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How to Participate

Five men performing on stage in matching white shirts and pants, some with red vest. Two in front play harmonium and tablas while others clap. Smithsonian Folklife Festival logo on the screen behind them.
Riyaaz Qawwali, representing Sufi musical traditions from Houston, Texas, performed in a preview event at the 2022 Festival.
Photo by Sonya Pencheva, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

The 2023 Smithsonian Folklife Festival program Living Religion: Creative Encounters in the U.S. explores how the country’s diverse religious traditions inspire a wellspring of creative encounters and expressions. The program centers the stories and lived experiences of Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, followers of Native American and African-inspired religions, Humanists, and other religious and ethical traditions.

The Festival will be held June 28 to July 9, 2023. The event will gather clergy and laypeople, elders and youth, artists and academics, and a host of others from around the country on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., for performances, workshops, demonstrations, discussions, and other activities that demonstrate how religion and spirituality manifest as human experience.

If you are interested in participating in the program, please read through the following page and follow the link to the Participant Interest Survey. We will use the information collected to identify individuals and groups who will present at the Festival.

Presentation spaces will include:

  • A formal music and dance venue with stage and dance floor for musical, dance, processions, and storytelling performances and workshops
  • Cooking and food demonstration areas
  • Altars
  • Meditation spaces
  • Craft demonstration areas
  • A narrative stage for thematic discussions and panels
  • A family area with activities geared toward younger visitors

Experts across the country are encouraged to apply, but we are especially interested in those from the following cities and states:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Oklahoma
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Fergus Falls, Minnesota
  • Honolulu, Hawai‘i
  • Houston, Texas
  • Lafayette, Lousiana
  • Miami, Florida
  • Oakland, California
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Washington, D.C.

Selected candidates should be able to:  

  • Attend the Festival June 28 to July 9, 2023, in Washington, D.C.
  • Provide hands-on learning opportunities for visitors of all ages (e.g. workshops, discussions, activities, performances, or demonstrations)
  • Present cultural expressions in accessible and interactive ways (i.e. without screens or PowerPoint presentations)
  • Represent diverse geographical, gender, or ethnic identities
  • Present on multiple areas of expertise

Please note that the Festival is held outside on the National Mall. Participants must be able to withstand the outdoor summer climate of D.C. for eight hours at a time, with temperatures often reaching or exceeding ninety degrees. All participants have access to the Festival’s participant hospitality tent, where they can hydrate and rest during breaks.

Click the button to complete the survey. 


Key Themes


Frequently Asked Questions


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