What a Year! Striving for Empathy, Understanding, and Heart in 2023

As 2023 winds down, we want to take a moment to reflect on our year here at the Center for Cultural Vibrancy. We believe that the folk and traditional arts are not simply pleasurable diversions but at the very heart of how individuals express their connection to community, identity, and sense of place in the world. As we build this organization, we work towards using the traditional arts as a tool; one where bridges can be built, empathy can be fostered, understanding can occur. If you agree with our goals and want to help our efforts as we strive to create this new organization, please consider supporting us with a financial contribution.

2023 showed the continued reach of our work, both near and far. A few highlights:


VA soul man Rodney Stith performs at the Center for Cultural Vibrancy Stage at the Richmond Folk Festival (Photo: Pat Jarrett/Virginia Folklife Program).

CCV produced and supported live events throughout the world, from Harlem-based jazz artists touring in Italy to concerts in Colombia. The year began in early January when the Baltimore Crankie Fest brought fire-side Crankie wonder to warm up the chill of Charm City where we commissioned the first ever Crankie to be built in Ethiopia. We continued the year with a celebration of R & B legend Sherman Holmes in Richmond, support for the Black Appalachian musical convening the Affrolachian On-Time Gathering, a residency with the Legendary Ingramettes in Northern Virginia, and a dizzing two-day throw down of traditional musicians on our home stage at the Richmond Folk Fest.


Bluesman Jontavious Willis inspires Baltimore-area students as part of an in-person World Culture in Context Residency (photo: Josh Kohn).

We continue to bring educational programming with our highly-lauded World Culture in Context program, which includes virtual visits between artists and school communities located anywhere alongside a custom-designed curriculum.

BIG NEWS! In 2024/2025 we have partnered with Center Stage, a cultural exchange program that invites performing artists from select countries to tour the United States. We will be visiting with and managing the educational component for artists visiting from Indonesia, Pakistan, Ukraine, and Egypt. This program is produced in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and produced by the New England Foundation for the Arts.


Ouros collaborates with traditional tinku dancers (photo: Tori Talbot)

Finding cultural commonality among traditions is one of our core missions. In April, we shared a collaboration between Bolivian musicians and Appalachian culture-bearers with the Bolivian community of Northern Virginia, a highlight of 2023. The Ouros project found commonality in differences and made for a magical night.

In September, we returned to Ireland where we showcased the African roots of Appalachian Old-Time music with the Africa to Appalachia project. This Irish residency connected with rural Irish communities on stage, in schools, and late into the nights at the pubs.

Griot Cheik Hamala Diabate thrills students in Ireland (photo: Jon Lohman).


Jon Lohman and Josh Kohn of the CCV interview Eka Gordon in Bogota as part of the Champe-Soukous Collective project (photo: David Gaar)

CCV has the fortune to be unbound by borders, and our work in 2023 took us both near and far. We spent part of May in three Colombian cities for a project exploring the musical connections between coastal Colombia and Africa and the role the giant, colorfully decorated mobile sound systems known as picos had in this musical migration. Keep an eye out for a 45rpm record in summer of 2024.

Ustaad Saami (on bench) and son Ralf, work with apprentices in Lahore (photo: Zeb Bangash)

This past summer, we supported the launch of a new transformative project in Lahore, Pakistan. Healing Khayaal follows the preeminent family of the ancient Islamic traditional musical practice of khayaal as they engage with a cohort of apprentices to explore how traditional music and teaching methods can heal mind and spirit. This residency just wrapped and we are excited to share with you documentation and some of the outcomes of the first round of this effort.

Thank you so much for your continued engagement with our work. We wish you a happy and healthy 2024 and hope to see you at one of our events soon.