June 30-July 11, 2006
The 2006 Festival, celebrating its 40th year on the National Mall of the United States, again presented a compelling, research-based sampling of the diverse traditions of America and the world to large public audiences in an educational, respectful, and profoundly democratic way. Employing a format it had both pioneered and mastered, the Festival illustrated the vital, living aspect of cultural heritage and provided a forum for discussion of issues of contemporary concern.
For the first time, the Festival featured a Canadian province - Alberta, which had just completed its own celebration of its centennial. Albertans have created a dynamic home for diverse peoples - aboriginal inhabitants, settlers, and later immigrants - in a varied and dramatic landscape. They've built large worldclass industries - oil and gas, ranching, farming, forestry - as well as two large, modern metropolises, Calgary and Edmonton, all the while being creative in the arts and sciences. Festival visitors could see how Alberta's oil sands are mined and processed, witness ranching skills, appreciate fine Native craftsmanship, hear ballads from talented singer-songwriters, and experience their contemporary "Theatresports." The Festival program resulted from close collaboration between the Smithsonian and its Albertan partners, and was a testament to how good will and common purpose can effectively cross borders and serve the educational and cultural interests of Canadians, Americans, and a broader visiting public.
The same kind of engaged collaborative partnership was illustrated through the Carriers of Culture program that brought together the Festival, the National Museum of the American Indian, Michigan State University Museum, and a network of Native basket makers' organizations around the United States. The collaboration was built upon the needs of basket makers themselves, in the face of various challenges to their living heritage. Basket makers need access to trees, bushes, and plants untainted by pollutants; they need recognition, appreciation, and access to markets as well as opportunities to train the next generation. Festival visitors could meet scores of basket makers from dozens of Native communities from every part of the United States. They demonstrated their masterful techniques, making baskets of meaning and delight in every imaginable shape and texture. Their participation in the Festival, including sales at the marketplace and related public programs and consultations at the National Museum of the American Indian, was part of a cultural self-help strategy, shaped by participatory research, and aiming to assure the vitality of long-lived traditions.
Nuestra Música: Latino Chicago reflected another substantive partnership. The Festival joined the Smithsonian Latino Center and Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music to present a small sampler of Rico and just about every nation in Latin America - have made the Chicago area their home. Cultural institutions, dozens of community-based dance groups, and myriad shops, clubs, and restaurants indicate the growth and vitality of the community. Music is both a measure and symbol of that vitality. On the Mall, visitors joined in Mexican folk and contemporary dances, heard the beat of Puerto Rican bomba and plena, and enjoyed Andean music and song. Through the Festival's live performances, as well as through the related Grammy-nominated Smithsonian Folkways series of Latino recordings, the Smithsonian sought to provide a means for Americans to understand each other, to speak, listen, and be heard.
Finally, the Been in the Storm So Long concert series at the Festival represented an important collaboration between the Festival and the new National Museum of African American History and Culture. The Festival itself grew in part from events on the Mall during the Civil Rights Movement, and thousands of leading figures of African American culture have graced its stages and illustrated their traditions through its programs over the preceding four decades. To initiate the partnership, the Museum and the Festival featured musicians from New Orleans: folks who were hit with the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but nonetheless strove, with determination and grace, to continue the cultural traditions that give their communities their unique character and uplifting spirit so admired and appreciated around the world. Concerts featured New Orleans jazz, rhythm & blues, and sacred music.
The 2006 Festival took place for two five-day weeks (June 30-July 4 and July 7-11) between Madison Drive and Jefferson Drive and between 7th Street and 14th Street, south of the National Museum of American History and the National Museum of Natural History.