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  • Sabrina Lynn Motley Named Director of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival

    Sabrina Lynn Motley, senior director of programs and exhibitions at Asia Society Texas Center, has been appointed director of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, effective Dec. 4. With a diverse background in arts, education, philanthropy and community engagement, Motley is known for the development of content-rich programming and a multidisciplinary approach to nurturing the work of artists and cultural organizations.

    “Sabrina’s background reflects a passion for the ways in which public presentations are conceived, executed and evaluated,” said Michael Mason, director of the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. “We will soon launch a new strategic plan calling for greater integration of the Center’s program areas, which will enable Sabrina to re-envision the Festival.”

    In 2012, Motley was hired by Asia Society Texas Center to create a mission-driven framework for core programs in areas of arts and culture, business and policy, and education. Under Motley’s leadership, the Texas Center expanded its public offerings and strengthened its collaborative approach to program creation and implementation. Through performances, lectures, exhibitions and workshops, its programming reflected Houston’s rapidly changing demographics and its role as a gateway to Asia. While at the Texas Center, Motley oversaw the mounting of several critically acclaimed exhibitions, including Universe Is Flux: The Art of Tawara Yusaku, organized by the Indianapolis Museum, and Weavers’ Stories from Island Southeast Asia, organized by the Fowler Museum at UCLA. Motley’s most recent exhibitions speak to her ongoing interest in exploring the creative lives of women and the role of traditional arts in contemporary life.

    Motley received her bachelor’s degree from the World Arts & Cultures Program and a master’s degree in African studies at UCLA. She is a doctoral candidate in anthropology at UCLA, where she conducted research on the interplay between religious faith, doubt and social activism. An avid photographer and world music aficionada, for more than five years Motley was a popular host of “The Global Village,” KPFK 90.7 FM’s flagship music program. As a teacher, Motley has taught cultural anthropology at the Art Center College of Design and the Otis Institute for Art and Design.

    “Since its inception in 1967, the Festival has been celebrated as the nation’s laboratory for cultural exchange and exploration through artist-focused, research-based programming,” said Motley. “As it approaches its 50th anniversary, we are charged with investigating new avenues to support cultural sustainability and vitality, using new tools such as social media to amplify the Festival’s mission even as it stays true to its core values and purpose.”

    The Smithsonian Folklife Festival, inaugurated in 1967, celebrates traditional culture with people from across the United States and around the world. The Festival includes daily programs of music, song and dance, crafts, occupational skills and cooking demonstrations, storytelling, workshops and narrative sessions for discussing cultural issues. It attracts approximately 1 million visitors a year. The Festival is a research-based production of the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. For more information about the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, visit

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    Linda St.Thomas

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