Texas Folklife, headquartered in Austin, is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and celebration of the traditions and folkways of Texas. In 1984, three folklorists conducted the Texas Folk Art Survey and traveled across the state in search of authentic Texas folkways. They found, in communities large and small from the Panhandle to the Rio Grande, a vital, creative, and often extraordinary cultural expression. The resulting landmark exhibition, Handmade and Heartfelt: Contemporary Folk Art in Texas, toured Texas museums throughout 1985 and 1986. Texas Folklife (originally called Texas Folklife Resources) was founded to continue this process of discovery and to connect diverse communities through a celebration of shared traditions.
Texas Folklife promotes, presents, and documents the state's rich cultural legacy through a combination of exhibitions, performances, community residencies, apprenticeships, and educational programs in Austin and around the state. The organization is committed to preserving the diverse living heritage of Texans, while exploring the vital role of tradition in contemporary society. Dubbed "one of the state's true cultural treasures" by the Austin American-Statesman, Texas Folklife has served as a model for public folk arts programming and has launched radio and television projects to bring Texas artists and Texas stories to a statewide and national audience. The Border Radio Show began broadcasting on National Public Radio in 2006. Famed director Hector Galán produced The Big Squeeze documentary about their annual contest for young accordion players. The film began national broadcasts on PBS in 2009, and during its first sixteen months, it aired 550 times on 156 stations in twenty-six states.
In 2009 Texas Folklife presented a program with the Beaumont blues legend Barbara Lynn for the "Home Grown: The Music of America" concert series at the Library of Congress and the Kennedy Center. Since 2011 the organization has also worked on an oral history and radio project with students and teachers to document family and community traditions and arts, as well as a project devoted to food traditions. Through fieldwork and a variety of exhibitions, Texas Folklife regularly partners with school districts, museums, cultural centers, universities, and other institutions and organizations to reach wider audiences. Cristina Ballí served as executive director in 2015.