Naomi Sturm-Wijesinghe, Executive Director

Contact: naomi [at] folkloreproject.org

Naomi Sturm-Wijesinghe leads PFP’s day-to-day operations and works collaboratively with the board and staff to advance the organization’s social justice mission and impact through innovative programming. A folklorist and ethnomusicologist by training, Naomi specializes in themes of urban and immigrant folklife, indigenous and mestizo traditions of the Americas, Sri Lankan folk arts and waterlore. Her deeply held belief that local knowledge both sustains communities and advances the quality of urban life, is central to PFP’s approach to folklife in service of social change. 

Naomi holds an MA in Ethnomusicology from Columbia University and a BA from Bowdoin College. Her public folklore work, media publications, and writing deal extensively with: 1) issues of ethnic identity, political economy and cultural sustainability, 2) transmedia storytelling and documentation, and 3) exploring new models for holistic economic development through folklife-centered cultural tourism. 

Prior to coming to PFP, Naomi served as the Director of Public Programs for the New York City - based Center for Traditional Music and Dance where she developed and implemented the Sustaining Cultures Program which included Soorya NYC, a multi-year Sri Lankan community based project committed to building interethnic bridges through the island nation’s traditional arts in a post conflict diasporic milieu. From 2014-2017 she served as the Regional Folklorist based at Staten Island Arts where she founded and designed Staten Island’s Working Waterfront: Maritime Folklife of New York City’s Forgotten Borough, an initiative that aimed to revitalize the social capital of Staten Island’s waterfront through cultural heritage tourism based in New York harbor’s unique folk cultural traditions. Naomi is the co-founder of Los Herederos, a media arts non-profit dedicated to inheriting culture in the digital age, and the Quechua Collective of NY, a grassroots collective that advocates for the protection of the endangered Quechua language and serves Quechua speakers in the New York area. She continues to develop her decade - long work on transnational Andean music in NYC and beyond through an interdisciplinary multi-sited project called Urban Condors. She is the Board Secretary for the New York Folklore Society.