Conservation Successes Featured at the 2022 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

June 2, 2022
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The 2022 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, returning to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., after a two-year hiatus, will highlight positive environmental stories from the Smithsonian’s Earth Optimism movement. Visitors to the festival’s “Earth Optimism × Folklife: Inspiring Conservation Communities” program will experience 11 days of workshops, demonstrations, performances, family activities and discussion sessions exploring actions that are making a difference. 

This year’s festival, which also features “United Arab Emirates: Living Landscapes | Living Memories,” runs from June 22 to 27 and June 30 to July 4. The festival will open with an evening concert Wednesday, June 22. Starting Thursday, June 23, daytime programming will be presented from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Special evening events, including concerts and a film screening, start shortly after the conclusion of the daytime programming. The festival, which is free and open to the public, is located on the National Mall between Seventh and 12th streets. It is presented by the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in partnership with the National Park Service.

“Earth Optimism × Folklife” celebrates what is working in conservation. By changing the narrative from despair to optimism and possibility, the program shines a light on individual and community efforts to address people’s most pressing challenges. 

“We are excited to collaborate with our Folklife colleagues,” said Earth Optimism initiative co-founder Ruth Anna Stolk. “‘Earth Optimism × Folklife’ is part of our ongoing work of sharing stories of conservation, creativity and community with a broader audience. When we expand the focus from problems to solutions, we encourage people to replicate and scale up these successful activities, creating new ways of living, learning and working toward a shared sustainable future.”

Visitors will encounter examples of practical solutions and positive change presented by community leaders, artisans, innovators, scientists, artists and others working to create a sustainable planet. The program will inform, inspire and, most importantly, leave visitors with hope for the planet and ideas of how to get involved with projects within their own communities and around the world. 

Festival programs are divided into four different thematic areas:

  • In the “Animals, Plants, and Us” area, visitors can view the beadwork of the Kenyan Maasai Mara region artists, learning how it relates to wildlife management and conservation, and will join artisans from the U.S., Mongolia and Uganda to discover how to go “Around the World in 80 Fabrics” using natural fibers.  
  • In the “Coastal Connections” space, visitors can see how communities are taking action to better manage coastal ecosystems. Visitors can learn about restoration efforts in the Chesapeake Bay and talk with artisans and entrepreneurs in Belize who are transforming the problematic lionfish into tasty dishes and jewelry. 
  • In the “Community Solutions” area, visitors will be inspired by solutions to challenges that impact their daily life—pollution, food and water security, and clean energy. Visitors can learn about urban food hubs and discover how restoring traditions of seed saving and sharing can preserve the biodiversity and heritage of crops. 
  • The “Fields and Forests” space will highlight this critical habitat for many species of plants and animals. Visitors can learn about sustainable practices by exploring how American ginseng has affected the history, economy and culture of the Appalachian region as well as new and old uses of fungi in food, medicine, building and fashion. 

Everyone, regardless of age and ability, will find a “People-Powered Science” activity that engages their interests in the family activities area. 

A highlight of “Earth Optimism × Folklife” is the outdoor screening of the one-hour documentary film, My Garden of a Thousand Bees. Taking refuge from the pandemic, acclaimed wildlife filmmaker Martin Dohrn sets out to record the incredible variety of wild bees in his small urban garden. The film is a production of Passion Planet, the WNET Group and HHMI Tangled Bank Studios in association with Ammonite Films. The screening is presented by HHMI Tangled Bank Studios, a mission-driven production company dedicated to crafting compelling, immersive films about science and scientists. 

Earth Optimism is grateful for the support of Amtrak, Ford Motor Company, HHMI Tangled Bank Studios and United Airlines. Additional support is provided by the Smithsonian Women’s Committee and the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative.

Marketplace and Concessions

This year’s Festival Marketplace highlights the creativity, cultural heritage and masterful skills of artisans and participants. From sustainable, ecofriendly soaps and salves to artisan-made products in special pop-up shop from festival collaborator NOVICA, visitors will find unique clothing, jewelry, home goods, art, personal care products and more at a range of price points. Festival-branded merchandise and a selection of related Smithsonian Folkways recordings will also be available for purchase. The design of the Festival Marketplace is inspired by the traditional Arabic souk. Open daily from 10:30 am to 6:30 p.m., the Festival Marketplace will be located at the Freer Plaza on the National Mall side of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art.

Food concessions, featuring dishes made with sustainably produced products and locally produced ingredients, will be available for purchase throughout the festival.


The festival strives to maintain an accessible and inclusive environment for visitors of all abilities. Accessible seating is available at all performance venues, and a limited number of wheelchairs are available for loan each day. Assistive listening devices are available, and American Sign Language interpretation, real-time captioning and audio description services will be offered for a wide range of events. Additional resources and supports will be available onsite, including Large-print and Braille materials and a festival sensory guide.   

The festival will host “Morning on the Mall” events Sunday, June 26, and Saturday, July 2, at 9:30 a.m. for individuals with autism, sensory sensitivities or other cognitive disabilities who may benefit from a more relaxed and supported environment. For more information and to register for the event, email

Updated information, resources and accessibility service schedules for the Folklife Festival are available.

About the Festival

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival, inaugurated in 1967, honors contemporary living cultural traditions and celebrates those who practice and sustain them. Produced annually by the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in partnership with the National Park Service, the festival has featured participants from all 50 states and more than 100 countries. Follow the festival on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

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Note to editors: Photos can be found via Dropbox here.

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