and much more.
What cultural traditions can tell us is what matters to people. Dance, music, food preparation, occupational and other traditions reveal what communities think is worth conserving. They show how communities interact and share their lives, including core values, beliefs about the world and spirituality, work ethic, aesthetics and beauty ideals, humor, childrearing practices, and approaches to health and medicine.
Through cultural traditions we can learn about a community’s heritage and identity, and communities and individuals can learn more about themselves.
To support and advance understanding of the living cultural heritage of Washington, the CWCT is embarking on a multi-year project to survey local communities’ diverse cultural traditions.
By working collaboratively with a variety of local community leaders and culture keepers we will document cultural traditions at a grassroots level, and assist local communities in identifying strategies for long-term perpetuation of these traditions. Ultimately, a key goal is for people who are living alongside one another to better understand their neighbors, and to better and more fully appreciate our diverse pasts in order to ensure a more sustainable future.
About the “Survey”
Inspired by, and in response to, what we learned through the Landscape Analysis of Cultural Traditions of Washington State and our Community Meeting Series, the CWCT will conduct research on cultural traditions in a new region of the state each year with the help and guidance of local leaders (Year 1). We’ll then develop programs or projects (e.g. events, exhibits, workshops, curricula) that support local communities in those areas (Years 2 and beyond).
More generally, goals of this ongoing project are to:
- Work with local communities to identify, learn from, and document cultural traditions important to the area;
- Create digital media, such as free videos and podcasts to be hosted online, helping tradition bearers tell the stories of their communities to a broader audience;
- Hold public events in which folk and traditional artists, and other tradition bearers, can share their skills, ideas, and cultures;
- Create a roster of tradition bearers willing to do guest talks or demonstrations at schools, museums, and other locations;
- Identify longer-term opportunities to support traditional communities; and
- Commit to at least one year of follow-up engagement with selected communities, in order to honor engagement and culturally-appropriate mutual giving
Come on this journey with us! To learn more about the Cultural Traditions Survey, or to be part of ongoing efforts, contact Center Director Kristin Sullivan by email, or at 206/682-1770 ext.107.
Want to see what we’re learning in a specific region? Click on a link below to read more about local efforts:
- Yakima Valley (Valle de Yakima, en Español), began 2018
- Twin Harbors (lower Grays Harbor County and Pacific County), to begin 2019
The 2018 Cultural Traditions Survey is supported in part by funding from the National Endowment for the Arts: Art Works Program, and the Yakima Valley Community Foundation.
(Image: Yakama Tribal Fishing at the Horn Rapids Dam. Photo by Scott Butner via Flickr)