A vibrantly colored photo of dancers in motion, reading "Hello friends!"Northwest Folklife Festival, 2015. Photo by Doug Plummer.

From the Director

Dear Friends,

Have you ever looked at a financial statement and started crying? (I know, this is an odd way to open a letter, but bear with me.) We just completed our annual audit for 2020, a year that changed everything, that changed us, that pushed us to grow in ways that previously seemed impossible. It was so strange to see the entire year reduced to rows and columns of numbers.

Usually I find reviewing financial statements to be tedious, rather boring work. But this time—this year—the financial statements seemed to come alive, each number telling a piece of our pandemic story. The numbers represent the grief and disbelief we felt when we had to cancel in-person camps. The numbers contain the PPP loan and the relief of knowing we could keep everyone employed. And the numbers don’t just represent the incredible generosity within our community; those digits contain the moment we realized that we weren’t just going to survive this, we were going to adapt and thrive. We were going to do everything we could to meet the immediate needs of local dance, music, and song communities, while stepping boldly into program expansion for the future.

The pandemic is not over, and we are not back to normal, but we are seeing progress and hope. And maybe “back to normal” shouldn’t be the goal, anyway. We have learned too much and seen too many new possibilities to just go back. And we have a better understanding of the role of human togetherness in our lives and in our hearts.

As communities and organizations begin taking their first cautious steps toward reunion, it will be with new awareness of connection and community, and new ideas for how to collaborate from afar. We may not all be ready for the same things at the same time. And it’s hard for singers, dancers, and musicians to feel out of sync with each other. But we know better how to take care of each other from a distance, how to breathe through uncertainty, how to wait, and how to utilize technology to get through hard times. We know we can get through this next chapter, because we’ve come this far. And I believe our new collective understanding of isolation, loneliness, and the need for human togetherness has made us all more aware, more empathetic, and ultimately better equipped to weather difficult times.

It’s funny: I’ve spent all year dreaming about a return to normal, but now my inclination isn’t to go back, it’s to go forward. I want to run toward the next chapter. I want to see how we’re going to come back together and build thriving joyful communities of dance, music, and song. I look at these numbers in a financial statement and see the story of an organization that, because of an incredibly resilient and generous community, was able to envision a new future for our programs and our larger community. So let’s not focus on a return. Let’s focus on a reunion and a reimagining. Let’s build something beautiful together.

Sincerely,
Katy
Katy German, Executive Director

     
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