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Naomi Sturm-Wijesinghe

Photo of Naomi Sturm-Wijesinghe

A public folklorist and ethnomusicologist by training, Naomi has more than 15 years of experience working at every level of small to mid-sized non-profit arts organizations. Her specialties range from immigrant and urban place-based folklife, to grassroots fundraising and non-profit management. Naomi is the founding Executive Director of Los Herederos, a media arts non-profit dedicated to inheriting culture in the digital age. She is also the Creative Traditions Program Director for City Lore and an adjunct professor at the New School. Her practice centers around interdisciplinary ethnography and working collaboratively in communities to encourage meaningful social transformation via the folk and traditional arts. It is her deeply held belief that local knowledge both sustains communities and advances the quality of everyday life. Her public folklore work, media publications, and writing deal extensively with issues of ethnic identity, political economy and cultural sustainability, transmedia storytelling and documentation, and exploring new models for holistic economic development through folklife-centered cultural tourism. 

Naomi was formerly the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Folklore Project and worked collaboratively with its board and staff to advance the organization’s social justice mission and impact through innovative programming. Earlier in her career, Naomi served as the Director of Public Programs for the New York City-based Center for Traditional Music and Dance where she developed and implemented the Sustaining Cultures Program which included Soorya NYC, a multi-year Sri Lankan community based project committed to building interethnic bridges through the island nation’s traditional arts in a post conflict diasporic milieu. From 2014-2017 she served as the Regional Folklorist based at Staten Island Arts where she founded and designed Staten Island’s Working Waterfront: Maritime Folklife of New York City’s Forgotten Borough, an initiative that aimed to revitalize the social capital of Staten Island’s waterfront through cultural heritage tourism based in New York harbor’s unique folk cultural traditions. This project and program model later expanded to include a host of regional partners and to cover the entirety of New York harbor and other state waterways. The 2017 CreateNYC Cultural Plan published by the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, featured Staten Island’s Working Waterfront as a model for neighborhood cultural development and sustainability.

Naomi holds an MA in Ethnomusicology from Columbia University and a BA from Bowdoin College. She has been a Board Member of NY Folklore and currently serves as the co-chair of the Cultural Diversity Committee of the American Folklore Society. She continues to develop her decade – long work on transnational Andean music in NYC and beyond through an interdisciplinary multi-sited project called Urban Condors.