Naomi Sturm-Wijesinghe - Community Outreach & Engagement


Naomi often consults on arts and culture planning processes across North America and is the co-chair of the Cultural Diversity Committee of the American Folklore Society that seeks to reshape the way the organization promotes diversity and inclusion initiatives.  A 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 urban and immigrant folklife and participatory action field research, to grassroots fundraising and non-profit management with a focus on transformative organizational change. It is her deeply held belief that local knowledge both sustains communities and advances the quality of urban life. 

Naomi is the co-founder of Los Herederos, a media arts non-profit dedicated to inheriting culture in the digital age, and the Quechua Collective of NY, a grassroots collective that advocates for the protection of the endangered Quechua language and serves Quechua speakers in the New York area. She is also a Part-Time Faculty at the New School and the Creative Traditions Program Director for City Lore.

Naomi was formerly the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Folklore Project (PFP) 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. Among her many accomplishments while at Staten Island Arts, she worked on the 2017 CreateNYC Cultural Plan via the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, which featured her program as a model for neighborhood cultural development and sustainability.

During her time working as a folklorist in the partnership program of the New York State Council on the Arts in New York City, Naomi participated in several pioneering professional development and mentorship programs made available to state folk arts partners. These time-tested and constantly evolving programs, such as the New York State Folk Arts Roundtable and the New York Folklore Mentoring and Professional Development Program, serve as models for her current professional development work and offerings. 

Naomi resides in Rockland, New York and holds an MA in Ethnomusicology from Columbia University and a BA from Bowdoin College.