2019 Artist in Residence: International Rescue Committee and Rebecca Folsom

June 20, 2019 – Denver – Folk Alliance International (FAI) marked World Refugee Day with the announcement that 2020’s Artist In Residence project will partner Denver-based musician Rebecca Folsom with the International Rescue Committee in Denver in an extended songwriting workshop with refugees.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and gain control of their future. Based in more than 40 countries and in 26 U.S. cities, the IRC’s work encompasses the continuum of the refugee experience, from flight to resettlement to integration. In 2018, the US offices of the IRC served 9,127 people with economic empowerment programs, assisted 2,175 asylum seekers, and resettled 5,374 refugees.

Rebecca Folsom is a multi-disciplinary artist with a 20-year national touring career. Known for her Appalachia and blues stylings, she has ten recordings to her credit and an upcoming album entitled Sanctuary. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts, is an active exhibiting painter and has published two books of poetry. For over 25 years she has facilitated Vocal Freedom Trainings to assist individuals and groups to recover, empower, and express their authentic voice.

Working with the Psychosocial Support Program staff of the IRC in Denver, Folsom will lead the AIR project and facilitate an extended songwriting workshop with participating refugees. “In a time when divisiveness and marginalization have become a growing norm, it is a deep honor to explore and co-create a musical humanitarian bridge with the youth and adult asylum-seekers of IRC” stated artist Folsom.

“Through engagement in the AIR project, our clients will have the opportunity to bring forth their voices and stories–narratives of strength, resilience, and humanity that are far too often absent from the dialogue around in immigration,” said Jennifer Wilson, the IRC in Denver’s Executive Director. “We are thrilled to enter into this partnership, and look forward to the rich exchange that will unfold through the artistic process and in sharing the songs that result through this artistic collaboration.”

“The intent of this project is not to teach people how to write songs, but to support the musical expression of their human experience and perspective,” explained Aengus Finnan, Executive Director of Folk Alliance International.

The music created through the AIR project will be shared at Folk Alliance International’s 32nd annual conference on January 22-26, 2020, in New Orleans. The industry event draws 2,900 delegates representing 47 different countries and will be focused on Cultural Equity through its theme of The Story of People and Place.

Launched in 2015, the AIR program was created to foster cultural cross-pollination, diversify audiences, and nurture artistic growth by pairing folk musicians with institutions and community organizations through innovative partnerships. Past partnerships have included UNESCO, the WWI Museum, Kansas City Ballet, Kansas City Police Department, and the Topeka Women’s Correctional Facility.