In July 2023, the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage launched a new partnership with UPLIFT North Carolina to support rural community-driven tourism efforts. Over the course of the two-year project, the Center will provide participatory workshops and mentorship, working with UPLIFT partners to support and develop festivals and cultural heritage tourism experiences that benefit both visitors and communities.
“North Carolina is rich with cultural heritage, and we are especially grateful for the opportunity to work with rural communities in central and eastern counties,” said Halle Butvin, director of special projects at the Center. “What’s more, with UPLIFT we are able to bring the Center’s Cultural Heritage Tourism Initiative to communities in the United States for the first time.”
In August, Butvin and senior curator Dr. Diana Baird N’Diaye traveled to North Carolina to launch the partnership and lead workshops for 145 local festival organizers. The one-day workshops drew on tools like participatory research and Smithsonian Folklife Festival modes of presentation, highlighting the importance of community engagement. Participants received a digital toolkit with templates, examples, and other resources for festival design and management.
“Eastern North Carolina is home—or ancestral home—to many African American artists representing heritage and heritage-inspired craft,” noted N’Diaye, who also leads the Center’s African American Craft Initiative. “When designed in collaboration with community, local festivals offer tremendous potential to sustain and share these practices.”
“We are so excited to be working with the Center to bring their knowledge and experience to support rural North Carolina communities in their efforts to build vibrant local tourism economies based on their natural and cultural heritage,” said Simon Jones of NatureScapes, who co-leads the UPLIFT program with partners from Appalachian State University and North Carolina State University.
About UPLIFT North Carolina
The goal of UPLIFT is to support tourism through community driven efforts in rural North Carolina. UPLIFT works regionally—across county borders—to support local tourism leaders and practitioners in realizing their vision for tourism in their community, including natural, recreational, cultural, agricultural, culinary, built, and other tourism.
About the Cultural Vitality Program
The Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage’s Cultural Vitality Program bolsters community efforts to preserve and practice living cultural heritage in the face of social, economic, and political challenges. The program aims to understand and mitigate threats to cultural vitality, scale our impact through partnerships, convenings, and thought leadership, and transform public understanding of cultural diversity.