SoHum Woman Picked to Head Western Folklife Center

Kristin Windbigler

Kristin Windbigler

A well-known Southern Humboldt woman, Kristin Windbigler, has been selected to take over as Executive Director of the Western Folklife Center, whose programs including the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering “explore and give voice to traditional and dynamic cultures of the American West.”

Here’s their press release–the latter part includes quite a bit of information about Windbigler.

Western Folklife Center Executive Director David Roche has announced his retirement, effective June 30, 2017. As a key part of a planned leadership transition, Western Folklife Center Board Trustee Kristin Windbigler will take over as Executive Director July 1. Windbigler has served as Director of TED’s Translators Program for the last nine year. TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks.

David Roche

David Roche led nonprofit organizations as a senior director over three decades prior to his arrival in Elko as Executive Director in 2014. During his tenure at the Western Folklife Center, Roche has maintained the quality and integrity of the Western Folklife Center’s programs, including the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, while continuing to move the organization forward.

He engaged local support for the Folklife Center by helping to re-establish the Nevada Task Force, a group of local volunteers who are assisting the work of the organization year round. He engaged with City and County leaders to invigorate cultural activity in the downtown corridor redevelopment zone, and attracted new supporters to local projects through an award from ArtPlace America, a national funding project supporting art placemaking. Western Folklife Center is the first recipient of the award in Nevada. During his tenure, Roche supported many critical projects that showcased Western arts and culture, including the award-winning Deep West Video program, which partners with students from the Owyhee School on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation to make short films and translate them into the Shoshoni language, and Moving Rural Verse, poetry films highlighting topics of water in the West. Roche also built partnerships with national storytelling organizations like StoryCorps and The Moth, and expanded National Cowboy Poetry Gathering programs to encompass the genre of storytelling in the West.

“It’s been a special honor for me to have had the opportunity to lead the Western Folklife Center over the last three years,” says Roche. “The importance of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering on so many social and economic levels for Elko and the American West calls out for more and more broad support in order for this unique festival to continue as a beacon of humanist expression. The Western Folklife Center has taught me so much about what it means to be inclusive of all folks who call the West home.”

Kristin Windbigler’s association with the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering began nearly 20 years ago and her participation expanded when she began making Deep West Videos in 2005. She has since made seven films and mentored other filmmakers. For the last four years, she has served on the Western Folklife Center Board of Trustees and was appointed board vice chair in 2016. For the last nine years, Windbigler has served as director of the TED Translators Program, which works with 27,000 volunteers in 155 countries to translate TED talks into 114 languages. She launched and developed the volunteer program that gives global access to TED’s multi-lingual content. In the early days of the Internet, Windbigler was the executive producer of Wired Magazine’s “Webmonkey,” a learning site for web developers that was used by millions. She has also worked as a journalist and editor, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from California State University, Chico, where she was managing editor of the Chico State newspaper, The Orion. Windbigler is from Blocksburg, California, in rural Humboldt County, where her family was involved in ranching and logging.

“I fell in love with the Gathering that first year I attended because I saw my own culture-the life I grew up in-recognized, examined, celebrated and lauded,” explains Windbigler. “The Western Folklife Center and the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering explore and give voice to the traditional and dynamic cultures of the American West, and I couldn’t be more thrilled and humbled by this opportunity to grow the organization and reach new audiences.”

At the Western Folklife Center, Windbigler hopes to nurture the deep connections everyone makes at the Gathering as well as foster new ones by using technology to bring the organization’s far-flung community together year around. In line with the Folklife Center’s mission “to use story and cultural expression to connect the American West to the world,” Windbigler will emphasize knowledge and skill-sharing within the Center’s community of artists and supporters to create new ways to participate while ensuring valued traditions of cultural expression are passed from one generation to the next.

“On behalf of the Board of Trustees I would like to thank David for his leadership over the past three years,” stated Board Chairman Paul Caudill. “And with Kristin’s love for the mission of the Western Folklife Center, and her deep background in the cultural arts and media, we are excited about our future.”



  • Congrats, Kristin. They couldn’t have made a better choice. Be careful, H.P. Lar….. will be looking over your shoulder.

  • Russell Burgess

    Congratulations, well deserved.

  • Bring Martha Scanlan to Humboldt! Greatest voice in the west!

  • Congratulations Kristin, I know your Loving Mom and Dad would be so proud to see this. I know I am. Thank you for your fine journalism and supporting rural lifestyle. Love you and the coverage of Blocksburg you did during the fire threat here. Your writings and wisdom are appreciated

  • Congratulations Kristin! All the best in this new chapter both for you and the Western Folklife Center! the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering sounds amazing! Definitely going to my bucket list.

  • Congratulations from KPHT-lp Fat 99 at 99.9fm on Laytonville.

    Having been to Elko for The Gathering several times, and trying to promote Cowboy Poetry on our radio station, I’m sure we’ll work well together.

    (note to those that know me: See, I have more interests besides broadcasting, such as the special charter Cowboy Poetry train next January to Elko)

    Check your cinch and ride like hell Kristin

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