Mission & History

What We Do

The Philadelphia Folklore Project is widely regarded as a beacon for socially conscious and anti-racist work in the fields of public folklore, applied ethnomusicology, and anthropology. One of a few independent folk and traditional arts nonprofits nationwide, PFP remains a model for how to sustain vital and diverse living cultural heritage.

Founded in 1987, the Philadelphia Folklore Project documents, supports, and presents Philadelphia-area folk arts and culture, including the arts of people who have been here for generations and those who have just arrived. In collaboration with local artists and community groups, we seek to preserve and strengthen our city’s folk cultural life because we recognize that diversity, equity, and inclusion are central elements of thriving communities.

We are known for highlighting the dynamic cultural resources of Philadelphia’s underserved communities, which are often overlooked due to systemic and structural inequities. We do this through ethnographic work grounded in a practice of deep listening to the lived experiences and struggles of local people. We identify traditional artists, community leaders, and grassroots organizations, whom we then partner with, helping them to attain their own ideals for cultural and community sustainability. This takes multiple forms, such as the creation of urban folk arts programs, technical assistance in receiving grants or becoming a 501(c)(3), and collaborative artistic projects. All of this is done with the goal of prioritizing folk and traditional arts in service of social change.

Annually, we offer exhibitions, concerts, workshops, and professional assistance to artists and communities. We conduct ongoing field research of community-based local arts, history, and culture, and we preserve a record of Philadelphia’s folklife in our 80,000+ item Folklore Archives, which houses documents of Philadelphia’s folk communities and cultural resources for over three decades. Our arts education programs give young people opportunities to study with amazing and diverse artists. Our publications, videos, traveling exhibitions, and other resources offer diverse perspectives and understandings of Philadelphia. Through our work, we aim to deepen public understanding of local traditional arts and the peoples and communities that create them.