The Washington State Folklife Council (WSFC) was established in 1983, tasked to survey the folk artists of the region ahead of the Washington state centennial in November 1989.
The council's work took them throughout the state - interviewing roughly 200 different artists, attending multiple cultural festival events, visiting a dozen museums and community-centered organizaitons, and traveling an estimated 10,800 miles around Washington. 

On this journey to gather snapshots of folklife along U.S. 101 on the Olympic Penninsula & Pacific coast and over I-90 through the Columbia plateau - and all other state and federal highways inbetween - the researchers encountered a wide array of folk arts and culture within the state's boundaries.  

Each region and county the council visited - distinctive in geography and population - found the folklife and folk arts reflective of the unique ethnic and occupational makeup of the areas.


Map from the WSFC 1989 publication, "Folk Arts of Washington State: A Survey of Contemporary Folk Arts and Artists in the State of Washington"

The work of the council not only resulted in a 1989 final publication of their research titled "Folk Arts of Washington State: A Survey of Contemporary Folk Arts and Artists in the State of Washington", but also stemmed two curated exhibitions showcasing the works of the folk artists the council encountered.

The first exhibition was the 1987 Governor's Invitational Art Exhibition: Folk Art of Washington Statehosted at the since-closed State Capital Museum in Olympia, WA and curated by Lisa Hill-Festa. 

This inaugural exhibition was followed by a traveling exhibition in the 1988 Governor's Invitational Art Exhibition: 'For As Long As I Can Remember...' - Folk Art of Washington State curated by Susan Torntore.

The exhibition opened at the State Capital Museum before voyaging to:

  • Northwest Folklife Festival - Seattle, WA 
  • Yakima Valley Museum and Historical Society - Yakima, WA
  • Museum of Native American Cultures - Spokane, WA
  • North Central Washington Museum - Wenatchee, WA
  • Anacortes Museum - Anacortes, WA
  • Grant County Historical Society Museum - Ephrata, WA


Photo of WSFC director, Jens Lund, with staff & artists - State Capital Museum, Olympia, WA, 1987


In reflection of the WSFC's final publication, this virtual exhibition isn't intended to be the "...last word on the subject..." of shedding light on the incredible framework of cultural arts that have existed in Washington state for generations. Rather, this is curated in hopes to celebrate the labor of care, travel, and conscientiousness demonstrated by the council and it's staff.


Follow along the state highways and roads with the Washington State Folklife Council to discover unique and vibrant folklife communities as diverse as the environments of Washington state.

Note from curator: as of 2024 there are 39 established counties in Washington state - with 7 counties not represented in the collection: Columbia, Douglas, Garfield, Klickitat, Pend Oreille, Skagit, and Skamania. Counties that did not have materials included in the collection from the time of the council's survey work in the 1980s are not included in this exhibition to most accurately reflect the collection in the archives at The Evergreen State College.































Title banner photo - painting by Stella Fisk-Forrester of Okanogan County
All photos from The Evergreen State College Archives