Leadership Changes at the Western Folklife Center

Big changes are afoot at the Western Folklife Center! David Roche, current Executive Director, has announced his retirement, effective June 30. As a key part of a planned leadership transition, Western Folklife Center Board Trustee Kristin Windbigler will take over as Executive Director July 1.


We wish David all the best in his "retirement," as he anticipates transitioning to a consulting role in the arts and culture industry. We greatly appreciate his leadership in moving the Western Folklife Center forward in the community by engaging local support for the Folklife Center, in helping to re-establish the Nevada Task Force (a group of local volunteers who are assisting the work of the organization year-round); engaging with City and County leaders to invigorate cultural activity in the downtown corridor redevelopment zone; and attracting new supporters to local projects through an award from ArtPlace America, a national funding project supporting art placemaking. Western Folklife Center was the first recipient of the award in Nevada.

During his tenure, David also 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. He also helped to expand National Cowboy Poetry Gathering programs to encompass the genre of storytelling in the West, and built partnerships with national storytelling organizations like StoryCorps and The Moth.

David says, “It’s been a special honor for me to have had the opportunity to lead the Western Folklife Center over the last three years.  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 has been associated with the Western Folklife Center and our National Cowboy Poetry Gathering for almost 20 years, as one of the filmmakers in our DeepWest Videos program (making 7 films since 2005 and mentoring other filmmakers) and as a four-year member of the Western Folklife Center Board of Trustees, including her appointment as vice chair in 2016.

"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," says Kristin. "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."

For the last nine years, Kristin has served as director of the Translators Program, which works with 27,000 volunteers in 155 countries to translate TED talks into 114 languages. Kristin developed, then launched, the volunteer program that gives global access to TED's multi-lingual content. TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks.

In the early days of the Internet, she 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. She is from Blocksburg, California, in rural Humboldt County, where her family was involved in ranching and logging.

At the Western Folklife Center, Kristin 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 round. In line with the Folklife Center's mission “to use story and cultural expression to connect the American West to the world,” Kristin 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.”