An Interview Study of Visitors to Folklife Festival 2018: Armenia and Catalonia

Friday, February 15, 2019
Description or Abstract: 

SOAR conducted an interview study with 32 visit groups to the Folklife Festival 2018. The majority of interviewed visitors expressed that the Festival was a worthwhile experience. Collectively, the findings suggest that the Festival has an important role to play in promoting diversity and cultural awareness in a globalizing world. 

Culture Through Food and Marketplace:

  • Visitors considered affordable food to be an essential part of the Festival experience, allowing them to experience culture in a way that could not be replicated virtually.
  • Visitors without personal connections to the cultures being displayed in the Marketplace were drawn to standard souvenir items such as foods and crafts, whereas visitors who identified with the cultures on display intentionally sought out items related to their respective cultures.
  • Visitors seldom mentioned food or the Marketplace without prompting by the interviewer.

Perceptions of the Festival:

  • Visitors appreciated the blend of written information and hands-on activities.
  • Many adults were hoping to find interactive elements that would allow them to participate in and contribute meaningfully to the programs.
  • Both visitors with and without prior knowledge about Armenia and Catalonia were able to gain a deeper understanding of the two places that could occur only in-person.

Reactions and Reflections:

  • A number of visitors left the Festival with a desire to learn more about the two locations.
  • Many of the visitors who identified as members of the Armenian or Catalonian communities (primarily Armenian in these interviews) visited the Festival not only for the programs, but also to meet and connect with other members of their community.

Authenticity and Accessibility:

  • Visitors pointed out a lack of awareness about the Folklife Festival among communities in D.C. and suggested that advertising across public spaces could bring a more diverse audience.
  • While some visitors applauded the in-depth focus on two places, others were hoping to find a wider variety of themes and activities.
  • For the most part, the Festival appealed both to visitors looking for a vibrant and energetic Festival scene and those looking for an informational and educational event.

Future Relevance:

  • All adults, but especially those visiting with children, appreciated the value of hands-on activities in an otherwise technology-oriented world.
  • Young adult visitors (early to mid-20s) believed that experiencing the Festival in-person was incomparably better than learning about Armenia and Catalonia through online resources. They expressed interest in taking part in other Folklife-related activities throughout the year.